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Florida Allocates $25-Million for Replacement of Police Drones

Chinese Drones Deemed Security Risks

The Florida legislature has enacted a law by which Sunshine State governmental, police, fire, and similarly-critical agencies were barred from utilizing drones made by a “foreign country of concern.”

The legislation tacitly but clearly refers to China, and strongly implies Chinese drone-maker Shenzhen DJI Sciences and Technologies Ltd.—more widely known as Da Jiang Innovations, or simply DJI.

DJI is a Chinese state-backed technology concern accused of collaborating with the Chinese Communist Party. In December 2021, the company was added to a U.S. Treasury Department blacklist on account of its drones retaining features conducive to espionage. The Chinese communist party is a direct and major investor in DJI.

On 02 May 2023, Florida lawmakers allocated $25-million to help the state’s police forces replace their Chinese-made drone fleets.

Under an agreement reached by lawmakers and the administration of popular Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, police departments may apply for funding by which to replace Chinese-made drones. Subject drones would then be turned over to the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at the University of South Florida, where they will be analyzed for purpose of assessing security risks inherent their hardware and software architectures.

Florida State Senate Appropriations Chairman Senator Doug Broxson (Republican, Gulf Breeze) stated: “We want to start over with drones to make sure they’re securely safe.”

Drone industry publications have intimated Florida police agencies are unhappy with the new law’s implementation, penning sweeping statements the likes of :

“… police agencies are not happy about it,” and “ … [police departments] are upset they have to use inferior and potentially dangerous replacements.”

Such allegations are belied by Florida residents’ positive polled reception of the new law and the fact that police departments throughout the state have willingly grounded their fleets of Chinese-made drones.

Florida Senate Bill 44, now section 934.50 of Florida’s statutes, put in place standards and rules pertaining to the use of drones by the state’s government agencies, law enforcement, fire departments, and other public entities. Many statutes contained in the legislation were previously in place and range from the codification of systems by which to publicly disseminate images or videos captured by drones to the proper storage of such aircraft. The bill specifies those drone models alternately approved and prohibited by Florida’s state legislature.

Per the newly enacted law, Florida governmental and public agencies may operate drones built by:

  • Skydio
  • Parrot
  • Altavian
  • Teal Drones
  • Vantage Robotics

Teal Drones and Vantage Robotics are U.S. companies with foci in the defense and public safety sectors. Altavian, has been purchased by FLIR and no longer operates under its former moniker.

Speaking to the subject of the Florida law, a DJI spokesperson set forth:

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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”

FMI: www.myflorida.com


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