N.Y.P.D. Drones Carrying Rafts Could Join Lifeguards in Beach Rescues

This summer, struggling swimmers off Coney Island might be met not just by a young lifeguard in an orange suit but also by assistance from above, in the form of a buglike device delivering an inflatable float.

The raft-bearing drone is the latest in a series of gadgets promoted by Mayor Eric Adams as a way to improve life in New York City. Discussing the drone during his weekly question-and-answer session at City Hall on Tuesday, the mayor said it would begin flying as part of a pilot project to address a chronic summer problem.

“They’re going to start out with Coney Island, and they’re going to grow from there,” Mr. Adams said, referring to the entertainment mecca on Brooklyn’s south shore. “I think it can be a great addition to saving the lives of those that we lose over the summer.”

New York City may be known for its concrete-and-steel canyons, but it boasts 14 miles of city beaches, from Coney Island in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach in Queens to Orchard Beach in the Bronx and South Beach in Staten Island.

City officials have long struggled to improve water safety at public beaches, with their strong riptides, legions of unskilled swimmers and perennial lifeguard staffing shortages. Four people drowned last year off city beaches, all of them when lifeguards were off duty, and three drowned the year before that, city officials said. But there have been years with more drownings: In 2019, there were at least seven at Rockaway beaches alone.

Mr. Adams, a self-described “tech geek,” has already assigned a robot to patrol the Times Square subway station and promoted a lasso-like device to restrain emotionally disturbed people.

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