The Department of Defense wants to buy 35 DJI Mavic Pro Platinum drones.
It doesn’t want Tiny Whoop. It doesn’t want 3DR. And it doesn’t want Ebee. It wants DJI, and it laid out its case in a revealing document that was posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (also known as FedBizOpps) website last month.
The Air Force is seeking to buy a new set of drones, and as part of a federal requirement, it has to document its justification if soliciting a particular brand name item.
“Mission requirements are our first major concern when selecting an SUAS platform,” according to a document dated Aug. 17, 2018. “Other platforms such as the Tiny Whoop, Ebee, and 3DR solo do not have the all-around versatility to perform the wide array of tasks (i.e. weather limitations, camera resolution, flight time / range) that we require.”
The document also cited other factors including cost effectiveness of purchase, use, and maintenance, as other reasons to choose DJI vs. other brands.
“Thus far, we have not found another viable device that meets those requirements for the cost effectiveness of the DJI Mavic Pro,” according to the document.
The Air Force’s Special Tactics operational units currently use a total of 15 DJI Mavic Pro drones across eight Special Tactics Squadrons. The new purchase specifies that the Air Force wants Platinum versions of the Mavic Pro this time around.
The DJI Mavic Pro Platinum is a newer model of the revolutionary Mavic Pro version, offering improvements including 30-minute flight time and a 60% noise power reduction, which is made possible due to new FOC sinusoidal driver ESCs and 8331 propellers.
DJI had some controversy with the military last year after reports that the U.S. Army would discontinue use of DJI drones due to “cyber vulnerabilities.” DJI quickly ameliorated the situation, launching “local data mode,” which stops internet traffic to and from its flight control apps, in order to provide enhanced data privacy assurances for sensitive government and enterprise customers.
The new Department of Defense memo addressed those cyber vulnerabilities, suggesting that security concerns are essentially unavoidable.
“Software has been developed (specific to this model) and implemented to eliminate the cyber security concerns that are inherent to the DJI Mavic Pro.”
And it looks like the Air Force has no plans to abandon using DJI products anytime soon.
“Until there is a viable alternative that provides the same capabilities, the 720th OSS will continue to pursue use of this airframe due to the training requirements and limitations surrounding approved equipment,” the document stated. “There are no actions planned to overcome barriers that preclude future brand name requirements.”
The news that the Air Force wants DJI drones confirms the latest data showing that the Chinese drone manufacturer continues to dominate the drone industry. DJI now has an estimated 74% market share, according to the 2018 Drone Market Sector Report by Skylogic Research, which was released earlier this month. That’s up from a 72% market share in 2017. DJI had just a 50% market share in Skylogic Research’s 2016 version of the same report.