Who's Watching Whom? NYPD Will Monitor Americans With Fleet Of Chinese-Made Drones

Several months after the Department of Defense (DoD) banned the purchase of commercial-over-the-shelf Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), including DJI drones from China for most (if not all) departments, The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has just had the bright idea to launch a fleet of Chinese made drones for surveillance operations across the five boroughs.

According to Fox 5 New York, the NYPD announced its UAS program on Tuesday. FAA Part 107 licensed officers of the Technical Assistance Response Unit will pilot the aircraft.

Police officials told Fox 5 the drones would be used in search-and-rescue operations, to survey inaccessible crime scenes, hostage situations, and mass casualty incidents. The department stressed the drones would not be monitoring civilians, but only used for “routine patrols” and will not be equipped with dangerous weapons.

“As the largest municipal police department in the United States, the NYPD must always be willing to leverage the benefits of new and always-improving technology,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. “Our new UAS program is part of this evolution – it enables our highly-trained cops to be even more responsive to the people we serve, and to carry out the NYPD’s critical work in ways that are more effective, efficient, and safe for everyone.”

The department will start with a dozen quadcopter drones that can be launched in minutes for tactical operations. There are plans to scale up the drone program into 2020.

However, neither Fox 5 nor the department mentioned where the drones are manufactured. There is ample evidence from the Fox 5’s video that the drones are made in Shenzhen, a southeastern city in China, by SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd., a leading manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Several months ago, sUASnews obtained a US army memo that said the US Navy and the US Army Research Lab claimed that the operational risks of utilizing DJI equipment outweigh their benefits.

The memo makes the orders very clear. “Due to increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products, it is directed that the U.S. Army halt use of all DJI products. This guidance applies to all DJI UAS and any system that employs DJI electrical components or software including, but not limited to, flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, speed controllers, GPS units, handheld control stations, or devices with DJI software applications installed.”

If the US military banned the use of DJI products, then why is the NYPD about to launch a fleet of Chinese drones?