- Center for the Study of the Drone At Bard College has published the third edition of its Public Safety Drones report, which shows public safety drone use in the U.S. is continuing to rise;
- DJI drones - as sold by Heliguy USA - are the most popular choice of UAS for public safety agencies in the U.S;
- At least 1,578 state and local public safety agencies in the U.S. have acquired drones;
- 70% of disclosed public safety agencies with drones work in law enforcement;
- California, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida have the greatest number of public safety agencies with drones;
- DJI's key public safety official, Romeo Durscher, says report endorses the Drones For Good message.
DJI drones are the most popular choice for U.S. first responders, as the use of unmanned aircraft has rocketed in public safety - a new study has found.
The Center for the Study of the Drone At Bard College has recently published the third edition of its Public Safety Drones report.
The analysis shows that UAS adoption rates are growing rapidly within the sector, with drones particularly popular in areas where disaster response has been crucial.
Drones manufactured by DJI - which are sold by Heliguy USA - are the go-to tool for first responders - the report shows - with the Phantom, Inspire, Mavic and Matrice models dominating the market.
As a caveat, the findings do not include agencies with undisclosed drone programs or federal agencies, and it only counts agencies who own drones.
However, while this does not reflect the total number of public safety agencies using UAS, it does give a barometer of the growing adoption rates of drones in this sector and how DJI technology is leading the way.
DJI's Senior Director of Public Safety, Romeo Durscher, said that the study highlighted the potential that drones have for first responders.
"Bard College's Center of the Study of the Drone is the most comprehensive data set available and while it doesn't capture 100%, it gives us great insights into how drones have been received within public safety over the past five years plus," he added.
DJI Gold Partner Heliguy, which has a base in Texas, U.S. as well as being headquartered in the UK, supplies drones to the public safety sector and runs specialist closed training courses for UK emergency services.
Through our years of experience, we have seen first hand how drones are benefiting first responders. In this Heliguy USA blog post, we take a look at the report by Bard College and pick out the main takeaways.
1: Drone Adoption Rate In U.S. Public Safety Is Rising
The study shows that at least 1,578 state and local public safety agencies (police, sheriff, fire, and emergency services) in the U.S. have acquired drones. Since the last report - published in May 2018 - more than 500 disclosed public safety agencies in the U.S. have acquired drones.
This graph shows how drone adoption has skyrocketed between 2014 and 2019, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down.
It is clear that drones have become an important asset for public safety agencies, with UAS attributed to saving more than 350 lives worldwide.
Drones and their sophisticated payloads can be used by emergency crews for a range of missions, helping to provide vital situational awareness which leads to efficient response and improved crew safety.
Mr Durscher said: "Departments continue to start drone programs and utilize this technology more and more. This is not a "One-Day-Wonder" but has become a tool just like a fire hose, body cameras and a crewed helicopter."
According to the report, 70% of disclosed public safety agencies with drones work in law enforcement, followed by fire and rescue, and emergency management.
Mr Durscher added: "Law enforcement has continued to be at the forefront of drone integration.
"They have detailed standard operating procedures outlining what drones can and cannot be used for. For instance, surveillance and spying are not allowed.
"But tasks such as accident reconstruction, search and rescue, and high-risk warrant arrests, are perfect scenarios for this technology. It not only reduces operating costs, but increases public and officer safety, and allows for roads to be reopened after an accident much faster.
"But most importantly, using drones mitigates operational risks, which helps prevent injury for our emergency responders. What a huge economical and emotional benefit that is."
2: Drones Are Key For Disaster Response
According to the report, California, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida have the greatest number of public safety agencies with drones.
Mr Durscher is in no doubt why these particular areas are embracing UAS.
He said: "States with natural disasters are very much utilizing this technology.
"California, Texas and Florida are some of the leading states because they are experiencing fires, hurricanes, flooding, tornados and earthquakes; all scenarios where drones have been hugely impactful during disaster response and recovery.
"Drones will not replace crewed aircrafts, but drones will enhance current capabilities (at a fraction of the cost) and continue to be tremendous quick-deploy assets in the field and beyond."
Romeo is speaking from experience; he was on the frontline when DJI aircraft were deployed during a spate of devastating Californian wildfires.
The increasing popularity of drones in public safety can be seen when looking at adoption rates in each county.
The report shows that the total number of counties with at least one agency with drones has climbed by 45% since the 2018 edition, while counties with two or more agencies with drones has climbed by 90%
3: DJI Leading The Way In U.S. Public Safety
Make no mistake, DJI is enduring something of a tricky time in the U.S. with Chinese drone manufacturers caught up in a data security row, leading to the Department of the Interior grounding its drone fleet.
DJI, has, of course, strenuously denied the allegations, repeating that user data is none of the company's business, that its drones have been tested by independent assessors, and its key enterprise drones come with password protection and data encryption.
In his assessment of the report by Bard College, Mr Durscher admitted that data security is an important issue, but 'origin fear' and the notion that drones from China are bad are politically driven and do not match reality.
But whatever the current landscape, the report shows that DJI drones are the go-to tool for first responders - by a significant margin.
For instance, check out these two tables which highlight DJI's dominance in the market.
And there's a good reason for this. DJI technology offers a reliable, versatile and an out-of-the-box solution for public safety agencies, all at an affordable price - especially compared to other enterprise drones on the market.
Some of the options include the Mavic 2 Enterprise Series. These lightweight, foldable, easily transportable and quickly deployable drones come with three accessories - including a loudspeaker and a bright spotlight. The Mavic 2 Enterprise has a dynamic zoom camera (2x optical 3x digital zoom), while the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual has a thermal sensor.
New York Fire Department utilizes the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual for '90% of its work', with Captain Michael Leo describing the drone as 'very reliable, fast to deploy, really easy to use, and the thermal is good enough for what we need'.
The Matrice 200 Series is another firm favorite for the emergency services. These types of drone are rugged, IP43 rated, and can carry quality payloads, including the Z30 zoom camera, the XT2 thermal sensor, and the X7/X5S visual cameras, as well as third-party payloads.
Thermal cameras can help to detect hotspots and heat sources when fighting fires or searching for missing people, while a zoom camera is ideal for gaining vital situational awareness or inspecting a potentially dangerous area from afar, all while keeping your crew safe. This video shows the zoom capabilities on the Z30.
Mr Durscher said: "In summary - public safety agencies across the world have realized that new technologies are available to improve response time, to allow for better and more up-to-date data, to reduce operational risks and costs, and to help the communities they serve and protect.
"The reality is that, thanks to drones, over 350 lives have been rescued to date and many more passive lives have been saved. The economical impact of this alone is huge. And we are still very early in all of this.
"There is still much we have to figure out, improve and adjust - but today we are better off than just a few years ago. And if you listen to the first responders using drones, they will echo the very same. This is #DronesForGood."