DJI Announces 'Local Data Mode' to Fly Drones Without Internet Connection

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Drone company DJI this week announced a new "local data mode" that breaks any internet connection between the DJI drone and a user's smartphone, which the company said will greatly enhance security and data privacy when users enable the mode (via Reuters).

The announcement comes a few weeks after the United States Army ordered its members to stop using DJI drones due to "cyber vulnerabilities," believed to be related to the drones' ability to save flight logs, photos, or videos onto a smartphone app, and then onto DJI's servers if the user chose to do so.

DJI announced the Spark drone earlier this year

Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI, said that business and government customers in particular have since raised concerns about sensitive content -- "such as movie footage or images of critical infrastructure" -- potentially leaking out.

DJI said it does not collect images, video or flight logs from users unless they share them. But turning on the new "local data mode" will prevent accidental syncing with DJI's servers. Its drones do not rely on an internet connection to fly.

Cutting the link between the internet and DJI's controller apps that run on tablets and mobile phones will disable updates of maps, flight restrictions and other data that the controller application receives from the internet while the drone is in use, he said.

Because of the Army's memo, DJI sped up work on local data mode, which it says has been in the works for several months. When activated, the new mode blocks all internet data, so DJI apps will not update maps, geofencing information, newly-issued flight restrictions, "and may result in other performance limitations." But, even without an internet connection, the company's drones can still be piloted as normal.

While the mode will be available for everyone, DJI is focusing on "professional, commercial, government, and educational users" who might fly a DJI drone to capture critical infrastructure, commercial trade secrets, or governmental functions.

“We are pleased about how rapidly DJI’s customer base has expanded from hobbyists and personal drone pilots to include professional, commercial, government and educational users,” said Jan Gasparic, DJI head of enterprise partnership. “As more of these customers have asked for additional assurances about how their data is handled, DJI has moved to address their needs by developing local data mode to provide enhanced data management options for customers who want to use them.”

Local data mode will arrive in an update to DJI's suite of apps by the end of September. If any location has regulations that require drone pilots to fly with the most updated maps and information, the offline mode "may not be available" in those areas.

Tag: DJI

Top Rated Comments

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37 months ago

This isn't how technology works. It's either programmed to do it or not. It's not 1910 operators accidentally switching a call to a wrong person.

There's a button in the DJI app to sync flight data with DJI servers. He may be referring to accidental taps on that button.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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37 months ago

From the press released quote seems the feed for that data is one and the same: warnings of restricted drone flight areas, not the restricted areas themselves, lol. misinterpretation occurs at times.

Because it blocks all internet data, use of local data mode means DJI apps will not update maps or geofencing information, will not notify pilots of newly-issued flight restrictions or software updates

Emphasis mine. It's not going to let you know about new TFRs or NOTAMs; however I would hope it would still alert you to permanent restrictions.

It would be nice if it had the option to only download info and disable all uploads.
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37 months ago

But turning on the new "local data mode" will prevent accidental syncing with DJI's servers.

This isn't how technology works. It's either programmed to do it or not. It's not 1910 operators accidentally switching a call to a wrong person.
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37 months ago
So does this mean that you'll be able to fly in previously "restricted areas"? Like in northern VA, which has a 30-mile no-fly zone because of DCA?
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