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Wed, Apr 12, 2023

New Florida Law Curtails Use of Chinese-Made Drones

The Pursuit of Privacy

A bill perspicaciously drafted by Florida lawmakers in 2020 and passed in 2021 went into effect on Monday, 10 April 2023.

Subject law bans Sunshine State government agencies from utilizing drones made by a “foreign country of concern,” which is to tacitly state China and strongly imply DJI—a company accused of collaborating with the Chinese Communist Party and added, in December 2021, to a US Treasury Department blacklist. The Chinese communist party is a direct and major investor in DJI and maintains considerable control over the company’s operations.

Drone industry publications—many of which are heavily dependent upon DJI advertising and endorsement—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 reception of the new law and the fact that police departments throughout the state are willingly grounding their entire 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 others 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 drones. The bill’s final provisions went into effect on 10 April and specify 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 new 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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