With increased pressure on Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE, Shenzhen-based drone giant DJI naturally has cause for concern of late. A few weeks back, the Department of Homeland Security similarly raised warning over commercial drones from China. In a hearing entitled “Drone Security: Enhancing Innovation and Mitigating Supply Chain Risks” last week, the National Defense University’s Harry Wingo told the Senate Transportation Subcommittee, “American geospatial information is flown to Chinese data centers at an unprecedented level. This literally gives a Chinese company a view from above of our nation.”
DJI immediately replied in a letter it also provided to TechCrunch, noting:
‘Because the drone industry is becoming an increasingly critical engine for small American businesses as well as the entire U.S. economy, it is essential that decisions affecting key components of the industry are based on facts. We are deeply concerned that, left unchecked, the unsubstantiated speculation and inaccurate information presented during your Subcommittee hearing will put the entire U.S. drone industry at risk, causing a ripple effect that will stunt economic growth and handcuff public servants who use DJI drones to protect the public and save lives.’
The letter also breaks down some of the finer points of the discussion:
- DJI drones do not share flight logs, photos or videos unless the drone pilot deliberately chooses to do so. They do not automatically send flight data to China or anywhere else. They do not automatically transmit photos or videos over the internet. This data stays solely on the drone and on the pilot’s mobile device. DJI cannot share customer data it never receives.
- DJI’s professional pilot app has a built-in setting to disconnect all internet connection, as an extra precaution for pilots performing sensitive flights. Unlike some technology companies, DJI does not sell or monetize customer data.
- DJI embeds password and data encryption features in the design of our products. This provides customers with secure access to the drone and its onboard data. In cases when U.S. drone users do choose to share their data, it is only uploaded to U.S. cloud servers.
- DJI operates a global Bug Bounty Program so the world’s security researchers can identify unforeseen security issues, and we hire independent security experts to test our products. These are just some of the steps we take to assure high-security users they can use our products with confidence.
As per the Asia Times the company is now trying to get on American officials’ good side by building a new product in the United States. The assembly of its flying devices in the United States could help the company meet federal requirements. In addition, the company is building the new machine, called the Mavic 2 Enterprise. The new production facility and the drone’s data features, the company hopes, will be enough to allow the new product to be sold in the United States.
As per Reuters, DJI said it will assemble its Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual drones in Cerritos, California, after the U.S. Customs and Border Protection determines that the U.S. produced value of its drones will qualify under the U.S. Trade Agreements Act. Xie Tian, DJI’s public relations chief, said DJI will deepen cooperation with American suppliers for the factory and further expand its market in the U.S.
The announcement comes as President Trump prepares to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for trade talks that have put Chinese and American tech companies in the cross hairs of a prolonged and punishing battle over trade and a race for technology leadership.
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