DJI launches new Local Data Mode to stem privacy concerns



Drone maker DJI, the leader in the consumer UAS field, today launched a new Local Data Mode that allows users to fly without internet data transfer.

The move comes after the U.S. Army ordered its members to stop using off-the-shelf systems from China-based DJI, saying its drones could retain and transmit sensitive data, including the time and location of drone flights.

The new privacy mode stops internet traffic to and from the DJI Pilot app, using instead Local Data Mode, which doesn’t send or receive any data over the internet.

“We are creating Local Data Mode to address the needs of our enterprise customers, including public and private organizations that are using DJI technology to perform sensitive operations around the world,” says Brendan Schulman, DJI’s vice president of policy and legal affairs. “DJI is committed to protecting the privacy of its customers’ photos, videos and flight logs. Local Data Mode will provide added assurances for customers with heightened data security needs.”

It does come with some downsides, however. Operators won’t have their locations detected, so they won’t be able to use DJI’s geofencing information to keep them from flying in prohibited areas. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration last week restricted drone flights near some iconic landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the Hoover Dam and Mount Rushmore — using Local Data Mode, a DJI drone wouldn’t automatically abide by those restrictions.

When using the mode, users are reminded that they are solely responsible for the safety of their flight. Even if the mode is used, photos and videos are stored on the drone’s SD card and are only shared if the user uploads them online.

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