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Texas Police DJI Drones – DRONELIFE

Blue sUAS and Public Safety, search and rescueTexas police companies hope to maintain their Chinese language-made drone fleets

By DRONELIFE Options Editor, Jim Magill

As each state and federal officers attempt to restrict, if not outright ban, the usage of Chinese language-made drones by public service companies, police departments and sheriff’s places of work in Texas have taken steps to make sure that these UAVs of their fleets don’t current the safety risk that ban advocates concern.

Within the final a number of years, many, if not most municipal police departments and county sheriff’s places of work within the Lone Star State have established UAV applications. Amongst these police companies with unmanned aerial system (UAS) applications, aerial autos produced by Da-Jiang Improvements (DJI) usually comprise the majority of their fleets.

Nonetheless, in current months, federal officers have taken steps to discourage the usage of drones produced by DJI and different Chinese language drone firms, claiming these merchandise signify a possible nationwide safety risk.

A current casual survey of Texas police departments and sheriff’s places of work discovered that few companies needed to debate the difficulty publicly. Those who did reply had been fast to level out that they’ve initiated measures to make sure that the info collected by their drones will not be despatched to China or anyplace else it didn’t belong.

In a press release, the police division within the Houston suburb of Pearland stated it has applied most of the mitigation methods advocated by the federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Safety Company (CISA) and different safety consultants.

“The PD has made IT conscious of the warning and they’re working to place as many (mitigation measures) in place as doable together with distributors,” the assertion reads.

A number of respondents to the survey additionally famous that it will be cost-prohibitive ought to they be pressured to shelve their DJI drones for non-Chinese language UAVs, which in lots of instances are much less succesful and extra pricey than their DJI counterparts.

For instance, the Austin PD estimated the price of changing its drone fleet, comprised completely of DJI merchandise, at about $120,000.


In December, Congress handed the large Nationwide Protection Authorization Act for fiscal yr 2024, which accommodates provisions banning the usage of Chinese language-made drones by all companies of the federal authorities. A number of states are anticipated to think about passing related bans and a few have already accomplished so.

In January, CISA, together with the FBI, issued a steering doc, describing the potential risks that Chinese language-made drones may pose: sending information associated to vital U.S. infrastructure to the Chinese language authorities. Whereas the doc doesn’t name for an outright ban on the usage of Chinese language-made drones, it encourages organizations utilizing drones that gather delicate or nationwide safety data to “seek the advice of the Division of Protection’s Blue UAS Cleared Checklist to determine drones which can be compliant with federal cybersecurity insurance policies, when buying UAVs.”

An much more direct risk to the operation of DJI and different Chinese language-made drones is the Countering CCP Drones Act, launched in Congress by New York Republican lawmaker Elise Stefanik. The invoice, which not too long ago obtained a legislative listening to, would add DJI to the FCC’s Lined Checklist. Had been it to change into legislation, the laws would successfully forestall the corporate’s merchandise from accessing any communications infrastructure overseen by the FCC, which might in impact flip all DJI drones within the U.S. into costly paperweights.

Prohibitions on the usage of Chinese language-manufactured drones have additionally handed on the state stage. In 2021, Florida grew to become the primary state to provoke such a ban with the passage of Senate Invoice 44, which “limits drone buy, acquisition, or use by governmental companies to drones manufactured by an authorized producer,” which means not DJI or different Chinese language-made drones.

That legislation and subsequent laws handed to help it, proved to be wildly unpopular amongst Florida police and different first-responder companies. A survey of public service companies carried out final yr by the Airborne Worldwide Response Crew (AIRT) discovered that 95% of respondents (58 out of 60) stated they thought that the current adjustments to Florida’s drone legal guidelines would “have a unfavourable influence on their group’s drone program over the foreseeable future.”

Over the previous a number of years, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have enacted bans much like Florida’s. In Texas, laws to ban the usage of Chinese language drones was launched within the 2023 session of the state Legislature however did not go. Had it change into legislation, Senate Invoice 541 would have barred any authorities company within the state – together with native police and hearth departments — from the usage of sure applied sciences, together with these of DJI.

Police companies in Texas nervous

In mild of all of the anti-DJI exercise on each the federal and state ranges, police companies within the Lone Star state are understandably nervous, as the majority of their drone fleets are comprised of DJI merchandise. They don’t desire a repeat of what occurred in Florida and are fast to level out that they’ve put in place measures to offset the info safety issues ceaselessly related to Chinese language-made UAVs.

In a press release, the Austin PD highlighted the measures it has taken to make sure that information collected by its drones will not be transmitted anyplace it shouldn’t be.

“Whereas sending information to China is definitely a priority, we’re capable of circumvent this by using a neighborhood third-party software program firm to function our drones versus DJI software program. This third-party firm meets Division of Protection requirements,” the division stated in a press release.

The Dallas Police Division stated its drone program operates “drones and associated merchandise manufactured in America and internationally, together with China.” The division additionally stated its drone program “has mirrored business requirements” for information safety since its inception.

“The united statesprogram runs on a safe community and specialised software program is used to seize information, guarantee information securityand is SOC 2 Kind 2 safety compliant,” the division stated.

In Harris County, the populous county that largely surrounds Houston, the Sheriff’s workplace, which flies solely DJI drones, primarily operates its UAV fleet utilizing the securely encrypted app produced by Austin-based DroneSense.

In a press release, the Houston PD stated that earlier than its UAS program is applied by any division inside the division, “correct analysis is completed to make sure compliance with business greatest practices, authorized necessities, normal working procedures, correct coaching and certification.”

A current research by the Texas Division of Public Security discovered that the monetary implications of swapping out Chinese language-made drones with these from the U.S. or different “pleasant” international locations can be unrealistic for many police companies throughout the state.

Pearland PD famous that it makes use of its drone fleet, comprised primarily of DJI dronesfor crime/crash reconstruction, throughout rescues, and a newly fashioned DFR [Drones as first responder] program.”

It might be cost-prohibitive for the division to exchange its Chinese language-manufactured drones with these on the Blue UAS Cleared Checklist ought to they be required to take action, the division stated. “Not all the drones or drone elements we use have a comparable US made drone/part. In functions the place we’ve checked out comparable U.S.-made drones the prices have been three to 4 instances that of the Chinese language-made drones,” the PDP stated.

Learn extra:

Jim Magill is a Houston-based author with nearly a quarter-century of expertise masking technical and financial developments within the oil and fuel business. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P International Platts, Jim started writing about rising applied sciences, similar to synthetic intelligence, robots and drones, and the methods by which they’re contributing to our society. Along with DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to and his work has appeared within the Houston Chronicle, U.S. Information & World Report, and Unmanned Techniques, a publication of the Affiliation for Unmanned Car Techniques Worldwide.


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