DJI drones banned for use by government agencies in Florida
The Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) has banned the acquisition and use of DJI drones by government agencies. The only approved unmanned aircraft are the much more expensive Blue sUAS from manufacturers such as Skydio.
Here’s the official text from the department’s website, which is now behind a login wall:
Approved Drone Manufacturers
Pursuant to section 943.50(7) (b), Florida Statutes, the department hereby provides the following list of approved manufacturers whose drones may be purchased or otherwise acquired and used by a governmental agency under section 943.50, Florida Statutes:
- Teal Drones
- Vantage Robotics
This list provides approved manufacturers but does not guarantee that all models produced by these manufacturers meet an individual governmental agency’s specific needs or meet relevant security requirements.
Beginning July 1, 2022, all governmental agencies using drones not on the department’s approved list must submit a comprehensive plan for discontinuing their use to the department.
Please monitor this site and the Florida Administrative Register for updates related to the department’s obligations under section 943.50, Florida Statutes.
With the publication of the list of “approved drone manufacturers”, the DMS is fulfilling its mandate as explained in the bill, “Use of Drones by Government Agencies“.
According to the statute, Florida government agencies will no longer be allowed to purchase or use unmanned aircraft from Chinese drone maker, DJI.
“Governmental agency” means any state, county, local, or municipal governmental entity or any unit of government created or established by law that uses a drone for any purpose.
Consequences of banning DJI drones
The impact of the ban on Chinese-made drones in favor of Blue sUAS will be significant as both DJI and Autel drones are widely used by government agencies in Florida. Furthermore, none of the Blue sUAS drones offer similar functionality to the DJI and Autel drones at comparable price points.
For instance, after the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida collapsed on June 24, 2021, DJI drones, such as the DJI Mavic Enterprise Dual outfitted with a thermal camera, were immediately used upon arrival by the Miami Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) Department. The DJI drone was flown in the dark to both survey the site as well as look for survivors in the immediate aftermath of the collapse. In total, more than 300 drone flights were performed with nine different drone models, most of which were DJI drones.
The new rule will also mean that Florida schools will no longer be able to use DJI drones in their STEM programs.
Skydio’s lobbying strategy to ban DJI drones
An industry insider with knowledge of the law’s history indicates that “the intent behind the statute was to create a ban of DJI drones across state government, similar to the proposals in Washington DC that have so far not succeeded at the national level.”
Especially Skydio has been very active in pushing for legislation that bans DJI drones in favor of the Blue sUAS drones.
According to an internal government memo, Blue sUAS approved by the US Department of Defense are 8 to 14 times more expensive to purchase than the Chinese DJI drones they replace and offer less broad usability.
It is important to point out that as far as we know, all Blue sUAS drones still contain parts that are made in China.
It appears that Skydio, after having failed in Washington, D.C. with Rick Scott’s American Security Drone Act, is now pursuing a state-focused lobbying strategy to ban DJI drones.
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