In a recent letter to the Connecticut General Assembly, Deputy Chief Mark Gentile of the Rocky Hill Fire Department strongly opposed Senate Bill 3, which includes a ban on the purchase and use of Chinese DJI drones and other foreign-made drones. Gentile argues that the ban would be detrimental to their drone program and their ability to protect the community, as DJI drones play a crucial role in various life-saving missions.

The Versatility of DJI Drones

The Rocky Hill Fire Department, in collaboration with the Rocky Hill Department, operates a drone program using multiple DJI platforms, including the , Advance, and the . These drones serve various purposes within the police and fire industry, such as:

  • Seeing through smoke and detecting heat during a fire, providing critical information to incident commanders
  • Providing access to areas not accessible by officers, allowing for better organization of actions
  • Searching for missing persons
  • Investigating hazardous materials incidents
  • Assessing damage after severe weather

Deputy Chief Gentile states, “This is a small sample of the life-saving missions our drones respond to multiple times every month.”

The Cost-Effectiveness of DJI Drones

During the purchasing process for their drone program, the Rocky Hill Fire Department investigated several platforms from manufacturers across the globe. The DJI platform proved to be the most capable and cost-effective option for their tight municipal budget.

In comparison, US-manufactured drones were less capable and significantly more expensive, often requiring the purchase of several drones to achieve the same capabilities as a single DJI aircraft.

The banning of the DJI platform would be detrimental to our program and our ability to protect our community. In addition, banning our DJI platform would be a waste of taxpayer money. Several platforms were investigated during the purchasing process for our drone program. Drone manufacturers from across the globe were considered. The DJI platform was the most capable program costing the least amount of funding on a tight municipal budget. The drones manufactured in the were not as capable and significantly more expensive for base model units. In many instances, the Town of Rocky Hill would be required to purchase several drones to achieve the same capabilities as just our Matrice 300 aircraft. In addition, a single US-manufactured aircraft is nearly three times the cost. Fiscal responsibility should be considered when working with a municipal budget.

Mark Gentile, Deputy Chief of the Rocky Hill Fire Department.
The Importance Of Dji Drones In Saving Lives

Addressing Security Concerns

While acknowledging the security concerns associated with foreign-made platforms, Deputy Chief Gentile argues that these concerns can be mitigated using simple procedures. For example, using hot spots through Apple iPads instead of connecting drones through a municipal internet connection can protect local infrastructure. Additionally, drones can be flown with internet connectivity turned off to prevent security threats.

We understand the security concerns of foreign-made platforms. Some drone platforms communicate with the manufacturer regarding flights performed. However, these concerns can all be mitigated using very simple procedures, and in fact, the DJI platform requires authorizations in many situations our cyber security experts are trying to protect where the United States manufacturers do not require the same level of protection.

Mark Gentile, Deputy Chief of the Rocky Hill Fire Department.

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The Need for Competitive US-Made Drones

Deputy Chief Gentile emphasizes that until the US market can produce a drone that competes with the DJI platform in terms of capability and cost, the Rocky Hill Fire Department must oppose Senate Bill 3.

He states, “As , we prefer to purchase American-made products, but those products must be able to provide the solutions we require to do our jobs effectively and efficiently.”

The letter from Deputy Chief Mark Gentile serves as a powerful testament to the importance of DJI drones in saving lives and protecting communities. By highlighting the versatility, cost-effectiveness, and potential for mitigating security concerns associated with DJI drones, Gentile makes a compelling case against the proposed ban. As he aptly puts it, “This bill does not protect our consumers. It places our communities at risk.”

Other Examples of DJI Drones Saving Lives

Here are three recent examples of “” stories from DroneXL.co where DJI drones helped save the lives of people:

  • Lifesaving Flight: DJI Drone Rescues Senior With Alzheimer's. In January 2024, a Toronto Police Service DJI Matrice 300 drone played a crucial role in locating a missing elderly woman with Alzheimer's. The woman, last seen at 5 p.m., went missing and was not dressed for the chilly 39°F evening weather. After ground search efforts proved fruitless, Constable Mike Ramsay employed the drone and was able to locate the woman around 11:49 p.m. in a wooded ravine area that would have been almost impossible for ground crews to spot in the darkness. The drone's thermal camera was particularly crucial on that cool night. The senior was quickly transported to the hospital and later reunited with her family.
  • The Sky's New Watch: Drones Become Essential In Law Enforcement. The successful use of drones by the Roane County Sheriff's Office in locating a missing woman is a powerful example of how technology is transforming law enforcement operations. The incident highlights the effectiveness of drones in missions, particularly in challenging terrains and weather conditions. As more law enforcement agencies adopt , it is expected to significantly enhance their ability to protect and serve communities.
  • Forsyth County Sheriff's Office Innovates with DJI M30 and DJI Dock. In January 2024, the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office in introduced the DJI M30 drone and DJI Dock, marking a shift in how law enforcement can respond to and investigate incidents. The DJI M30, with its advanced features like a thermal camera and laser rangefinder, enhances the department's ability to locate missing persons, apprehend suspects, and gather critical evidence. The DJI Dock allows for automated deployment, charging, and data transfer, enabling quicker response times. This adoption of cutting-edge drone technology demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement to leveraging innovation for public safety.

These stories underscore the growing importance of DJI drones in emergency response and law enforcement. By enabling quicker, more efficient, and safer operations, drones are proving to be a game-changer in saving lives and serving communities.

Photos courtesy of the Rocky Hill Fire Department.

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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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