Logs are recorded every time your DJI drone flies. These files contain information about important parameters such as flight path, altitude, speed and heading. If you take photos or videos, as is the case with digital cameras, these images are saved to the aircraft’s built-in memory, or to a removable SD card, and their previews are also stored on your mobile device’s memory. This data is very important to you, and if you work in government structures or in a commercial enterprise, their safety and privacy will be of particular importance, for example, when it comes to inspecting strategic sites or filming a movie. Let’s figure out in which cases there is a possibility of data leakage in order to take effective measures and minimize risks.
DJI takes privacy seriously — files and other data are never automatically transferred to third parties or the aircraft manufacturer, they are stored in the memory of the aircraft and the mobile device used for control, and it is always up to you to decide with whom you can share information . If you see the possibility of data theft and unauthorized use, refer to the additional information security methods described in this article.
Determine if your data needs additional protection
In practice, very few drone operators have to deal with classified information in the course of their work. Small commercial drones allow you to take photos and videos from a bird’s eye view, but such actions are rarely associated with the need for additional protection. As a rule, a passenger of an airplane and any other citizen can get similar images by viewing satellite maps or broadcasts from public webcams.
In all other cases, for example, if you work with information that represents a state or commercial secret, these six steps will help to significantly increase privacy and security.
6 additional data protection measures:
1. Disable internet access for all drone related equipment
The DJI drone is a rare example of a modern high-tech device that does not require access to the World Wide Web for its full operation, since all images and videos are transmitted over a separate secure radio channel. Thus, you can enable airplane mode on the smartphone or tablet used to control the drone, or remove the SIM card and make sure that there is no internet connection.
A survey of DJI product users showed that about a third of them do not connect mobile devices to the network when using them for flights. This is due to the desire to minimize radio interference, the use of corporate tariff plans without Internet access, in addition, this measure allows you not to be distracted by calls and text messages when performing important tasks.
2. Connect equipment to the network, but use Local Data Mode
Since 2017, DJI products have a Local Data Mode feature. It blocks the transmission of data to the Internet from DJI applications used for flights. Thus, this is an analogue of airplane mode, which applies only to the drone software. Recently, FTI Consulting confirmed that when using Local Data Mode, no data generated by the application is available to a third party, including DJI. The mode is available to users of the DJI Fly and DJI Pilot applications and will be added in the near future when updating other software products. In this case, you will be able to download maps from a reliable service for complete situational awareness during the flight, but not exchange other data.
3. Use Pilot PE Software and Flight Hub Enterprise Edition
For businesses that need a flight data management system and fleet coordination for drones, DJI offers a combination of Pilot PE and Flight Hub Enterprise Edition products. Flight Hub Enterprise allows you to host software on a private cloud storage and thus guarantees the confidentiality of information. The solution allows you to control drones and employees, coordinate their actions and securely store data. FTI Consulting confirms that Flight Hub Enterprise, when used in conjunction with the DJI Pilot PE app, provides users with an alternative way to manage the data they generate as these programs are installed on a local cloud server. In the above configuration, there is no evidence of requests for any data from outside.
4. Use third party software
Many developers around the world are creating their own software for DJI industrial drones. As an example, we can cite DroneDeploy, KittyHawk and Precision Hawk from the USA. If you want to use the best industrial drones in the world, but prefer to use third-party software products, dozens of options are available to you.
Some of these companies have conducted their own security audits, such as KittyHawk being type 2 SOC2 audited. This means that DJI industrial customers can take full advantage of connected drones and cloud computing while relying on developer security guarantees. The DJI SDK also encourages third-party companies to implement the Local Data Mode feature in their products as an additional way to secure information for UAV operators and operators.
5. Create your own software
The DJI Software Development Kit (SDK) is a package for software developers. It allows organizations to create their own products, for example, for managing flight data, coordinating the actions of employees, and directly controlling aircraft. To date, the client base includes more than 20,000 developers who have created more than 1,000 applications using the SDK. Large and well-known companies such as American Airlines, FedEx, Ford and Time Warner are market leaders in their fields. They work with the best programmers to create customized products for the specific applications of DJI drones. DJI currently offers five separate SDKs for developing mobile applications, user interfaces, Windows software, payload control systems, and onboard computing systems. The DJI SDK was created by a team of programmers in Palo Alto (California, USA) and maintained by a team of experienced engineers. For more information, visit the DJI Software Developer Website.
6. Use Government Edition software products
For government agencies that require the highest degree of information security, DJI has developed a line of Government Edition products. They were aligned with the requirements of the US Department of the Interior in 2019. The ability to safely use the software for missions of federal agencies has been confirmed by NASA and Idaho National Laboratory on behalf of the US Department of Homeland Security.
One of the main features of the line is the permanently activated Local Data Mode. This means that operators and other employees of enterprises will not be able to send the received data to the Internet, thus, information leakage due to malicious or erroneous actions of personnel is excluded. The additional level of protection is not required by most commercial drone operators, but would be useful for organizations with state secrets clearance.
Choose what degree of information protection is relevant for your area of application of the UAV
The choice of data collected by your drone and the options for sharing it with others is always yours! The final decision depends on where you are flying, where the drone’s camera is pointing, and what objects may be in the frame. All the measures listed above are available to each client, but in the vast majority of cases their implementation is not required. First, examine the data transfer capabilities of your aircraft and software, and consider whether you should sync flight log recording with DJI servers and post the captured photos on the SkyPixel social platform. Assess the risks associated with performing your tasks and decide which of the above measures will help minimize them. Many companies have a set of information security rules when using consumer electronic equipment. It makes sense to apply them to drones to standardize with devices such as digital cameras, security cameras, wireless communications, and environmental sensors. If their use does not require special cybersecurity measures, your drones probably will not need them either.
DJI is always in touch with customers on security issues
DJI customers are provided with a wide range of security and information protection options. The company’s specialists appreciate any feedback and suggestions that can improve the efficiency and safety of equipment, as well as data privacy to maintain a leading position in the world of high technology. DJI invites cybersecurity experts for joint research and requests to report any possible problems, and also offers a reward system for partners.
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