DOUGLAS’ DIGEST: Pigeon drone conspiracy theories reign, but the real story is Trump giving DJI the bird


Are pigeons Government-issued drones? Probably not, because we’ve just seen Trump’s government suspend the DOI drone program and birds haven’t been falling from the sky.

But, as part of Commercial Drone Professional’s continued research into the market, we were amused to discover this week that the notion that birds are ‘Government-issued drones’ is actually one of the top searched-for queries in Google when it comes to governments and their use of drone technology.

On the contrary to the apparent appetite for drone conspiracy theories, there doesn’t seem to be much interest – and therefore international coverage – of the Department of Interior’s actual decision on its drone program.

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Despite this, DJI’s reaction to the move tells the commercial drone industry that it could be a turning point for the sector not only in the US, but around the world, transforming it into what should be a “huge” story, as Trump himself might say.

Intriguingly, the spike in web searches for pigeon-government drones comes mostly from the United States, suggesting there is wider public interest in the Government’s attitude toward the topic of drones, even if it does make a mockery of the situation.

However, the Government’s latest move doesn’t necessarily show its perception of drones wholly, but more its political motivations for taking the drones down due to DJI’s China-based foundations.

As DJI itself put it, the decision “inappropriately treats a technology’s country of origin as a litmus test for its performance, security and reliability.”

But what does this mean for the wider market? Is there a chance for another manufacturer to seize the opportunity? We know President Trump is big on keeping as much business as he can within the United States.

It certainly could, but, if a ‘competitor’ is to do just that, and try to compete with the DJI powerhouse and take a slice of its more than 80% market share, it will need to make itself visible, and quick.

Showing it can match DJI’s technology at a similar price point will take some doing, but if it can do just that to not necessarily the Government, but the American drone community, it could be a step in the right direction for more direct competition in the market.

The Government, as part of its announcement, was keen to make clear that the decision was only a “temporary cessation of non-emergency drones,” meaning it will continue to use the Chinese-manufactured drones for emergency purposes, showing just how reliant public safety agencies, and Trump’s US Government has become on DJI products and what the technology can do and has been doing for them.

I expect DJI to prove, as it went a long way in doing during a panel discussion at AirWorks in 2019, that its technology is safe and secure and does not send data back to China.

If that is the case, surely government-owned DJI drones will be back up where they belong in no time, sharing the skies with the pigeons.

DJI put out an extended article this week on why the drone policy “hurts America.”

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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