DJI Announces ‘Local Data Mode’ to Fly Drones Without Internet Connection

Drone company DJI this week announced a new "local data mode" that breaks any internet connection between the DJI drone and a user's smartphone, which the company said will greatly enhance security and data privacy when users enable the mode (via Reuters).

The announcement comes a few weeks after the United States Army ordered its members to stop using DJI drones due to "cyber vulnerabilities," believed to be related to the drones' ability to save flight logs, photos, or videos onto a smartphone app, and then onto DJI's servers if the user chose to do so.

DJI announced the Spark drone earlier this year

Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI, said that business and government customers in particular have since raised concerns about sensitive content -- "such as movie footage or images of critical infrastructure" -- potentially leaking out.
DJI said it does not collect images, video or flight logs from users unless they share them. But turning on the new "local data mode" will prevent accidental syncing with DJI's servers. Its drones do not rely on an internet connection to fly.

Cutting the link between the internet and DJI's controller apps that run on tablets and mobile phones will disable updates of maps, flight restrictions and other data that the controller application receives from the internet while the drone is in use, he said.
Because of the Army's memo, DJI sped up work on local data mode, which it says has been in the works for several months. When activated, the new mode blocks all internet data, so DJI apps will not update maps, geofencing information, newly-issued flight restrictions, "and may result in other performance limitations." But, even without an internet connection, the company's drones can still be piloted as normal.

While the mode will be available for everyone, DJI is focusing on "professional, commercial, government, and educational users" who might fly a DJI drone to capture critical infrastructure, commercial trade secrets, or governmental functions.
“We are pleased about how rapidly DJI’s customer base has expanded from hobbyists and personal drone pilots to include professional, commercial, government and educational users,” said Jan Gasparic, DJI head of enterprise partnership. “As more of these customers have asked for additional assurances about how their data is handled, DJI has moved to address their needs by developing local data mode to provide enhanced data management options for customers who want to use them.”
Local data mode will arrive in an update to DJI's suite of apps by the end of September. If any location has regulations that require drone pilots to fly with the most updated maps and information, the offline mode "may not be available" in those areas.

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DJI Reveals $500 Miniature-Sized Personal Drone ‘DJI Spark’ With Gesture Controls

At its "#SeizeTheMoment" event in New York City today, drone maker DJI announced its newest device, called the DJI Spark. The company said that the new drone is its "smallest, smartest, and simplest" drone to date, and was built to capture moments on the go that bulkier drones might miss out on.

The drone lifts from the palm of the user's hands and can be controlled through hand gestures, without the need of a smartphone. Following an initial launch, Spark enters Gesture Mode which lets users move the drone in any direction by guiding it with their hand, while waving will push it back ten feet, and creating a square with your fingers will capture a photo. To call it back, users just have to wave their arms over their head, then place their palm out so it can rest.


The company designed the drone to be light, weighing about 10.6 ounces, so it can be carried around easily on a daily basis, with a total flight time of 16 minutes. Interchangeable batteries and a micro-USB port allow easy recharging in the field, as well. Additionally, the company aimed to make Spark more personalized than its previous products, with color options coming in Alpine White, Sky Blue, Meadow Green, Lava Red, and Sunrise Yellow.
“Controlling a camera drone with hand movements alone is a major step towards making aerial technology an intuitive part of everyone’s daily life, from work and adventure to moments with friends and family,” said Paul Pan, Senior Product Manager at DJI. “Spark’s revolutionary new interface lets you effortlessly extend your point of view to the air, making it easier than ever to capture and share the world from new perspectives.”
When users want to get a little more control, Spark can connect to an iPhone app and be flown as far as 109 yards away from the user. An optional remote control accessory allows the drone to be flown as far as 1.24 miles away. In the app, users can enable the QuickShot Intelligent Flight feature, which follows a subject for around one minute and then automatically edits the footage down to ten seconds so it can be easily shared on social media.


Spark houses a camera with a 1/2.3" CMOS sensor that captures 12 megapixel photos and records stabilized 1080p videos at 30fps. Some technology found in previous DJI drones has also been added in Spark, including intelligent flight modes like TapFly and ActiveTrack. The company has also introduced entirely new shooting modes, including a horizontal and vertical panoramic mode, and a depth of field "ShallowFocus" mode.

To ensure flight safety, Spark has dual GPS and GLONASS sensors, a 3D sensing system to detect obstacles up to 16 feet away, and a vision positioning system with a range of up to 98 feet. With a sufficient GPS signal, Spark will return to the point that it launched if its battery begins running low or if the pilot taps the Return to Home button. Integration with the company's geofencing warning system also gives pilots a heads up when a potential flight area might be an anti-drone zone.


DJI is opening up pre-orders for Spark today at $499, which includes the drone, a battery, a USB charger, and three pairs of propellers. The company is also selling a Spark Fly More Combo, which includes a drone, two batteries, four pairs of propellers, a remote controller, propeller guards, a charging hub, a shoulder bag, and all necessary cables, for $699. The drone is expected to begin shipping in June.

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DJI Launches Apple TV App for Streaming Drone Footage

Drone maker DJI this week announced the launch of a new Apple TV app, which is designed to allow users to watch aerial content and 4K videos captured from around the world using DJI drones.

"We've made flying and capturing aerial footage easy with our drones, and now with the DJI Smart TV App, creators will have more ways to share their work with the world. This is really an opportunity for people to be inspired, intrigued, travel to places they would have never imagined and see the world in a whole new way," said Paul Pan, Senior Product Manager.
The app can be used both to watch drone footage and upload drone footage that can then be shared with other users. Content currently available is curated by DJI and is organized into various categories.

DJI's Apple TV app can be downloaded on the fourth-generation Apple TV through the tvOS App Store. It's also available on Samsung Tizen TV platforms.

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DJI Launches Apple TV App for Streaming Drone Footage

Drone maker DJI this week announced the launch of a new Apple TV app, which is designed to allow users to watch aerial content and 4K videos captured from around the world using DJI drones.

"We've made flying and capturing aerial footage easy with our drones, and now with the DJI Smart TV App, creators will have more ways to share their work with the world. This is really an opportunity for people to be inspired, intrigued, travel to places they would have never imagined and see the world in a whole new way," said Paul Pan, Senior Product Manager.
The app can be used both to watch drone footage and upload drone footage that can then be shared with other users. Content currently available is curated by DJI and is organized into various categories.

DJI's Apple TV app can be downloaded on the fourth-generation Apple TV through the tvOS App Store. It's also available on Samsung Tizen TV platforms.

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