Florida Bans DJI Drones for Government Agencies, Infuriating Lawmakers and Police Departments

The DeSantis administration in Florida has banned government agencies, including police, firefighters, and mosquito control districts, from using drones made by China-based Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), the most popular drone manufacturer in the world. The Minimum Security Requirements for Unmanned Aerial Systems dictate that government organizations are not allowed to acquire or employ any drone produced by a manufacturer from a “foreign country of concern,” such as China. The decision to ban DJI drones has infuriated some lawmakers, who claim that there is no evidence that the drones pose a security risk.[0] In 2021, Senator Tom Wright sponsored legislation that set standards for the use of drones by police and other government entities.[0] In addition, the legislation mandated that the state create a roster of endorsed drone producers to be utilized by state entities and municipal administrations. However, the administration’s list of approved drone manufacturers, announced on December 12, did not include DJI – by far the leader in commercial-use drones and widely used by police across the state.

Many police departments have already grounded their fleets, but they’ve found the Florida-approved replacements far more expensive, much less capable, and, in some cases, dangerous.[1] One approved drone caught fire in a deputy’s patrol vehicle, according to one law enforcement official.[0] Police and other agencies have purchased an estimated $200 million in DJI drones over the years, but under the rule, they can only use drones made by a handful of “approved manufacturers,” most of which are based in the US.[2] Purchasing drones from a company located in a foreign country that is considered a concern is prohibited by the rule.

The decision to ban DJI drones is part of the DeSantis administration’s attempt to stamp out foreign influence in Florida. The state is considered a high-value target, and it is believed that adversaries want both civilian and military information.[3] DJI has said that a vast number of government agencies in the United States use its drones, and that its products are safe and secure.[3] Police leaders say drones help pursue criminals, warn officers of armed suspects, and identify missing people.[1] DJI drones, in particular, have been a “godsend,” according to Orlando police Sgt. David Cruz.[0]

Having retired from his business and previous work as a K-9 officer, Wright has taken it upon himself to ensure that these DJIs are once again operational and in flight.[0] In this session, he proposed SB 1514 with the aim of extending the state’s deadline and granting police additional time to replace their drones imported from China. However, the bill has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.[2] The ban on DJI drones takes effect on Wednesday, and many police departments have already shelved millions of dollars worth of aerial drones.

0. “Florida police aren’t happy that DeSantis administration rule grounds popular drones” AOL, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.aol.com/news/florida-police-aren-t-happy-101500962.html

1. “Why Gov. DeSantis has banned some drones, and what that means for police in Florida” Yahoo! Voices, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/news/why-gov-desantis-banned-drones-134443433.html

2. “New rule from Fla. governor grounds PD use of some drones” Police News, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.police1.com/police-products/police-drones/articles/new-rule-from-fla-governor-grounds-pd-use-of-some-drones-4pIriNwQjBZ48ZD8/

3. “Police, fire, government agencies across Florida must ground millions of dollars in drones over fears of spying” WJXT News4JAX , 5 Apr. 2023, https://www.news4jax.com/news/florida/2023/04/05/police-fire-government-agencies-across-florida-must-ground-millions-of-dollars-in-drones-over-fears-of-spying

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