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Mayor Bowser and Chief Smith Unveil Upgrades to MPD Air Support Unit

Monday, June 24, 2024
Investments in Aerial Assets will Bolster MPD’s Real-Time Crime Center and Leverage Latest Technology in Crime Fighting

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Pamela A. Smith unveiled a new helicopter and announced MPD’s drone program, two critical investments in MPD’s crime-fighting capabilities. The new aerial assets will help keep officers and the community safe and support the work of the Real-Time Crime Center.
“We know that MPD’s Air Support Unit plays an important role in driving down crime and keeping our community safe, and these upgrades are going to support that work,” said Mayor Bowser. “We have already seen success with the Real-Time Crime Center, and this is one more way to leverage new technology to protect officers, keep DC safe, and drive down crime.”    
MPD joins some 1,500 police departments that use remotely operated aircraft systems, commonly known as drones, to transmit critical information and give a bird’s-eye view to on-scene commanders and officers in real time. Drones can support responses to critical incidents such as searching for missing persons, tracking dangerous suspects who are attempting to evade law enforcement, and executing high-risk warrants. Drones will also assist in documenting major crash investigations and aid the Harbor Patrol Unit during water search operations.   
“The Metropolitan Police Department remains steadfast in our mission to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the District of Columbia,” said Chief Pamela A. Smith. “MPD’s new drone program marks a significant step in integrating the latest innovative technology to better serve and protect the residents and visitors of the District of Columbia.” 
MPD’s Air Support Unit will also receive updated technology with the new Airbus H-125 helicopter, referred to as Falcon 1, which boasts superior speed, agility, and overall performance when compared with the predecessor it replaces. The new Falcon 1 is equipped with the latest technology and a glass cockpit that will facilitate swifter flights, enhanced maneuverability, increased fuel efficiency, and a heightened resilience to adverse weather conditions.  
These investments will complement MPD’s Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC), which opened earlier this year. MPD’s new helicopter has the capability to feed video live to the RTCC and drone video will quickly assist RTCC investigators in addition to officers on the scene of an incident. The RTCC will also be bolstered by significant investments in Mayor Bowser’s approved Fiscal Year 2025 budget, including 200 new CCTV cameras and 47 additional license plate readers. 
So far in 2024, MPD’s Air Support Unit has responded to 493 calls for service and assisted officers in conducting 76 arrests. The Falcon has conducted 100 photo missions to include crime scene documentation and crowd management; 457 safety checks of boaters, hikers, and pedestrians along the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers; and 558 traffic safety checks, including observation of roadway work zones, traffic flow, and crash investigations. In 2023, the unit totaled 1,517 calls for service, assisted in 194 arrests, completed 980 safety checks along our rivers, and made 1,083 traffic checks on DC roadways.  
DC’s airspace, a Special Flight Rules Area, remains a No Drones Zone. View an overview of regulations at
More information on MPD’s drone program will be posted later today at
For more information on MPD’s Air Support Unit, visit

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