Drones armed with cameras and sensor payloads have been used by military and border control agencies for decades to improve situational awareness. Commercialization now has brought more UAVs to market — making the technology more accessible to police, fire, EMS, emergency departments, and search-and-rescue operations.

These eyes in the sky can be used across public-safety services, from transmitting birds-eye video of a forest fire to incident commanders to mapping out hard-hit areas after a natural disaster. Our research looks at the drone technologies worth watching for public safety and first response operations.