At least 910 state and local police, sheriff, fire and emergency service agencies in the U.S. now have drones — an increase of 82% over the last year.
To put that into perspective, that’s twice as many public safety agencies using their own drones as the number that are using their own manned aircraft.
The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College compiled a database of all known law enforcement and emergency response agencies that are reported to own at least one drone, based on local media reports and government records.
The biggest sector of public safety to use drones? Law enforcement agencies.
Drones are being used in law enforcement for everything from monitoring crowds to helping in search and rescue situations. They are also being used in more unconventional ways, such as for accident reconstruction.
But use of drones by law enforcement is also highly controversial. A pair of drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department was actually locked away for three years, collecting dust after a public outcry over the idea of police using the controversial technology.
Bard College’s study also found that most of the drones being used by law enforcement agencies are simple consumer and prosumer models, dispelling some notions that drones for professional use need to be expensive and highly complex.
DJI is by far the most popular brand used by public safety agencies.
The Bard Study found 260 agencies using the DJI Phantom, while 211 used the more expensive Inspire drone. The “enterprise-focused” Matrice was jused by just 61 agencies. That still is more than double the first non-DJI drone to make the list — the Yuneec Typhoon, used by just 30 agencies across the nation, according to Bard’s data.
That’s hardly surprising, given the majority of drones used across the entire drone industry is manufactured by the Chinese drone maker, which has an estimated 70-80% market share.
And it largely lines up with similar data reported by agencies. 72% of drones used by Kittyhawk users are made by DJI. Of those, most of them cost less than $1,000, such as the DJI Mavic Pro which is used by 21.83% of users. Mapping software startup released similar user data and revealed that 35% of Drone Deploy customers are using the DJI Phantom 4 Pro.
And where are these drones being used? At least one public safety agency in every state except for Rhode Island has a drone. The biggest concentration is in Texas, with 67 agencies using drones, followed by California, which has at least 58 public safety agencies using drones.
The data does not include agencies that have possibly used drones, but may not own them themselves (many agencies contract out drone work to other companies). That may explain one reason why the figure is double that of manned aircraft; many law enforcement agencies used manned aircraft but don’t own them outright given the expense and size, in contrast to drones which are small to store and relatively low-cost.
See the entire study from The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College here, including a list of public safety departments across the nation that are known to own drones.