This drone designed specifically for first responders was made in America

First responders seeking a drone designed specifically for public safety use cases and that’s made in America today have a new — and quite compelling — option. Seattle-based drone maker BRINC today launched a drone called Responder. True to its name, Responder is geared specifically, to, well, people who work in emergency response.

Alongside the Responder drone itself, BRINC also launched a Responder Station, which is a docking station for recharging. Both pair with BRINC LiveOps, which is a drone operations software. BRINC says that the whole system together is designed to arrive at 911 calls in less than 70 seconds.

That makes it likely the Responder drone would arrive before actual human first responders do — offering the benefit of giving them situational awareness of what’s actually happening on the ground before they arrive at emergencies. Beyond simply offering an aerial view of the landscape, the drone is capable of executing tasks that humans might otherwise do. That includes delivering payloads of potentially life-saving medical equipment such as EpiPens, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), flotation devices or Narcan.

In some cases, that might be enough to make it so the person in need gets help — without response teams even needing to send a human officer. In fact, according to BRINC, its Drone as First Responder system can resolve roughly 25% of service calls without departments even needing to dispatch their own human personnel.

BRINC responder drone firefighting
(Photo courtesy of BRINC)

Key BRINC specs

What exactly makes a drone fitting as specifically a first response drone? Here are some of the BRINC Responder key specs:

  • 40x zoom visual camera array
  • 640 px thermal sensor
  • Emergency response vehicle livery
  • Custom agency markings
  • Red and blue lights
  • Integrated siren
  • Can recharge from 0 to 100% in 40 minutes

The two seriously-distinguishing features are the sensor payloads. The first, a zoom camera, is critical in allowing first responders to get critical situational awareness, even in situations where even the drone can’t get as close as it could otherwise be. Then there’s the thermal sensor.

Thermal sensors have long proven useful for all sorts of situations. For example, firefighters can better identify hotspots in structure fires. But it’s not just about fires. Search and rescue teams use thermal cameras to spot people who might be lost.

Those sensors make BRINC comparable to FLIR’s Radiometric Vue TZ20-R. Though that specific, high-resolution sensor was discontinued, it was capable of both pixel-by-pixel temperature measurement and up to 20 times digital zoom. That specific FLIR thermal zoom drone payload was designed specifically for the DJI V2 Matrice 200 Series and Matrice 300 airframes.

How much does BRINC Responder cost?

And then the most critical “spec” of sorts for many? The price. Here’s where things are less straightforward. BRINC drone prices are variable across a number of factors. Those include quantity of launch sites and additional infrastructure needed for installation.

According to a BRINC spokesperson, BRINC’s team works directly with agencies to identify funding and structure its pricing. A BRINC spokesperson said agencies interested in using BRINC should contact them through their website. From there, a team member could walk them through the program and options.

To give you an ideal of ballpark numbers, though, consider that FLIR’s VUE TZ20-R first launched in 2021 at $7,500. That was just the payload (no drone), so it’s likely the full BRINC Responder will cost well above that.

BRINC Responder police drone
(Photo courtesy of BRINC)

How BRINC Responder works to respond so quickly

Fast response times have more to do with the system that powers the drone rather than the drone itself. Called Responder Station, the system is a dock of sorts that charges and stores the drone. In theory, communities would house dozens of stations, in turn enabling faster response times.

Naturally, the closer the dock is to an emergency, the faster the drone can get to the destination. Even still, drones would still likely arrive much faster than any human in a ground vehicle. After all, drones don’t have to account for traffic and the restrictions of sticking to a road. Drones can traverse shorter routes as they move as the crow (or, well, the drone) flies.

As far as time needed to get from ground to air, the drone is capable of deployment in less than five seconds.

(Screen grab of a view from LiveOps courtesy of BRINC)

BRINC’s in-house software called BRINC LiveOps powers the whole system. Compatible with most web browsers, LiveOps is thus accessible on mobile devices and tablets in addition to standard computers.

Use LiveOps for tasks including telling drones where to fly from (in theory) anywhere in the world, viewing service calls, viewing available drones and their locations, displaying map data overlays on drone video live fees, and displaying critical airspace awareness data such as radar detections, FAA map tiles, weather reports and ADS-B data.

(Photo courtesy of BRINC)

Why the BRINC Responder matters — especially now

Drone use in the realm of first response has proven critical. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation has invested in millions of dollars to research better ways to use drones for emergency response. And cities are making big moves on their own. For example, Fremont, California became the first city to approve a shared drone first responder program. That was in 2024, when a team up across its fire and police departments suggested heavy interest across multiple types of first response teams.

As far as BRINC Responder specifically, here are three big impacts set to come out of its launch:

BRINC Responder drone delivering an AED in the wilderness
A BRINC Responder drone delivers an AED. (Photo courtesy of BRINC)

A simple option for users

For starters, BRINC Responder offers a ready-to-fly, all-in-one drone solution. Rather than a first response team flying a drone from one company, and cobbling together a homemade gimbal to carry a payload from another company, which might in turn gather data that’s interpreted by software from another company, BRINC users have it easy. 

“Our fully integrated approach with Responder, Responder Station, and BRINC LiveOps sets us apart in the industry, enabling seamless coordination and rapid response in times of crisis.” said Don Redmond, BRINC Vice President of Advanced Public Safety Projects in a prepared statement.

Particularly among underfunded police departments and other emergency response teams, BRINC Responder allows those workers to focus on what they were hired to do — actual emergency response. They can leave the drone engineering (and making all the software and payloads work together) to BRINC.

BRINC Responder drone on dock
(Photo courtesy of BRINC)

An American-made industrial drone

More critical to many users these days than an easy-to-use drone is an American-made drone. BRINC manufactures its products in the U.S.

The release of BRINC Responder stands out as especially compelling these days given recent legislation to ban DJI drones. For example, the American Security Drone Act of 2023 seeks to prohibit federal agencies from purchasing drones made by certain foreign entities. Yes, that means Chinese-made DJI drones. And then there’s the  Countering CCP Drones Act. That act would place DJI on a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) blacklist, effectively blocking new DJI drones from flying in the U.S. (though existing DJI drones would still be okay). Neither of those two proposed laws have passed — and it’s unlikely they would.

But, the rise in anti-DJI legislation signals huge appetite for drones that aren’t DJI. It especially signals appetite for drones that are made in America.

BRINC Responder drone on dock
(Photo courtesy of BRINC)

A signal that the drone industry has more competitors

And for the drone industry as a whole, the BRINC Responder proves there are more drones out there than just DJI.

Prior to BRINC Responder, its biggest products included the LEMUR 2 and BRINC Ball.

BRINC already has a fairly robust footprint, with its products in the hands of more than 500 public safety agencies in the U.S. The company also says its products are used by more than 10% of SWAT teams around the U.S. In fact, BRINC says it has four U.S. public safety agencies signed on to begin Drone as First Responder programs by the end of 2024.

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