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Drones will be used instead of lifeguards on New York beaches: how it works


Alina Prikhodko

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The New York City police are planning to use drones to deliver water supplies to drowning people on the city's beaches. According to The City, it's unclear how many remote-controlled drones want to be deployed this summer or how they'll coordinate with the Parks Department and rescue workers.

The New York Police Department said it plans to help beachgoers on the city's beaches this summer by dropping flotation devices from drones, though it's unclear how widespread the futuristic rescue operation will be.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry described flying a drone from 1 Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan to fly over the 47th Precinct in the Bronx, and explained how the NYPD plans to expand the technology to city ​​beaches this summer. Daughtry joked that it looked like he was using a controller to play “Call of Duty.”

“We're going to use these drones for public safety and beach safety,” he said. “We will place these drones on the beach and pilots will fly up and down the beach to ensure the safety of beachgoers.”

If an officer sees someone caught in the tide or drowning, he said, the operator “can press a button and it will drop” a flotation device that will inflate once it hits the water. It's unclear how often these drones will fly or how the NYPD will coordinate with the Parks Department, which oversees lifeguards patrolling beaches and pools.

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A spokesperson for the Parks Department referred numerous questions about the initiative to the Police Department. An NYPD spokesman said they had no further information beyond the tweet.

City Hall approves

Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday that drones will be on the ground starting in Coney Island and believes they will be a great addition to the city's rescue efforts. “I think this could be a great addition to saving lives,” he said.

The mayor added that drones can even communicate with rescuers during a rescue using the device's speaker. “It is very important to have additional eyes in the sky,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Mera Joshi. When asked why lifeguards or managers couldn't control the drone, Joshi and the mayor said they needed to monitor the water.

The city has faced a persistent shortage of lifeguards over the past few years, so officials have stepped up their hiring efforts and raised starting wages to $22 an hour. Swim tests for lifeguard school took place through February, and to date, 49 more new lifeguards have enrolled in the school than last year, according to the Parks Department.

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Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37, said in a statement that he applauds the mayor's "efforts to dedicate additional resources to keep our beaches safe," and said, "No drone can replace humans, which is why we are pushing so hard for higher wages." and improving working conditions for our rescuers.”

Concerns about privacy

Mayor Adams, who often calls himself a “techie,” praised the city's use of drones last summer announced new rulesallowing agencies to use them. Last summer, the city fire department and other first responders used drones at Rockaway Beach to check for sharks in the ocean and determine whether beaches should be closed.

Despite criticism, the city's police and fire departments use Digidog to detect dangerous situations and objects. And last fall, the mayor introduced a new RoboCop, who was monitoring the Times Square subway station. Although the robot “retired” from its post earlier this year, the mayor said he plans to put it back into service.

According to Tom Gill, a spokesman for the United States Lifesaving Association, the use of drones to provide rescue assistance has already been used in Australia. They can be useful in certain scenarios, such as checking to see if a kayaker or windsurfer needs assistance far out in the ocean.

“Everyone is looking for ways to use something that seems pretty simple and fast,” he noted. - It is very difficult. It's not so easy to throw something in the air and have it come out perfectly. A panicked victim is not a person who is easy to help when we are in direct contact with him, let alone try to stop anything in such a situation.”

You're being watched

Last summer, activists raised privacy concerns after the NYPD announced it would use drones to monitor backyard parties and other parties in Brooklyn over Labor Day weekend.

Daniel Schwartz, senior privacy and technology strategist at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the initiative would further normalize the use of drones for surveillance. He said it reminds him of NYPD officers in a police helicopter filming a couple having sex on a rooftop during the 2004 Republican National Convention.

“Do we want NYPD drones flying on the beaches? Should the NYPD run them, or should another organization specially trained to do so do it? – he asked, questioning their effectiveness. “I would not blindly believe that this is helping to save lives, as opposed to investing in lifeguards on the beach who can respond instantly and who do not need to use surveillance.”

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