How Rockland County police department's drone program is making a difference

Marcus Solis Image
Thursday, March 9, 2023
Inside look at police department's drone program
The Clarkstown Police Department is home to the largest drone unit in Rockland County, with seven drones and 18 certified pilots. Marcus Solis has the story.

WEST NYACK, New York (WABC) -- Police in Rockland County gave Eyewitness News a closer look at the drone program that helped them locate a missing teenage boy with autism.

From drones equipped with loudspeakers to thermal imaging cameras, the aerial tools for law enforcement continue to grow.

The Clarkstown Police Department is home to the largest such unit in Rockland County. They have seven drones and 18 certified pilots.

"We have patrol officers, detectives, investigators and school resource officers, they are all a part of this so they all can do difference functions at different times," Clarkstown Police Department Lt. James McCormick said.

Police shared drone footage from last week when officers located a missing 15-year-old with autism.

Last November, the drone played a key role in the rescue of a stranded hiker.

A larger unit can fly even in bad weather, and zero in on a vehicle almost 20 miles away. Infrared technology can help fire departments find hotspots and detect if a getaway car was recently parked. That includes electric cars.

"You don't see the heat signature on the hood, but you will see the brakes, so obviously if there car's moving you'll see the car stop and of course the brakes will heat up," Clarkstown Police Officer Anthony Mucatella said.

One drone is always kept in the field and can be deployed in minutes. Recently, the department upgraded its software platform which great expands who can watch the video feed.

Access isn't limited to a command post. The software generates web links and even a QR code that, when scanned in seconds, gives users a real-time view.

"They're able to watch what's going on, it limits the radio traffic for non-essential messages and they're really able to have an accurate sight picture of the whole scene," Clarkstown Poliec Officer Timothy Woolley said.

"It's a great expense, but the tool is very well worth it," McCormick said.

The eye in the sky is helping officers on the ground.


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