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This Westchester police department will test drones as first responders

The Yonkers Police Department will launch a DJI M300 series drone equipped with high-definition cameras and thermal imaging.



YONKERS, NY — Yonkers police have unveiled a new tool they believe will help officers step up when responding to emergencies.

The Yonkers Police Department announced the launch of the City of Yonkers’ Drone as a First Responder (DFR) pilot program, in partnership with Motorola Solutions Inc., Flying Lion Inc., Westchester Drone Ops and St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

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Drone as a First Responder is an innovative and transformative use of unmanned aircraft systems (better known as drones) used by security personnel to assist in everyday life, according to the program’s architects. This technology has not been implemented in Westchester in this way ever before, police officials said when they unveiled the new program.

The Yonkers Police Department has committed to a 60-day pilot program to evaluate the use of this technology to improve public safety. For this pilot program, the Yonkers Police Department will use a drone — a DJI M300 series — equipped with high-definition cameras and thermal imaging.

When a priority call for service is received, the drone will launch from the roof of St. Joseph’s Medical Center and is operated jointly by a pilot on the roof within line of sight of the drone, as well as a pilot who remotely controls it from the YPD AWARE Crime Control Center. (YPD)

The drone will respond to calls for service alongside and above officers on the street, police officials said Wednesday.

When a priority call for service is received, the drone will launch from the roof of St. Joseph’s Medical Center and is operated jointly by a pilot on the roof within line of sight of the drone, as well as a pilot who remotely controls it from the YPD AWARE Crime Control Center. From this launch site, this drone has a range that reaches about 60 percent of all police calls in Yonkers.

The drone’s real-time video feed will be streamed to officers and supervisors in the field via a smartphone and laptop app. In many cases, the emergency services will be able to see the scene of the accident before they arrive. The ability to assess the resources needed, prepare the proper operational response and increase the safety of first responders and the public is the intent of the project and the mission of this program, Yonkers public safety officials said.

“I am so proud that the City of Yonkers is the first and only municipality in Westchester County to use this program,” said Mayor Mike Spano. “By keeping up with the evolving technology, we have another tool that allows us to serve our community in a way we never could before. This will enable more informed decisions, bird’s eye view and an unprecedented advantage in critical situations Thank you to Motorola Solutions, Flying Lion and Westchester Drone Ops for helping provide us with this resource.”

To maintain trust and transparency, all drone flight logs will be posted on the Yonkers Police Department website to show the community how the drone is being used. Officials promise the logs will be updated daily, and the public will be able to see the date and time of flights, flight paths and duration, as well as the reason for the flight and the type of call it responded to.

“Police work is a difficult profession,” said Police Commissioner Christopher Sapienza. “Despite the challenges, our officers here in Yonkers consistently demonstrate that they are the best at what they do. Today, we are giving them another tool to help them serve the people of this city with the addition of our first responder drone. This new technology transforms traditional police operations by allowing our officers to see a scene while responding, giving them vital information that can be used to make more informed decisions when they arrive.”

The pilot program will operate five days a week, eight hours per day, through August 31. Following program completion, an operational evaluation will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of this technology in Yonkers. If the pilot program is successful, a plan to move towards a full-time operation may be put in place.

When a priority call for service is received, the drone will launch from the roof of St. Joseph’s Medical Center and is operated jointly by a pilot on the roof within line of sight of the drone, as well as a pilot who remotely controls it from the YPD AWARE Crime Control Center. (YPD)

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