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Av8Chuck

Department of Defense Bans ALL COTS UAV's

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Last year the Army banned the use of DJI drones which led to considerable confusion int eh other branches of the military.  This has been discussed in other threads, I think mostly dismissed as some sort of conspiracy theory.  Not that the debate would have changed the outcome of this, but on May 23 the Secretary of Defense suspended the purchase and use of ALL COTS (commercially Off the Shelf) UAS.  

Not just DJI, not just Chines manufactured drones but ALL commercially available drones!

This is the direct result of the irresponsible cybersecurity policies of one company, DJI.  Just as with Army ban in August people who own and like DJI will most likely think this doesn't effect them, however, this latest policy is far more reaching than the Army ban.  Not only does it encompass all civil COTS drones it will extend to critical infrastructure and federal projects making the commercial market much smaller.  

Personally I'm interested in this for several reasons, I'm a commercial operator but I'm fascinated how did it came to this?  I've also become a fan of Mike Rowe and he explains how the false debate over security and safety is shaping our culture.  

its unfortunate that ideology or a blind devotion to a brand seems to stifle debate about this.  On one hand this makes me sick to my stomach how this is going to effect the commercial market, on the other it isn't going to effect my company the way that is most likely going to effect most of you. 

A lot of people on this forum ask for advice on how to start or grow a commercial drone company, the first thing I'd say is develop it in a way that enables you to control your own destiny.  How can you accomplish that when you have to ask the manufacturer where, and when you can fly?    

 

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While I'm in complete agreement that DJI's practices are terrible.  I have always maintained,  along with you and a few others,  that their policies don't have anything whatsoever to do with safety. 

I'm not sure what that has to do with Starbucks policy to not require you to purchase product in order to use the bathroom though, even in concept. ?

Edited by Dave Pitman

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So if they have banned all COTS UAVs then are they going to build their own or select a US based manufactureur  (if there is one). I don't know if this is related but I heard that there will be a version of the Pixhawk 2.1 flight controller that will be manufactured in the US.

Edited by Spitfire76

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9 hours ago, Dave Pitman said:

I'm not sure what that has to do with Starbucks policy to not require you to purchase product in order to use the bathroom though, even in concept. 

 Nothing to do with Starbucks but more his explainatiin of how the expectation of “safety first” leads to elevating safety and feelings to a level of primacy.  

 “‘Safety always’ would be a delightful bromide, a wise platitude. ‘Safety first’ is the stuff of idiocy. It allows us to begin to believe that somebody other than us might care more about our well being than we do.”  

That is the thinking that not only guided DJI to impliment their rediculous policy for GEO Fencing  but it’s also driving the regulatory mindset for this industry.  It’s whats leading the FAA to over regulation. 

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27 minutes ago, Spitfire76 said:

So if they have banned all COTS UAVs then are they going to build their own or select a US based manufactureur  (if there is one). I don't know if this is related but I heard that there will be a version of the Pixhawk 2.1 flight controller that will be manufactured in the US.

I think the military would prefer to do business with US manufacturers but It’s more complicated than that and I don’t think that’s the intent of this ban.

Everything can be hacked, so cyber security is more an issue of degree.  But there are a couple of issues that brought about that ban:

  1. is the implementation of DJI’s policy malicious or were they just ignorant?  When the Army ban happened they probably believed DJI was ignorant, but since then DJI has continued the policies that led to this decision in the first place so I’m guessing they now believe it is intentional.
  2. so how does GEO Fencing work?  When DJI first implemented the functionality, drones would report their location to other DJI operators in the area to encourage the community to fly together.  Ok if your a hobbyist but this demonstrated a functionality that is very problematic for secure commercial missions.  The issue is not the data that the drone is collecting but the data that is collected about where and when the drone is flying.  
  3. So you know how you get these messeges that part or all of your firmware needs to be upgraded?  According to who and how do they know?  

So so if you think about this in it’s entirety, you have a foreign national company that has proven over time that they can’t be trusted and are unwilling (or unable) to comply with US officials regarding the cyber security threat, poor decisions on the execution of their technology policies with the requirement to continually update firmware and their seemingly complete contempt for the needs of commercial operators and what to get is this ban.

If the military were to continue using DJI and for any reason, trade embargo, territorial conflict, whatever, what prevents DJI from just turning off all of their drones?  In effect that’s what their doing to commercial operators!  

So I think this ban is a suspension of operations until they can determine a secure methodology for certifying what’s an acceptable COTS drone.  

Regarding the Pixhawk2, Hex66 is the driving force behind its production which I believe is a Chinese company with offices in Taiwan.  The certification will probably not only look into the technology but also its pedigree and manufacturing which will most likely relegate the Pixhawk2 to the consumer market.  

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For those that can't or won't believe this is real because they haven't see it on the usual drone channels:  

 

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A long time client of mine is a major power utility company (Still imagery). In a discussion earlier this year I was speaking with their in-house UAV people who handle various power line inspections and other technical, non creative needs, I was informed they established the same ban within the last year. At least as it applies to their facilities and infrastructure. 

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