As with consumer pilots, DJI drones dominate emergency responder fleets

dji drones first responder

Despite the anti-China winds blowing across US politics and related bans of Chinese technology by government administrations, DJI drones continue to dominate the fleets of American first responder services – just as they do commercial craft sales.

DJI drones dominate US first responder fleets with over 90% penetration

A new report by the Airborne International Response Team (AIRT) and its Droneresponders affiliate says drones by Shenzhen-based DJI enjoy a commanding position within fleets flown by US first responder organizations. The survey found over 90% of rescue and emergency units operate DJI craft in their work. That share of the specialized but growing segment surpasses DJI’s domination of the commercial drone sector, which differing studies place somewhere between 70% and 80%. Although evidence does suggest the company has recently lost some of its impressive lead among US amateur pilots, that slide has been minor – and has presumably been partially offset by its astonishing command of rescue and public safety groups.

“Data collected via the AIRT + DRONERESPONDERS 2021 Public Safety UAS Survey conducted from July 15-31 shows that when asked ‘which of the following brand(s) of UAS does your public safety agency or organization currently operate (check all the apply),’ 90.36% (422 of the 467 respondents to the question) claimed to be operating DJI drones as part of their fleet,” said a release by AIRT and Droneresponders. 

“When looking at additional segments within the data set,” it continued, “the numbers increase to 92.06% of law enforcement UAS programs and 92.47% of major city public safety UAS programs (representing a jurisdiction with a population of 500K people or greater) saying they operate DJI.”

According to the study, Autel Robotics drones rank second, turning up in 18.4% of all first responder and public safety operations, as well as in 21.16% of law enforcement drone programs and 21.51% of those operated by large municipalities.

Other top five finishers were Skydio with 11.35%, Parrot at 9.85%, and FLIR‘s 9.21%.

Much needed good news for DJI, or more attack fodder for rivals?

Those findings come at an ironic but opportune time for DJI. The company has been under pressure – when not attack ­– in the US in recent months amid general anti-China sentiment and mistrust. Those were partially responsible for the ongoing prohibition of government administrations to use Chinese equipment, including DJI drones, over fears of data security. 

Even when things seem to ease for DJI in that area, events have tended to circle back with additional complications. For example, after a May report claimed the US Defense Department had cleared the company’s craft as being potential threats to national security,  the DoD refuted the report with a terse and oddly belated statement last month.

Meantime, as DroneDJ senior editor Ishveena Sing reported in July, a leaked Interior Department document complained that US manufactured drones bought by US administrations under the Blue sUAS program were far costlier and much less efficient than DJI craft previously used. Face-job on US rivals, right? Think again. Rather than a respite, that news inspired a follow-up onslaught by a US group called the American Drone Alliance that defended the reputation of Blue sUAS drones by attacking DJI anew from a variety of angles.

For those reasons, word that US first responders are using DJI drones in huge numbers – just like some US government administrations reportedly wish they still could – must provide some warmth to the company amid the cold US wind it’s facing. Unless, of course, it produces another glacial blast.

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