US Government lifts restrictions on Chinese made DJI drones

In 2019, US Government had banned flying of Chinese made DJI drones. As a result many US Government agencies which had procured these DJI drones for emergency situations like fire, flood, agriculture and other monitoring works were forced to ground their drone fleet.

According to a report by AP, Pentagon has found “no malicious code or intent” in the drone software in the drones manufactured by DJI and used by the US Interior department. The pentagon report examined the software of the DJI drones which it terms “Government Edition” and also examined the software fixes that were earlier made to plug vulnerabilities of data leakage as suggested in previous audits. This report by Pentagon is dated 6th of May 2021.

The author of this Pentagon report, Adam Prater who is a tech expert and Second chief warrant officer with the US Army is reported to have concluded “The DJI Government Edition versions that were tested, show no malicious code or intent and are recommended for use by Government entities and forces working with US services.”

In 2019, due to political climate, lot of China blaming was going on. So it served the purpose to ban flying of DJI drones. Many other countries like India too are apprehensive about flying DJI copters in border areas even in disaster rescue operations. Given the rapid technological developments that DJI has brought into their drones, it has become easier to afford examining various landscapes for disaster survey, forest survey, looking out for poachers etc. The pentagon report is likely to help assuage some of the apprehensions even though not completely overcome it.

There are some other emerging drone manufacturers who hope to compete well with DJI. In the US, there is a company called Skydio. Autel robotics is another company which has launched a drone called EVO. Hopefully these companies can become better so that there is a good option for people to use a drone other than DJI’s. Apart from security issues, there is a nationalistic issue about the Chinese which majority of Indians strongly feel about. Apart from that the Chinese companies have a culture of human rights violations in their companies. Hence, having alternatives in future will be good. Nevertheless, it has become a bit difficult for filmmakers to navigate the various restrictions towards using copters. Hopefully, the situation will improve so that we can showcase India in all its glory to the entire world. Unfortunately, for security applications the drones are much bigger and longer and can carry big weight. For filmmaking the quadcopter or hexacopter used is also popularly called as drone. So use of filmmaking copters is also often frowned upon and several clearances are officially required. However with the recent attack on an Airforce base in Jammu, apparently using drones to drop bombs, may not lower the aversion for drones.