Interior Department Approves DJI Government Edition

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DJI’s new Government Edition drone solution has been validated by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The federal agency completed a 15-month assessment of the flight, payload and data management assurance performance of DJI Matrice 600 Pro and Mavic Pro drones equipped with Government Edition firmware and software.

The recently introduced Government Solution is designed to ensure that drone data – including photos and videos captured during flight – never leaves the drone and, therefore, can never be shared with unauthorized parties, including DJI.

The DOI’s findings were presented in a flight test and technical evaluation report. Key findings of the report included as follows:

  1. The DOI has been working with DJI for over two years to create a solution that would allow its bureaus access to DJI’s 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 Government Edition solution began in April 2018 as part of a three-phase testing plan developed by the DOI.
  3. Testing included 1,133 flights totaling 298 hours on the DJI Matrice 600 Pro and 1,112 flights totaling 240 hours on the DJI Mavic Pro.
  4. The DOI collaborated with the NASA Kennedy Space Center, as well as other industry and federal partners with expertise in data management assurance testing, to conduct targeted assessments of 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.

In a press release, the DOI says, “Based on the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Flight Test and Technical Evaluation Report of the completed DJI Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Mission Functionality and Data Management Assurance Assessment, this letter provides limited authorization for Interior to acquire and operate selected and specially configured DJI UAS in support of wildfire, SAR, emergency response, natural resources, and other applicable bureau missions.”

Mario Rebello, vice president and regional manager for North America at DJI, says the agency’s report “validates DJI’s effort to build software and hardware solutions that meet the evolving data security needs of its customers.”

“The DOI has a strong track record of leadership within the U.S. government for its ability to pragmatically evaluate and implement drone technology for use across a wide variety of applications,” Rebello continues. “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.”

The DOI began a UAS program in 2006. In fiscal year 2018, the agency increased its drone usage by 108% year-over-year. Further, the DOI had 531 drones and 359 active pilots during the year, and with 486 units, the 3DR Solo drone comprised the majority of the fleet, which also included DJI Mavic and Matrice 600 drones.

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There is evidence that the DJI mobile app spawns a background process which transnits data to DJI even when the drone is off. This capability goes undetected unless a network analyzer is used. DJI executives have dodged questions regarding their obligation under ROC law to provide data to the Chinese government on demand. There is no scenario where Chinese telemetry and software may be permitted on U.S. military ranges or used by DOD. DJI has a great lobbying effort which is skillfully working. This is a precarious situation.