In an era where fears of companies tracking user data are increasingly growing, Chinese drone manufacturer DJI has made another push to say the data collected from its drones is totally safe. The news comes in the midst of rumors that DJI was transmitted sensitive user data to China.
The world’s largest drone manufacturer this week released the results of an independent report which concluded that customer data collected by DJI drones is secure.
Consulting firm Kiva conducted a study of DJI drones in the U.S. last year, confirmed that for some types of data (such as media files and flight logs), DJI did not access photos, videos or flight logs generated by the drones unless drone operators voluntarily chose to share them. For other types of data (such as initial location checks or diagnostic data), the user could prevent transmission by deactivating settings in the app or via disabling the Internet connection.
DJI says it had no input into Kivu’s findings or conclusions.
To conduct the study, Kivu independently bought DJI drones including the DJI Spark, DJI Mavic, Phantom 4 Pro and Inspire 2, as well as iOS and Android devices in the United States. The firm also independently downloaded the DJI GO 4 mobile apps. Kivu set up systems to capture all data transmitted through iOS and Android devices running DJI GO 4, and reviewed source code, application data, server addresses, and data generated during operation.
However, Kivu did work with DJI to conduct the study and was provided access to DJI engineers and managers in both the U.S. and China. DJI also provided Kivu access to code repositories so the consulting firm could determine what data is collected, stored and transmitted.
The study also looked at features such as DJI’s FaceAware and Gesture Control functions and determined that, while drones can detect human movement, they cannot identify individual faces and is not “facial recognition software.”
The news comes out in the aftermath of news that the U.S. Army briefly banned the use of its drones because of cyber-security concerns, according to a U.S. Army memo first obtained by sUAS news. Because flying in standard flight modes requires internet usage to connect to local maps, geofencing data, app updates, radio frequency and power requirements, users had been concerned that telemetry, video and audio data is being uploaded to DJI’s servers.