DJI’s “Local Data Mode” a new privacy mode that stops internet traffic to and from its DJI Pilot app, launched this week.
The Chinese drone manufacturer first announced that the mode was in development back in August, coincidentally(?) close to the time the U.S. Army announced that it would discontinue use of DJI drones due to “cyber vulnerabilities.”
“Local data mode” stops internet traffic to and from DJI’s flight control apps, in order to provide enhanced data privacy assurances for sensitive government and enterprise customers. In standard flight modes, DJI requires internet usage to connect to local maps, geofencing data, app updates, radio frequency and power requirements.
Back in August, news came out that the U.S. Army prohibited its troops from using DJI drones because of cyber-security concerns, according to a U.S. Army memo first obtained by sUAS news.
“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,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI’s Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs, in a prepared statement.
Since Local Data Mode blocks all internet data, the DJI Pilot app will not be able to detect the location of the user or show map and geofencing information such as No Fly Zones and temporary flight restrictions.
That means that for people looking to fly over such sensitive areas, they will be able to do them, without going through DJI’s override process.
DJI in 2015 updated its software to prevent drones from flying in those areas. But for users needing to fly in those areas, they could open a DJI account registered with a credit card, debit card or mobile phone number, giving DJI a way to link the flight to an actual person. Those users would receive temporary access to fly over that area.
Now, users could simply turn on the new mode, without having to give DJI their credit card information.
In addition, the new Local Data Mode will not notify drone operators of firmware updates. Telemetry data on flight logs such as altitude, distance or speed will remain stored on the aircraft even if the user deactivates Local Data Mode.