Remember how we told you DJI was planning to launch a new Local Data Mode which would disconnect its drones from the Internet during flights? The dronemaker was basically arm-twisted into taking this step after the US Army issued a blanket ban on all things DJI earlier this year. The ban, in turn, was put into place following damning reports by the Army Research Lab and the US Navy which claimed to have found “cyber vulnerabilities” in DJI products.
This week, the Chinese dronemaker finally announced that the privacy feature will arrive with the next update of the Pilot app on its proprietary tablet CrystalSky. The stealth mode is also coming to select Android tablets, though its iOS debut is still under speculation.
What exactly does DJI Local Data Mode do?
The Local Data Mode, when activated on a DJI drone, blocks all Internet data. This means that the app would not be able to trace the drone’s location or show the operator any spatial or geofencing information. Effectively, the onus of staying out of ‘No Fly Zones’ and being aware of flying restrictions, if any, falls on the drone operator under these circumstances. As such, an operator will be able to activate the Local Data Mode on the Pilot app only after entering a password sent to them on their DJI account.
The telemetry data, meanwhile, remains unaffected by this mode’s activation. The drone’s altitude, distance and speed will be stored on the flight logs irrespective of whether the privacy mode is on or off. The photos and videos captured by the drone will also stay safe on the device’s memory card.
According to Brendan Schulman, DJI’s Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs, the company has introduced the privacy 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.” So, the only time this feature will not be available to users would be in locations where local regulations mandate an internet connection.