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Following complaints from the public and the U.S. Department of Defense, DJI has rolled out a Local Data Mode update to prevent controlled drones from connecting to the internet, and sharing location information with servers located throughout the world — including China.
The implementation of the feature is currently through a DJI Pilot app update for CrystalSky monitors. The update prevents flight location and other metrics from being sent to DJI servers.
"We are creating Local Data Mode to address the needs of our enterprise customers," DJI Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs Brendan Schulman said. "Including public and private organizations that are using DJI technology to perform sensitive operations around the world."
A side effect of the update is that the drones won't automatically comply with flight restrictions or mandated no-fly zones. Telemetry data on flight logs such as altitude, distance or speed will remain stored on the aircraft even if the user deactivates Local Data Mode.
The move was made in part from the U.S. Army and Navy banning the drones because of "cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products." The Army directed all commands to stop using the drones, uninstall all DJI-related apps, remove batteries from the drones, and secure the equipment.
The Army never elaborated on the concerns beyond the directive to stop using them, nor is it clear if they will be used after the feature has been universally applied. AppleInsider has reached out to the Department of Defense for clarification, and will update should we get any shareable information.
Local Data Mode is not yet available for the iOS app, or DJI Go 4 app — but The Verge has been told that it might be included in future software versions depending on the success of the DJI Pilot app implementation.
Update: DJI has clarified that an expansion of the LDM mode to software other than the DJI Pilot app depends on the success of this initial program. This article has been updated accordingly.