TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Beginning Wednesday, government agencies can no longer use certain brands of drones under a new rule in Florida.
Government agencies are now banned from using drones from “foreign countries of concern.” DJI, a drone maker popular with law enforcement agencies, falls into that category. The company’s drones are made in China.
Republican State Sen. Tom Wright of Volusia County did not mince words at a senate hearing on the topic last month, decrying the rule by the DeSantis administration.
“I am not going to let one officer risk his life or her life because somebody thinks that these things talk to China,” Wright said. “I cannot imagine what China would really want to see when we pull over a DUI, when we give someone a speeding ticket, when we arrest someone for an outstanding warrant.”
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Department of Management Services Secretary Pedro Allende said the drones pose a security threat to Florida, citing the state’s military bases and financial industries.
“As a state, we are a high-value target,” Allende said. “Florida has droves of information that our adversaries want on both the civilian and military sides and this can play out in some unexpected ways.”
Some local agencies have shown News 6 how they use their drones — including the New Year’s Eve rescue of passengers on The Wheel at ICON Park.
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Some agencies, including the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orlando Police Department, have used drones made by DJI.
Orlando Police Sergeant David Cruz, said other brands don’t match up to DJI.
“With 5 years of DJI we saw no losses, no issues, no failures,” Cruz said. “In one and a half years, approximately between two different manufacturers, we had a total of five losses. In one year and a half, we had five failures of the manufacturers on the list.”
Another challenge is the cost to replace DJI drones. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said 19 of their 25 drones are DJI and it will cost millions to replace.
Wright filed a bill to push the deadline back for law enforcement to change the drones they use.
A DJI spokesperson provided News 6 with the following statement on the issue.
“Today’s Florida ruling against the use of Chinese-made drones for law enforcement is a regrettable development and is unjustified.
A vast number of government agencies and commercial entities in the U.S. rely on and use DJI drones in their daily work. This includes law enforcement, first responders, infrastructure inspectors, and others who know they can trust our products because they are safe and secure.
They trust us because independent audits to stress-test our cybersecurity and privacy practices demonstrate not only our products’ strength but also identify potential vulnerabilities. These independent audits include the US Department of Commerce in 2022, FTI Consulting in 2020, Booz Allen Hamilton in 2020, the Idaho National Laboratory (for the US Department of Homeland Security) in 2019, the US Department of Interior in 2019, and Kivu Consulting in 2018. The findings are consistent: Our cybersecurity/privacy practices are sound.
Any position based solely on country of origin limits competition, innovation, and possibly, endangers lives. DJI drones allow first responders to safely engage in life-threatening scenarios, inspect infrastructure otherwise not visible, and have been used to rescue hundreds of people in peril around the world. A rash, uninformed decision that limits access to our technology because of concerns about country of origin will literally cost lives."DJI spokesperson
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