You may have seen some recent good news from the U.S. government about DJI’s professional drones: The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a report, available at this link, on how DJI drones can help them accomplish their missions while protecting the data they generate.
We’re excited to see the report validate how DJI products can meet the stringent data needs of high-security customers like government agencies and critical infrastructure operators. That’s important, because DOI found DJI drones were far better than those from other companies for their missions. DOI said non-DJI drones were either “10x less capable for the same price, or up to 10x more costly than similarly capable DJI aircraft.”
The DOI report is a very detailed and technical document. We urge everyone in the DJI community to read it, but we’ve also prepared this summary to help understand the report and answer some common questions about it.
What does the report say?
DOI recommended the DJI Matrice 600 Pro and Mavic Pro, using special DJI Government Edition firmware and software, “be authorized for Interior fleet and contract use in accordance with additional risk mitigation practices developed by OAS.”
After a careful evaluation of DOI’s needs, other products on the market and the data security protections included in DJI Government Edition, the report also concluded the drone market does not offer any alternative products “that are competitive in price, required mission and security performance, and necessary scalability to the two tested UAS.”
What is DJI Government Edition?
DJI Government Edition is DJI’s high-security solution for government drone programs, developed in collaboration with DOI as it tested and evaluated the system. It includes DJI Government Edition firmware, DJI Government Edition Assistant 2 software, and mobile devices with DJI Government Edition Pilot App for Android and DJI Government Edition GS PRO for iOS.
During more than a year of testing, DOI gave DJI valuable feedback which we used to modify our firmware until it was stable and scalable to fit the Department’s needs. Additionally, other federal labs like the NASA Kennedy Space Center conducted cybersecurity tests, concluding that there was “no indication that data was being transmitted outside the system and that they were operating as promised by DJI.”
Why did DOI test DJI Government Edition?
DOI needed to ensure that the flight logs, photos and videos created by its drones would never leave the control of their government operators. Most consumer off-the-shelf drones can connect to the internet, which the report identifies as “known security risks” because a user could use that connection to export data by mistake or in violation of an organization’s data management policies. To solve this, DJI’s Government Edition features an “always on” Local Data Mode that completely prevents the DJI Pilot app from connecting to the internet, eliminating the data transfer risk that is inherent in any connected device.
In a three-phase test, DOI tested 20 units of the M600P over 1,133 flights totaling 298 hours, and 41 units of the Mavic Pro over 1,112 flights totaling 240 hours. These tests were exhaustive, as they were performed during actual DOI missions. One test in Oregon outfitted an M600P with an ignitable sphere dispensing system to create a controlled burn to prevent the spread of a forest fire – and successfully conducted the first-ever nighttime burnout missions on a wildfire. In another mission in Hawaii, pilots were able to locate and direct an individual out of harm’s way when surrounded by a molten lava flow, saving the person’s life.
Why did DOI prepare this report?
With such proven benefits, drone technology is a valuable resource for DOI, but like other technology in its arsenal, drones and drone systems must meet strict performance, safety, and security expectations. Drones do not easily it into other technology categories, and there are few government standards for drone data security.
DOI’s report serves as the first large-scale, publicly released assessment of the value, function and security of DJI drones in the DJI Government Edition environment. As drones become increasingly popular for both civilian and government use, DOI’s role as a large fleet operator gave it a unique perspective to lay the foundation for other government agencies to address security issues.
What does DOI have to do with drones?
As part of its responsibility to manage and protect the land and natural resources of the United States, DOI created the Office of Aviation Services in 1973 to “raise the safety standards, increase the efficiency, and promote the economical operation of aircraft activities in the Department of the Interior.”
With 500 million acres of land to oversee, DOI relies on aircraft heavily. As drone technology emerged, OAS discovered that aerial missions can be done more frequently, more efficiently, and more safely than by traditional aircraft. OAS officially integrated unmanned aerial systems in 2010 for missions that include wildfires, wildlife, hydrology, geological and geophysical surveys, and volcanic activity.
Today, OAS uses over 600 drones by 400 FAA-certified and DOI-trained operators across 42 states, having flown over 19,000 UAS flights. In 2018 alone, DOI operated 10,000 flights for 548 projects, saving $14.8 million over the cost of traditional ground-based methods.
What does this mean for DJI?
After passing such rigorous and extensive tests, and with regular feedback from DOI throughout, we have been able to create and offer a drone solution that is trusted to use for their critical drone operations.
In addition to recommending the Mavic Pro and M600 Government Edition for official OAS use, the findings outlined in the DOI report show that allegations made against DJI and political concerns regarding our country of origin were not based on truth.
DJI directly employs more than 150 people in the United States, demonstrating our commitment to developing drone technology in this region. The DOI report – along with DJI embracing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity recommendations, our continuous mission to provide professional drone users with the best tools possible, and our central role in the entire U.S. drone industry – show why DJI remains focused on making the incredible benefits of drone technology available to everyone.
What does this mean for you?
The DOI report continues DJI’s commitment to securing customer data. All DJI drones, from the smallest to the largest, give customers full control over how, whether, or where to share their data. DJI does not access the flight logs, photos or videos of customers unless they deliberately choose to share them.
DJI Government Edition provides a more rigorous software and firmware environment for customers with sensitive security needs and demonstrates the seriousness with which DJI regards the data of all its customers. Whether for sensitive government operations or backyard fun, DJI gives customers control over their data.
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