New York State Police will soon begin using unmanned drones to help support law enforcement missions like public safety, disaster response and traffic safety.
Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement Wednesday.
The program is launching sometime this month with four drones, one of which will be used by the State Police right here in Western New York. The other three will go to State Police in Central New York, the Hudson River area, and the Capital region.
By April 2018, an additional 14 aerial drones will be deployed throughout the state.
"The idea is to have the drone capability locally available to the troop commander so it's an asset they can deploy readily and rapidly," explained Captain Scott Reichel. He leads the planning and research division for NYSP. "A lot of cost savings that we expect to see once we start utilizing drones for some of these operations. They won't replace manned aircraft. There will still be a need to transport personnel, equipment, things like that that cannot be done by a drone."
7 Eyewitness News asked Captain Reichel whether New Yorkers should be concerned with the drones and any potential invasions of privacy.
"We have no intention to just monitor people and keep an eye on people," Reichel said. "There's not going to be a Big Brother aspect to it. There are specific missions for the drone when it will be deployed."
The agency has policies on the books that limit drone use to specific situations related to investigating crimes or responding to emergencies.
"This state-of-the-art technology will improve emergency response, improve operational and cost efficiencies and increase Trooper safety," Governor Cuomo said. "We will continue to implement innovative technologies to improve our ability to protect New Yorkers across this great state."
Governor Cuomo says the drones will be more cost-effective than manned aircrafts like helicopters and can be used in dangerous situations and environments without putting State Troopers in harm's way.
Police will be able to use the drones to document and reconstruct motor vehicle crashes and photograph crime scenes.
Any Trooper who operates the drones will have to be FAA certified and undergo 32 hours of hands-on training with the systems.