police drone (RikoBest/Shutterstock.com)

Drone use skyrockets in public safety

The number of public safety agencies using drones has increased by approximately 82 percent in the last year, with at least 910 state and local police, fire and public safety departments having acquired unmanned aerial systems in recent years.

That data comes from a May report from the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in an update to its April 2017 database on public safety agencies with drones.

Other key findings include:

  • Law enforcement agencies make up two-thirds (599) of the public safety agencies with drones.
  • Twenty-eight states have at least one statewide public safety agency with drones, up from 17 states in the previous estimate.
  • DJI is by far the most popular drone manufacturer, with 523 agencies using various DJI models.
  • Agencies have on average three drones per department.
  • The average cost of acquiring one or more drones is $18,117, and funding sources include donations, grants and seized or forfeited funds in addition to budgeted monies.
  • The majority of agencies that operate drones did not previously possess their own manned aerial capability.

Although the growth in drone use is rapidly increasing, it may be even greater than Bard College reported.  It is not uncommon, the report said, for a public safety agency to use drone services from other nearby agencies or to contract with a local drone operator. 

Read the full report here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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