NYPD Aviation Unit: Protection from above

NEW YORK — Millions of spectators are expected to pack the shores of the East River to get a glimpse of the Fourth of July fireworks display.

The NYPD is gearing up on land and up in the air to secure the iconic event .

Whether they’re pursuing perpetrators, plucking people out of dangerous waters or helping protect heads of state, the NYPD Aviation Unit is always providing protection from high above.

This week, they are focused on the Fourth of July fireworks and gave PIX11 exclusive access of their aerial surveillance mission.

“We operate in a 360-degree environment. What we’ve seen around the world we know the enemy is constantly seeking new and different ways to attack us,” said commanding officer and inspector Jimmy Coan, who oversees operations from Floyd Bennett Field.

Along with AIR11, the PIX11 team strapped into one of their six helicopters.

First stop, the Verrazano Bridge, leading to one of the busiest shipping ports in the world.

Chief pilot Chris Delacruz, who is usually behind the controls, was in front of the camera, giving insight into their security plan.

“Were able to come over the vessel and scan any anomalies or high amount of radiation,” he said.

From an aerial view, the aviation unit’s job is to detect a dirty bomb or any suspicious activity on the ground.

During the national holiday, the concern won’t be only shipping vessels, but also hundreds of party boats in the harbor.

The aviation unit is also fit to make rescues should there be any mass casualties in the water.

“We’ll have an aircraft dedicated to harbor, rescue that will have scuba on board with life vests if there is an accident, explosion or fire, “ Delacruz said.

Up into the East River, along the FDR Drive and Long Island City, officers will be scanning spectators and rooftops for potential snipers.

“We can detect a face pretty much by picking up any type of abnormal activity," Delacruz said.

A compliment of onboard cameras allows officers to pick people out from two miles away.

Should they spot something suspicious, it’s relayed to the team on the ground who then send images with their department iPhones.

The NYPD continues on working to make Independence Day another seamless event in America’s safest big city.