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Law enforcement agency voices concerns amid Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ drone ban

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Starting Wednesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered the grounding of all government-owned drones made in China, which is costing law enforcement agencies a hefty penny.

Right now, nearly $200 million in taxpayer money has been spent on government drones across the state of Florida. Law enforcement agencies say that not only are American drones more expensive, but the camera quality isn’t as great.

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Officials said they would like to see the drones added back onto the approved list.

“If there are some national security issues with a DJI drone, then show us what it is, and we’ll be glad to purchase American,” said Lt. Mike Crabb with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

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Action News Jax has reached out to agencies in Northeast Florida to see if any local drones are grounded by the Governor’s new rule. Here are the responses we’ve received:

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

“Based on the recent update to Florida State Statute 934.50 regarding drone use by governmental agencies, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will start the process of transitioning our drone fleet to comply with State law. This administration will now begin to budget for and safely implement new technology. As always, community and officer safety and careful stewardship of taxpayer dollars are of paramount concern as this agency complies with this new law.”

Clay County Sheriff’s Office

“No impact at all. We bought Skydio drones from the government approved list of domestically manufactured drones. We did have one DJI drone we purchased several years prior but we no longer use it.”

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department

“JFRD has shelved their DJI drones since Jan 1 and are waiting on this legislative session to end to see how to proceed.”

Clay County Fire Rescue

“This does not affect Clay County Fire Rescue. This department does not own a drone.”

St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office

“The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has started the transition phase to comply with state law. The SJSO Drone Unit has been preparing for the implementation of new drone technology and we do not expect any disruptions in the use of drones to serve the citizens of St. Johns County. We will continue to utilize advanced, law-enforcement technology to keep our communities safe.”

Nassau County Sheriff’s Office

“The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office currently owns 10 drones, some of which are not on the approved list. As always we will continue to follow Florida State law and also put public safety first.”

Putnam County Sheriff’s Office

“The Florida Sheriff’s Association is working on a collaboration with the department of management services to build regulatory framework that we are awaiting. This will allow us to continue operating our drones and ensuring compliance by not having the drones connected to a server. Our drones operated independently of a server and record directly onto a memory card. We have a dedicated laptop for the drone that has not connectivity to any servers or other programs like our computer assisted dispatch (CAD).

If a work around was not in progress, this would have been extremely cost prohibitive initiative for us as we have about $150,000 invested in drones and hardware. Currently there are no approved drones with the lifting capability of cameras and other equipment we utilize for long missions such as the one we had last night at the Rodman dam.”

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office

“The drone ban will not impact our operations. We will be using drones from the approved list.”

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