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NYC cops skim for bombs using drone submarines

The New York Police Department's Harbor Unit is relying more on unmanned submarine drones to detect explosives, narcotics

By PoliceOne Staff

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department's Harbor Unit is relying more on unmanned submarine drones to help it skim riverbottoms and underbellies of boats for explosives and narcotics.

Four Remote-operated vehicles (R.O.V.s) costing $75,000 each and similar to drones used in the military
were purchased in 2007 with federal grant money from the urban Area Security Initiative, according to The New York Times, and two $120,000 units were added a year later with funds from a federal port security grant.

Detective William P. Devine demonstrated for the New York Times how one of the 16-pound yellow drones maneuvers: A computer screen on board the boat from which they launch serves as the control pad. Using a toggle, the user "flies" the device through the water and a 100-foot cable transmits color photos back to the deck.

“This comes natural,” Devine said.

Officers who work in the Harbor Unit are trained to recognize what underwater explosives might look like or where drugs might be hidden under tankers, and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said the security of the port should be a priority.

If the R.O.V.s were to find a bomb — they haven't yet — Devine said the Navy would come in. “We mark the location, get out of the water and call them,” he said.

Millions of containers from approximately 10,000 cargo ships land on the Brooklyn piers annually. 

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