It’s been an interesting month for DJI as it has become wrapped up in the ongoing U.S. – China trade war. New FAA guidelines. More than one odd memo out of DHS whose function is to be paranoid but wants to assure us they are not.
It all culminated late last week with Senate testimony from witnesses who can’t decide if they know DJI ‘flies’ our data to China or not. What the witnesses didn’t know, or the Senators is DJI was holding an ace up its sleeve. And a long letter to the members of the Subcommittee.
DJI Announces Government Edition Drone Program
It’s not exactly a Phantom 5 release, but the DJI Government Edition answers all the questions raised in the DHS memo and Senate testimony. The new architecture effectively air gaps the drone, storing all information (photos, video, geolocation data, etc.) within the drone and nothing with DJI or any third-party. Now if your password is still ‘password,’ that’s on you.
Here’s DJI’s official word on the government edition camera drones:
“DJI Government Edition allows government agencies to serve the public more efficiently and effectively using the industry’s most widely-adopted drone technology while maintaining total control over their data,” said Mario Rebello, Vice President and Regional Manager of North America at DJI. “This is DJI’s most secure drone solution to-date because it prevents users from accidentally or even intentionally transferring data off of the drone to other parties. By incorporating these assurances into its architecture, the Government Edition solution meets the rigorous data security expectations of government agencies, and provides them the safety, reliability, and ease of operation that DJI’s products are respected for by commercial drone pilots around the world.”
Oh, and it passed audits with the Department of the Interior Office of Aviation over the past year logging over 1500 flights out of 18,000 missions performed by the department in 2018. Now the vetted drones are available for other government agencies for purchase, which is interesting in light of the DOD giving California blanket approval to use drones in wildfires. Makes the Senate testimony suspect at best. It begs the question of why the Senators sitting on the Subcommittee were not briefed on the Government Edition.
Data security is at the forefront of the Government Edition drones employing new architecture:
- No Data Transmission – A permanently enabled Local Data Mode within the custom DJI Pilot application prevents data transfer from the mobile application over the internet to third parties or to DJI.
- Firmware Update Reviews – Government agency aviation and I.T. departments can review firmware updates in electronic isolation before applying them to their fleets, and have full control over how to validate them and when to install them on DJI drones.
- Restricted Hardware Pairing – Drones and remote controllers running Government Edition solution firmware can only be linked with each other and are not compatible with other DJI products, preventing the use of unsecure hardware and unauthorized third-party applications.
The Government Editions are available now through DJI and enterprise resellers.
<h2>DJI Letter in Response to Senate Testimony</h2>
The letter to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Security is a more lengthy response to last week’s hearing. It works to defend itself against what it calls “the unsubstantiated speculation and inaccurate information presented during [the] Subcommittee hearing will put the entire U.S. drone industry at risk, causing a ripple effect that will stunt economic growth and handcuff public servants who use DJI drones to protect the public and save lives.” DJI adds: “DJI drones do not share flight logs, photos or videos unless the drone pilot deliberately chooses to do so. They do not automatically send flight data to China or anywhere else. They do not automatically transmit photos or videos over the internet. This data stays solely on the drone and on the pilot’s mobile device. DJI cannot share customer data it never receives.”
It’s a polite way of saying the witnesses didn’t know what they were talking about, and if you need further clarification, ask the Department of Interior. You can read the full letter to the Subcommittee over at DJI’s newsroom.