Drone use across various commercial applications is continuing to grow at a staggering rate! It’s nothing new though – the rates have begun their exponential growth all the way back in 2015 and 2016. Fast forward to today, drones are being heavily used for all sorts of military, surveillance and industrial purposes… but did you know the PoPo also uses them on a fairly regular basis?
Honestly speaking, this is nothing surprising as we all know drones have a huge potential for crucial law enforcement tasks. Especially those huge hexacopters or octocopters capable of carrying optical and thermal cameras simultaneously. These come in handy with search and rescue, surveillance, crowd monitoring and even crime scene investigations. So, with all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the facts and see which particular government agencies have been most keen on using drones in the last couple of years!
As you can see from the pie chart above, sheriff departments and police stations take up more than 60% of the chart. Closely followed by firefighters who are using drones with thermal imaging to scout wildfires and create reports on the potential threat to residential buildings. But how did all this start? What led to such a common use of modern technology which was unheard of just 5 years ago? Well, let’s see…
Drones took the world by storm
Simple as that – drones really did take the entire world by storm. In just 3 years (2013 to 2016), their commercial use grew by 518% which is an amazing number in its own right. But how did it come to this? How did drones manage to go from completely unknown niche into such a monstrosity? Well, several important technological advancements happened all at once, allowing drones to become almost as essential as smartphones. They aren’t there yet, but they sure as heck are approaching at a rapid rate!
- LiPo battery technology
- Shrinkage of stabilization and navigation technology
- Brushless motor technology
LiPo battery is the key component of every drone – it’s what provides power to its motors, flight controller, stabilization systems, software and all that other good stuff. Thanks to advancements in power/weight ratio as well as the general durability and reliability of LiPo batteries, they were the first step in drones’ rise to success. Thanks to their ability to discharge relatively fast without suffering cell damage and great power capacity ensuring long flight times.
Stabilization technology, just recently, finally became compact and lightweight enough for it to be featured on sUAVs (small unmanned aerial vehicles). GPS is following closely as well, with lower prices and huge improvements in compactness and weight. Furthermore, it’s noteworthy to add that software engineers are doing amazing things regarding direct GPS implementation in their software solutions, allowing complicated features based on raw GPS data.
First brushless motors date back all the way to 1962. However, they have reached their peak just recently and are now becoming more popular than ever. It’s all thanks to drones and virtually all other types of RC vehicles. RC Planes, boats, cars and buggies… There are brushless motor specimen in each bunch. With massively improved reliability due to the lack of brushes, superb power efficiency and now cheaper production costs, brushless DC motors are the future!
Most common drone tasks by law enforcement agencies
Starting off with Crime Scene Analysis (AKA CSA), I’m sure many of you will be surprised from the very start by what sort of tasks are these high end drones capable of doing. For instance, drones for CSA are equipped with the latest software solution for 3D mapping and traffic collision reconstruction in order to give concrete solutions.
Aerial perspective offers a new point of view and can be used for virtually any property. With the help of sophisticated routing software, high resolution optical cameras as well as night vision ones (let’s not forget about IR either), drones are a hot topic in the entire surveillance industry… not just law enforcement.
Driven by recent terrorist attacks across the globe, crowd-monitoring has become one of the most crucial tasks a commercial drone can perform. This is true for all sorts of large gatherings including protests, concerts, and carnivals. You’ll often see drones flying directly above the crowd looking for suspicious individuals.
Search and rescue
I’ve already read several stories in which drones helped locate lost people. Whether we’re talking about lost hikers, stranded somewhere in the mountains, or senile elderly people who wandered too far away from home. Search and rescue drones can be real lifesavers, which is basically why more and more agencies are investing in them.
Many countries are already using drones to keep their borders safe from illegal immigrants. And while certain presidents (I think we all know where I’m heading with this one) are opting for ancient methods such as walls, smart ones are investing in fleets of autonomous border patrolling drones equipped with the all the latest tech.
Which drones are the most popular choices of U.S. government agencies?
Here’s a rather unsurprising fact – law enforcement agencies in the USA most commonly use DJI-branded drones. With brilliant reputation, superb product quality and a ton of supporting features, DJI is indeed the go-to brand for all things commercial. If we are to be more precise here, Inspire and Matrice series are the drones of choice for U.S. government. Let’s take a closer look at them to find out what makes them so special:
Both models from DJI’s Inspire series are thought to be the best aerial photography platforms out there. And why wouldn’t they be just that? I mean – take Inspire 2 as the perfect example – with support for the newest Zenmuse X7 gimbal and camera combination, we are basically talking about a 6K-capable aerial monster. Even though their main commercial application lies in the hands of professional aerial photographers, law enforcement is starting to use them for other purposes too. We shouldn’t forget the original Inspire 1 either. The V2.0 version still hasn’t lost its charm and doesn’t fall too far off Inspire 2 as far as numbers are concerned. Zoom lenses are available for certain Zenmuse models as well, transforming these babies into marvelous crowd-monitoring detectives with ease.
If Inspire series seems too mainstream and overly focused on the best possible image quality, then Matrice series is the obvious way to go. Thanks to their more rugged design, no dramatic arm-raising features and superb payload capacity, drones from the Matrice series are often found doing all sorts of complicated industrial tasks. As far as law enforcement is concerned, their most important traits are definitely their IP43 protection, multiple payload configurations and a plethora of autonomous features. Combine all that with up to 2kg of payload (paving the way for high end thermal cameras and all sorts of other hi-tech camera equipment) and you got yourself a winner right here!