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DJI launches a privacy mode for its drones after US Army ban

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The feature blocks all internet data

DJI Mavic Pro
Thomas Ricker / The Verge

DJI has launched a Local Data Mode that stops internet traffic to and from its app when its drones are in flight. The new mode, announced back in August after the US Army banned DJI drones for possible cyber vulnerabilities, is essentially a privacy feature. It will be available in the latest update to the DJI Pilot app on CrystalSky (DJI’s propriety tablet optimized for its drones) and on some Android tablets. The mode isn’t yet available for iOS or consumers using the DJI GO 4 app, but DJI told The Verge, it will wait and see how the mode is received on Pilot first. The DJI Pilot app is for drones used in a professional context.

Local Data Mode blocks all internet data so the app won’t be able to detect the location of the user, show maps, or identify no-fly zones or any flight restrictions implemented. That means if you’re flying your drone in this mode, you’re responsible for flight safety. The company says telemetry data on flight logs that include altitude, distance, or speed will remain stored on the drone even if the local data mode feature is deactivated. All photos and videos on the SD card remain on there unless the user chooses to share or upload them online. DJI says the mode is another layer of security for operations that may need it, such as those involving critical infrastructure and governmental projects.

"We are creating Local Data Mode to address the needs of our enterprise customers, including public and private organizations that are using DJI technology to perform sensitive operations around the world," said Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI, in a statement. "DJI is committed to protecting the privacy of its customers' photos, videos and flight logs.”

To activate local data mode, open the DJI Pilot app, click on “activate LDM mode,” and enter a password. (It will need to be entered again to deactivate local data mode.)