Florida’s Drone Shift: A Taxing Transition

Florida's Costly Transition to American-Made Drones

The Orange County Sheriff's Office in is undergoing a significant shift in its drone program, as revealed in an exclusive report by WESH2 Investigates. The state's recent ban on foreign-made drones, primarily those from Chinese company DJI, is driving this change, leading to the adoption of American-made, expensive drones.


The Role of Drones in Law Enforcement

Drones have become indispensable in law enforcement, aiding in locating suspects and ensuring officer safety. Lt. Rob Branch, head of the sheriff's office drone team, highlights their versatility, noting their use in searching for missing persons and in scenarios where helicopters cannot operate due to weather conditions.

Skydio X10 drone introduction with Adam Bry
Skydio X10 drone introduction with Adam Bry

Financial Implications of the Drone Replacement

Following Florida's April ban on public agencies using foreign-made drones due to espionage concerns, the sheriff's office is swapping out 16 Chinese DJI drones for 18 American-made Skydio ones.

While the Florida Department of Law Enforcement offers $25 million in grants for this transition, the burden of replacing over 500 drones, used by various agencies for diverse purposes, falls on taxpayers.

David Merrick, director of Florida State University's Homeland Security and Emergency Management program, points out the financial strain this will cause, as U.S. drones are more expensive than their Chinese counterparts.

Concerns and Responses

The ban stems from concerns about the potential use of foreign drones for espionage. However, DJI spokesman Adam Welsh has denied any association with the Chinese Communist Party and insists their drones are not used for spying. Despite this, bipartisan bills in Congress aim to extend this ban across all federal agencies.

A Period of Adjustment

As Florida's public agencies adapt to this mandate, the financial and operational impact is significant. While the benefits of American-made drones are clear, the transition period, which could exceed a year, poses challenges for agencies reliant on .

This situation reflects a broader national conversation about technology, security, and financial responsibility. For more details, read the full report on WESH2.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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  1. What a bunch of bullshit. There’s no proof that DJI uses its drones for espionage. If they are secretly sending images or video back to their servers, they are low resolution, the bandwidth to send anything high resolution would be easily measureable. Not to mention, China has already shown off the capabilities of their latest spy satellite that takes super high res photos, at nadir or oblique angles, that match, if not exceed the capabilities of these drones.

  2. As a pilot affiliated with LE drone use, there aren’t many cases where a foreign state is really going to glean anything, or even care for that matter. We also don’t use DJI pilot, but rather third party flight control software that uses DJI’s APIs. This would make sending data back to China even trickier.
    The Skydio equipment is mostly decent, but it still can’t touch what DJI has for hardware, especially at the price point. It also has a couple known concerns with flight stability, mainly aircraft just falling out of the air, unexpectedly.
    I want to see a formidable domestic competitor, and Skydio may very well be that some day. Yet they can’t touch what DJI can offer right now.

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