For the 2024 summer, New York City beaches are set to experience a new kind of lifeguard — drones. The New York Police Department is spearheading the initiative to deploy UAVs with life-saving gear. This action comes in response to a significant lifeguard shortage that could leave miles of their 8 public beaches underpatrolled.

Here is the announcement by NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operation on X:

How the Drones Work

Drone Capabilities and Operation

Each drone carries a flotation device, which can be dropped to a swimmer in distress. Once released, these devices automatically inflate upon contact with water, providing immediate buoyancy support. Additionally, the drones have communication tools that allow lifeguards or operators to speak directly to swimmers, offering reassurance and guidance while help is on the way. 

These UAVs are operated remotely, typically from NYPD's central command, ensuring that they can be quickly dispatched to any location along the beach where they are needed.

Collaboration and Deployment

This approach is the result of a collaborative effort involving multiple city agencies including the NYPD, FDNY, and the Parks Department. The program was carefully planned to integrate seamlessly with existing safety operations at the beach. Deployment of these drones covers New York City’s extensive 14-mile coastline, with a particular focus on areas known for higher incidents of emergencies. 

The UAVs work hand-in-hand with the on-duty lifeguards, making them an addition to beach safety efforts rather than a replacement. They are set to be active throughout the summer, starting from the busy Memorial Day weekend and extending through the end of the beach season.

Also Read: 7 Police Departments Spending At Least $20,000 For Their Drone Programs

Benefits of Using Police Drones for At The Beach

Speed and Efficiency

Unlike traditional lifeguard operations that might involve physically reaching a swimmer, drones can be dispatched instantly and arrive within minutes, if not seconds. This rapid response is crucial in emergency situations where every moment counts. The ability of drones to quickly deliver flotation devices directly to swimmers provides an immediate lifeline, buying crucial time until further help arrives.

Filling the Gap During Lifeguard Shortages

With the current staff levels significantly reduced—from the typical 600 to just 230—drones are essential in covering the extensive 14-mile stretch of New York City's beaches. They act as force multipliers, ensuring that large areas are monitored and that the safety net for beachgoers is not compromised. With these drones as part of their safety measures, the NYPD can keep up their strong safety standards, even with fewer lifeguards on duty. This ensures that everyone visiting the beach can relax and have fun, knowing they have an extra layer of protection.

Beyond Lifesaving: Other Uses of Drones at the Beach

Monitoring for Marine Dangers

The drones employed by NYPD play a crucial role in watching for marine life, particularly sharks. Given the increase in shark sightings last summer, these drones provide an essential service by scanning the waters for any signs of shark activity near the swimming areas. 

The NYPD's drones are on the lookout for marine life, especially sharks. With more shark sightings reported last summer, these drones are key in checking the waters close to where people swim. They scan for any shark movements, and their quick alerts help keep everyone at the beach safer – a proactive surveillance helps to prevent a “JAWS”-like scenario.

Crows Monitoring And Overseeing The General Beach Environment

The use of drones also includes broader safety measures such as crowd monitoring and overseeing the general beach environment. These drones are equipped with cameras that make it easier to manage large crowds and spot any unusual activities or emergencies from afar. This capability is particularly useful during peak times when the beaches are crowded, and the risk of incidents increases. By having drones as part of the safety protocol, NYPD can ensure a more coordinated and effective response to any situation that may arise.

Also Read: NYPD Using Drones For Earthquake And Disaster Response

Expanding the Program

Looking to the future, city officials are optimistic about the potential to expand the drone program beyond its current capabilities and geographical limits. Following the positive response to the drone program, there's talk about adding more drones and perhaps using them in different ways. The NYPD and other city departments are thinking about how drones could help out all year long, not just at the beach but also at big events and other busy spots.

However, some people have expressed concerns about privacy and the feeling of constant surveillance by drones. These mixed reactions highlight the balance that needs to be struck between safety enhancements and maintaining public comfort and trust. These discussions are part of a larger strategy to integrate more technology into public safety measures, aiming to make New York City safer for all residents and visitors.