Though drones might be used for a lot of different government purposes, one of the earliest popular niches appears to be public safety. First responders are using drones to quickly gather information at the scenes of accidents, locate missing people and even follow fleeing suspects.
Fire departments, it seems, are a significant chunk of those drone users. According to an infographic from Dronefly.com, an online drone retailer, 69 fire departments across the U.S. purchased drones between 2009 and early 2017. They represent around 20 percent of the 347 public safety agencies that bought drones during that window.
The infographic outlined four major ways fire departments are using drones: scene monitoring; search and rescue; post-fire or disaster assessment; and wildland fire response. Specially-outfitted drones can help illuminate nighttime activities or use thermal imaging to find warm areas, they can assess damage and they can deliver supplies to disaster victims.
Dronefly.com estimates an $881 million global market for firefighters purchasing drones.