Drone policy implemented by the Department of the Interior means it will temporarily ground its drone program while it ensures that “cybersecurity, technology and domestic production concerns are adequately addressed.”
DJI has rebuffed this claim, commenting on how the decision is actually a flawed approach to security.
In a statement, a spokesperson for DJI the decision “inappropriately treats a technology’s country of origin as a litmus test for its performance, security and reliability.”
Commenting on the decision in a more in-depth piece online, DJI sets the scene for how important it sees its drones in helping the DOI.
It explains: “In its broad mission to effectively manage over 500 million acres of land across the United States and its territories, the Department of the Interior has in recent years turned to drone technology to help get the job done.”
Adding: “The DOI’s fleet of 810 civilian drones – only about 20 percent of which are DJI products – is the largest in the federal government and has become a trusted, invaluable resource for the agency. In 2018 alone, the DOI flew more than 10,000 drone missions to support everything from surveying migrating birds to fighting wildfires.”
Then, referencing the most recent decision, it went on: “That’s why we’re troubled by a new department policy that takes aim at drone technology. According to the policy, DOI employees can no longer fly drones made by foreign-owned companies or those made with foreign-manufactured components, with undefined cybersecurity concerns as the sole rationale.”
“This policy has grounded the DOI’s entire drone program and all of the benefits that come with it. It is an alarming, politically driven decision that puts lives and property at risk. The U.S. government’s concerns about DJI drones have little to do with security and are instead part of a politically-motivated agenda.”
“First and foremost, the concerns raised by the agency regarding cybersecurity are not grounded in reality. As we said last year, we worked diligently with DOI officials, who themselves worked with independent cybersecurity professionals and experts at NASA over the course of 15 months to create a safe and secure drone solution that met DOI’s rigorous requirements.”
Adding: “The result of this collaboration was our Government Edition (GE) solution which provides additional safeguards so drone data is not intentionally or accidentally shared with unauthorized parties. Just a few months later, at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, our GE drones were independently evaluated a second time by the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Lab, which also found no areas of concern related to data leakage. Moreover, the vast majority of DOI missions are obviously not sensitive in the first place.”
The manufacturer went on to express its disappointment at how it believes the decision is politically motivated.
The article continues: “The DOI’s country of origin benchmark for security is ineffective and politically motivated, and ultimately does not address any real problem. It is not unreasonable for any government to prefer to buy products produced in its own country, but that sentiment simply doesn’t reflect the realities of today’s global technology supply chain. By the DOI’s own admission, all of the more than 800 drones it has procured are made in China or have components made there, including drones from companies headquartered in the US and Europe.
“Therefore, following its own policy to its logical conclusion would mean that the agency plans on keeping these drones grounded indefinitely, wasting the millions of dollars spent on procuring them. This policy might also require a restriction on other equipment used across DOI. How many DOI employees use smartphones, laptops, tablets, radios, weather monitors, cameras and other electronic equipment containing Chinese components in their jobs?”
This comment could point toward the ongoing issue with telecommunications equipment firm, Huawei, which is having a long running dispute with the US and a number of countries over data security.
In conclusion, DJI called for the DOI to look at the financials involved.
It detailed: “In 2018 alone, drones saved an estimated $14.8 million over the cost of traditional ground-based methods. According to a DOI official, using a drone rather than a traditional approach can allow the DOI to perform a task in one-seventh the time, at one-tenth the cost.
“The DOI estimates that drones have saved $50 million just by detecting wildfires early, giving them time to protect critical land and infrastructure that may have otherwise been lost.”
Read DJI’s initial repsonse to the news here: