An Israeli company and its Brooklyn partner want to fight crime using drones, and say they have an interested partner in New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Israel’s Blue White Robotics and EasyAerial from Brooklyn were two of the companies featured in a recent “NY + Israel = Safer, Smarter Cities” event announcing the launch of the NYC-Israel Chamber of Commerce. Both companies said that Adams showed interest in their services at a reception for the event last Thursday at the Williamsburg Hotel.
BWR CEO Ben Alfi said that the best part of the event was the ability to have “direct discussion” with the mayor. “We talked about emerging needs to create and implement our capabilities in helping New York become a safe and secure city,” he told the New York Jewish Week.
Easy Aerial CEO Ido Gur said that after the reception, they spoke with the mayor about placing drones on the rooftops in the city, “specifically in higher crime areas.”
“He came up to us after our presentation with this idea,” Gur said. “We discussed the applicability, which we hope to start implementing soon enough.”
The companies say their autonomous drones are already being used by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Mexican border, as well as by the Israeli Defense Force along the border at the Gaza Strip in Israel. They said they had six contracts with the U.S. Air Force for their drones.
The drones, they said, were recently used by the IDF and Israeli police to search for people trapped inside of Tel Aviv buildings hit by rockets in May.
Alfi said they are calling the plans for New York the Soteria Project, from a Greek word meaning “deliverance from a crisis.” Their goal is to put “an eye in the sky in zero time” to enhance security across New York.
A spokesperson for City Hall declined to comment for this article.
With crime rates spiking — including a 400% increase in antisemitic hate crimes in February over the same month in 2021 — Alfi said these drones can help fix these issues and improve public safety in New York. “This is the exact solution that is needed for the city,” Alfi said. “I’m sure that many cities will follow it after that.”
Privacy and progressive groups, however, warn that drones increase the likelihood of police overreach and civil liberties infractions.
Albert Fox Cahn, founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said the NYPD has a history of “systematically targeting New Yorkers who are exercising their First Amendment rights, and that drones will be a powerful tool if put in the wrong hands.”
He added that the NYPD is already using manual drones to track large protests and other large gatherings, including the annual Pride Parade as well as recent Black Lives Matter protests. “At a moment when agency budgets are being slashed across the city, we don’t need to waste more money on high-tech toys for the NYPD,” said Cahn, practitioner-in-residence at N.Y.U Law School’s Information Law Institute.