Give DJI’s Washington DC team their kudos. They weathered the storm of DHS memos(1 and 2) and completely off the rails Senate subcommittee testimony on camera drones. The US government didn’t even try to hide its bias against the Chinese company, but DJI countered with safety symposium and the release of a Government Edition drone. Oh, and a seal of approval from the Interior Department. Someone missed a briefing.
Fun fact for those who read the transcript of the subcommittee hearing and DJI’s letter in response. Three of the four Senators taking part in the hearing also have committee assignments which conduct oversight over the Department of the Interior (DOI). Ooops.
The DOI tests kicked off in April 2018, so it does not include the latest Mavic 2 camera drones, nor its Enterprise Edition. Right now, the federal seal of approval applies to the original Mavics and Matrice 600. I see what you’re doing, DJI. Offloading the older Mavics at a premium. Well done.
With the Fourth of July over, DJI has opted to stay on offense with a second release on the Government Edition drone. Personally, I’d take a Phantom 5, but we have to understand the company has to protect its flank exposed to potential onerous regulations.
DOI Report on DJI Camera Drones
Here’s the official word from DJI:
“The Department of Interior’s report validates DJI’s effort to build software and hardware solutions that meet the evolving data security needs of its customers,” said Mario Rebello, vice president and regional manager of North America at DJI. “The DOI has a strong track record of leadership within the US government for its ability to pragmatically evaluate and implement drone technology for use across a wide variety of applications. We appreciate their partnership and value the collaborative effort to help create a DJI drone solution that will allow emergency first responders and others to save lives and effectively manage our public lands. We look forward to continuing to support the Department of Interior and other federal agencies with DJI’s industry-leading drone technology.”
Mario needs a vacation. The man has been a part of each press release refuting whatever nonsense the Senate or DHS publicizes.
Here are the findings of the report issued by the DOI (PDF is linked in case you can’t sleep tonight):
1. DOI has been working with DJI for over two years to create a solution that would allow its bureaus access to DJI’s high-quality off-the-shelf hardware equipped with custom firmware and software to prevent intentional or unintentional data leakage to any outside entities.
2. Testing of the DJI Government Edition solution began in April 2018 as part of the three-phase testing plan developed by DOI.
3. Testing included 1,133 flights totaling 298 hours on the DJI Matrice 600 Pro and 1,112 flights totaling 240 hours for the DJI Mavic Pro drones.
4. DOI collaborated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Kennedy Space Center as well as other industry and federal partners with expertise in data management assurance testing to conduct targeted assessments of DJI Government Edition hardware, firmware, and software.
5. During testing there was no indication that data was being transmitted outside the system, confirming that they were operating as promised by DJI.
Translation? It’s a polite way of saying both the witnesses at the Senate hearing and DHS should really stay on top of what the rest of the federal government is doing. That’s why there are liaison offices in each department. And the Senators involved in the hearing have staff whose job description is to know what the Senators obviously don’t.
DJI decided to drive the point home with letting agencies know the Government Edition drones are available at select DJI Enterprise resellers in the United States.
What’s Next for DJI?
We’ve already covered why DJI isn’t releasing a flagship drone in 2019. The new tech set for release in 2020 is a tacit admission the company is keeping its powder dry. If you’re wondering when – DJI does hold a soft spot for the weeks after CES in January. For the rest of 2019, I’d watch the Osmo lineup. It’s doubtful the company acquired a majority stake in Hasselblad for the fun of it. Osmo Cinema? Consider me intrigued.