Public-Safety Drone Report Finds DJI Leads Market Despite Concerns
Wednesday, September 25, 2019 | Comments

A report from the newly formed DRONERESPONDERS found that Chinese drone maker DJI is the undisputed leader in providing drones to U.S. public safety agencies. Confusion exists among local public-safety professionals surrounding the alleged security vulnerabilities with Chinese drone technology, the report said.

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Security Drone Act of 2019, which bans federal agencies from buying unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from China or other countries deemed a national security risk. Local and state agencies would not be able to use federal grants and other funds to buy banned drones if the bill passes.

Sens. Rick Scott, Chris Murphy, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton and Richard Blumenthal introduced and sponsored the legislation.

DRONERESPONDERS is an alliance formed in July to promote public safety’s use of drones. The group’s report also found that brand loyalty to DJI is precarious as the public-safety sector waits for a viable U.S.-branded solution to enter the marketplace.

The DRONERESPONDERS report includes results and analysis from online survey data collected during the past several weeks from public-safety drone program leaders and operators.

“Our goal for this report was to better understand the perspectives of America’s first responders who are using drones made in China,” said Christopher Todd, executive director of the group officially named Airborne International Response Team (AIRT) and a lead analyst on the report. “We were able to glean some incredible information surrounding the role of foreign UAS technology for public safety.”

“We’re seeing all types of public safety agencies from the Department of the Interior to small town fire department using these systems,” said Charles Werner, DRONERESPONDERS director. “We wanted to explore how recent rumors surrounding drone data security were affecting the mindset of these operators.”

Drone maker DJI has been a recent target of U.S. officials who claim the company is positioned as a potential relay that, if pressed, could send sensitive drone data from U.S. customers to the Chinese government — something DJI vehemently denies.

“We have no dog in that fight, and no way to know what is really happening with the data,” Werner said. “Our focus is on how all of this speculation is potentially impacting public-safety agencies and operators using drone technology.”

Todd said that the new report was based on the initial set of survey data to be released. The group has collected a wealth of data that will be used to create additional guidance to help public-safety agencies better use drones for good.

“We’ll be releasing additional information in the near future,” he said. “We realize that the public-safety sector needs more guidance to help make better decisions, and we’re working hard to make that happen as quickly and accurately as possible.”

The report is available here.

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