Public Safety Drones: An Update

Note: For the Center’s 2020 report on public safety drones, click here.


In this update to the Center for the Study of the Drone’s database of public safety agencies with drones, we estimate that at least 910 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency services agencies in the U.S. have acquired drones. In this revised count, we uncovered more agencies that had acquired drones prior to 2017 than previously reported, and we estimate that the number of public safety agencies with drones has increased by approximately 82 percent in the last year alone. All told, there are now more than twice as many agencies that own drones as there are agencies that own manned aircraft in the U.S.

This database includes all known law enforcement and emergency response agencies that are reported to own at least one drone. It may not, however, reflect the total number of agencies that have used drones at some point, as it is not uncommon for an agency to receive drone services from nearby agencies or to contract the services of a local drone operator. This database is based on a combination of local media reports and government records.


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For the Center’s 2017 report on public safety drones, click here.

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  1. Glad to see adoption increasing among the public safety agencies. This technology brings important new capabilities to that mission and should be a no-brainer (assuming safety and privacy are handled appropriately).

    Thanks for compiling and sharing.


  2. Pingback: Robots to the rescue: More public safety agencies turning to drones to fight crime – North Region Communication Center

  3. Chris

    @Leon – with law enforcement drone use rapidly expanding and no over-arching citizen privacy protection. Do you really want rely on them “doing the right thing” and not abusing this?

    A little scary that a local law enforcement agency can fly over your property with a high definition camera and no warrant. We need privacy protections as citizens for this stuff.

  4. Richard Cookson

    Public agency adoption and utilisation is a natural progression. There are issues to resolve as pointed out by other readers. The steady use of UAVs will tend challenge authorities tasked with regulating the airspace below 500 feet.

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