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Drones are no longer a novelty item among law enforcement and public safety departments. The same small unmanned aircraft systems that have been popular among hobbyists and commercial users are now sought after by a growing number of agencies throughout the United States.
Our research suggests that at least 347 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency units have acquired drones in the past several years. More acquisitions took place in 2016 than in the previous years combined, and the pace of acquisitions shows no signs of slowing down. In a survey of open source literature and public records, we have assembled the most comprehensive, publicly-available account of law enforcement and public safety departments that are reported to have acquired drones.
- At least 347 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency units in the U.S. have acquired drones.
- Local law enforcement departments lead public safety drone acquisitions.
- Consumer drones are more common among public safety units than specialized professional drones.