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The Argument Against Banning Chinese Drones (Part 1)

I'm just saying I've seen no evidence for it. Logically speaking or intuitively speaking, these drones operate in the same frequency band as many electronic devices. So to saturate or "pollute" those frequencies would cause many devices to fail. The FCC would never allow it.





For YEARS I have been working away from WiFi, cell service and all infrastructure. So to rely on these technologies for my livelihood wouldn't just be fool-hearty, it would be insane. So NONE of my drones rely on accounts or WiFi or databases, etc. Honestly, I don't see how anybody could make a living counting on those things...especially considering how poorly DJI manages those things.




I disagree. All my drones fly sans Internet. I connect my iPad to the Internet briefly to download maps, but even that is unnecessary for the work I do.

Even the mapping app I use to find remote locations is completely discreet. No WiFi. No cell service. I connect my iPad via BlueTooth to a GPS receiver, which is a discreet component in and of itself that only connects to satellites. My entire drone operation requires nothing from infrastructure except electricity and satellites. So unless they figure out how to block drones from Satellites (which is actually only a deal breaker for GPS lock and intelligent flight modes), I will continue to work unimpeded.

To be clear, I DO connect to the Internet occasionally, but that is for added bonus convenience features that are not necessary to operations.

D
...then the shock will come to you the biggest when it actually happens. I on the other hand will not be shocked.

I've read countless stories even here today about how many people leave wifi and cellular for longer than 30 days and their drones end up being useless or worthless (maybe not "grounded"). If you have the answers on how to fly forever, please go to the threads and offer those upset pilots your grand solution because they are dying for a workaround. 🤣
 
...then the shock will come to you the biggest when it actually happens.
That technology doesn't exist. And while disrupters are certainly easy enough to build, the FCC would never approve such a thing for use, especially within city limits.




I on the other hand will not be shocked.
You may not be shocked, but, depending on how much your drones rely on Internet, you may be disabled. My point is that my drones don't count on the Internet to work. There's nothing to "disrupt."




I've read countless stories even here today about how many people leave wifi and cellular for longer than 30 days and their drones end up being useless or worthless (maybe not "grounded").
Sure. I won't argue that. I'm sure many of the DJI offering depend on WiFi to be "unlocked." None of my drones are limited by that technology. And I own several and use them weekly.




If you have the answers on how to fly forever, please go to the threads and offer those upset pilots your grand solution because they are dying for a workaround. 🤣
All they have to do is search the forums. I've openly discussed my methods many, many times. Make sure you look through the Inspire forum and the Phantom forums, as well. All of my "secrets" are there in plain text, complete with photos, screenshots and videos in some cases.

Here's my Mavic Pro so close to an airport you can hear the jets take off.


Disclaimer: This was just an NFZ hack test. I never fly in Class C or B airspace. The NFZ hack prevents my drones from being grounded in ERRONEOUS No-Fly Zones. The forums are littered with cases of drones erroneously grounded by DJI, even after LAANC permission is granted. I can't afford for that to happen, so my drones are isolated from those limitations.

D
 
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That technology doesn't exist. And while disrupters are certainly easy enough to build, the FCC would never approve such a thing for use, especially within city limits.





You may not be shocked, but, depending on how much your drones rely on Internet, you may be disabled. My point is that my drones don't count on the Internet to work. There's nothing to "disrupt."





Sure. I won't argue that. I'm sure many of the DJI offering depend on WiFi to be "unlocked." None of my drones are limited by that technology. And I own several and use them weekly.





All they have to do is search the forums. I've openly discussed my methods many, many times. Make sure you look through the Inspire forum and the Phantom forums, as well. All of my "secrets" are there in plain text, complete with photos, screenshots and videos in some cases.

Here's my Mavic Pro so close to an airport you can hear the jets take off.

Disclaimer: This was just an NFZ hack test. I never fly in Class C or B airspace. The NFZ hack prevents my drones from being grounded in ERRONEOUS No-Fly Zones. The forums are littered with cases of drones erroneously grounded by DJI, even after LAANC permission is granted. I can't afford for that to happen, so my drones are isolated from those limitations.

D
Oh ok, my mistake. My comments are strictly about the millions of legal DJI drones that take to the US airspace every year. I wasn't talking about the few illegal drones and the less than 1% of the drones that are hacked and modified. You are correct, your drones will likely fly forever (until it can't) and you likely cannot be stopped until if falls apart. I've always said it "the rules and the laws are designed to punish the honest, law-abiding citizens and will never apply to the dishonest scofflaws and hackers who don't obey the laws." Perhaps after I am grounded, depends on how I feel; I just may jump over to the darkside to get me back up and running...but probably not. I'm an activist, not an anarchist.
 
Oh ok, my mistake. My comments are strictly about the millions of legal DJI drones that take to the US airspace every year. I wasn't talking about the few illegal drones and the less than 1% of the drones that are hacked and modified. You are correct, your drones will likely fly forever (until it can't) and you likely cannot be stopped until if falls apart. I've always said it "the rules and the laws are designed to punish the honest, law-abiding citizens and will never apply to the dishonest scofflaws and hackers who don't obey the laws." Perhaps after I am grounded, depends on how I feel; I just may jump over to the darkside to get me back up and running...but probably not. I'm an activist, not an anarchist.
To be clear, I obey all laws and go through all the same procedures and channels any UAV pilot goes through before he flies. The only difference between me and those guys is that when the LAANC system fails, most guys are grounded with no recourse. Conversely, I can still fly. This actually happened to me on an out-of-town mapping job last year. Thousands of dollars in survey crew were waiting on me when my spare drone popped up this ChinEnglish message:

1708840553458.png

I was nowhere near an NFZ. I had double checked the NOTAM's before and after the mission. Nothing. So I just put the spare, unhacked drone away and broke out the primary, hacked drone and flew the mission. Could you imagine telling a client who had deployed an entire survey crew 150 miles to location, "Sorry...my drone won't fly." That kind of idiocy would've cost the client thousands and me a $2,000 invoice. They would probably never hire me again. After 10 years in this business, my mission success rate is 100%. Not every UAV pilot can say that.

D
 
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This sentence caught my eye....

"...if this bill passes DJI products will not work within the continental United States."

Not work? How do "they" plan on stopping DJI drones from working? Especially the legacy drones I use?? The only "infrastructure" my drones utilize is either privately owned or flying 12,500 miles over the Earth. It's easy to see where they could stop "permission," but I don't see how they could possible disable any of the legacy DJI offerings. I haven't purchased a drone in years (been using the same 3 for a LONG time now), so I can't speak to the more contemporary offerings. I'm just wondering how they will "disable" existing DJI drones.

I know a little about RF, but I'm no expert. Anybody have any more information on this?

D
"....wondering how they will disable existing DJI drones..."
The same way DJI stops you from flying when they sporadically log you out of your account. The log-in requires a request IP address (your mobile) and a response address (DJI server).... if you want to stop one of the more recent FLY app drones: block the response IP address.
Having a drone that can use a 4G network for an extended control channel might be a brilliant idea for maintaining a rock steady connection between drone and controller: but that link can be individually targeted and blocked, the same way you'd lose call and internet access if you didn't pay your phone bill.
 
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"....wondering how they will disable existing DJI drones..."
The same way DJI stops you from flying when they sporadically log you out of your account.
I don't connect my drones to any DJI accounts. I remember that was an option a long, long time ago for keeping track of hours or something like that. I opted out.




The log-in requires a request IP address (your mobile) and a response address (DJI server)....
Yeah...I don't have that. I don't use an iPhone (or any phone for that matter), and only one of my iPads is even cell capable, but is not activated. The phone in my pocket is a flip phone.




if you want to stop one of the more recent FLY app drones: block the response IP address.
When I fly, my drone is completely discreet. I use legacy versions of Go and Go4 before DJI "Nazified" those apps...and some third-party, non-Nazified apps.




Having a drone that can use a 4G network for an extended control channel might be a brilliant idea for maintaining a rock steady connection between drone and controller: but that link can be individually targeted and blocked, the same way you'd lose call and internet access if you didn't pay your phone bill.
Using legacy firmware on legacy drones and legacy software on legacy iPads running legacy iOS, I'm pretty sure I'm safe from being "locked out" of anything. I guess time will tell, but I'm pretty confident.

D
 
I don't connect my drones to any DJI accounts. I remember that was an option a long, long time ago for keeping track of hours or something like that. I opted out.





Yeah...I don't have that. I don't use an iPhone (or any phone for that matter), and only one of my iPads is even cell capable, but is not activated. The phone in my pocket is a flip phone.





When I fly, my drone is completely discreet. I use legacy versions of Go and Go4 before DJI "Nazified" those apps...and some third-party, non-Nazified apps.





Using legacy firmware on legacy drones and legacy software on legacy iPads running legacy iOS, I'm pretty sure I'm safe from being "locked out" of anything. I guess time will tell, but I'm pretty confident.

D
I mainly use GO4 controlled legacy drones myself, same as you: the flight screen device is always in airplane mode, so far: no problems. First noticed the log-out problem when I bought into the sub-250grm class (mini 3 pro). It is a real pain in the nadgers when you've driven 130 miles to a location where there is no cell coverage only to find that DJI has thrown this spanner in the works.
 
None of us know for sure but it would be naive to believe it cannot happen. I guess we might have to find out. Every DJI drone is different so it is possible that some of the older models can fly forever but the newer ones that depend on logging in your account, connecting to WiFi, security database updates....not sure if the US can ground your drone but DJI can....for sure.
Would revoke FCC license to use radio frequencies.
 
I mainly use GO4 controlled legacy drones myself, same as you: the flight screen device is always in airplane mode, so far: no problems.
I actually turn the WiFi off. I believe airplane mode can be bypassed. I surmised this after receiving an Amber Alert on iPhone I use as a gauge cluster in my car:
1708877169857.jpeg

So I turned off WiFi and haven't received any Amber Alerts on this phone. BlueTooth™ is still enabled.

All this is just theory, as my area hasn't deployed any Amber Alert's since I disabled WiFi about a year ago.





First noticed the log-out problem when I bought into the sub-250grm class (mini 3 pro). It is a real pain in the nadgers when you've driven 130 miles to a location where there is no cell coverage only to find that DJI has thrown this spanner in the works.
I can imagine. That *almost* happened to me one time. About 5 or 6 years ago I was mapping a very small swath of land - like 10 acres if memory serves - like 3,000' from a Class D airport. Turns out that, despite my hacks, and having all permits in order, none of my hacked drones will go into Intelligent Flight Mode if we're < 1 mile from managed airspace. Fortunately, being such a small swath of land, I was able to fly the mission manually, zig-zagging and taking photos manually. It was a real PITA, but, fortunately, took enough photos that my client was able to process them into a usable orthophoto. It may have been Topo, too...but I don't recall.

Since then I have tried several times to hack past that one shortcoming to no avail. Fortunately, that scenario hasn't come up again.

D
 
I was going to suggest such organizing by the drone community.

The National Rifle Association was formed as an educational body to promote marksmanship and gun safety. The American Medical Association was formed to give doctors a united voice on health issues.

There are numerous such organizations that have influence with the various levels of legislative bodies that set standards that should include their input, not just because they have political clout, but because they have real life experience with their industries and can offer realistic insights.

I visited this site but was turned off somewhat by the emphasis on drone flyers’ “rights.”

If we want a place at the table about government regulations than such an organization should have equal (or more) emphasis on drone flyers’ “REPONSIBILITIES”!

We all get over-regulated by the various government entities because we all under-regulate ourselves.

An association of drone flyers should set and enforc a well thought standard of operation and professionalism, even among the recreational members, to become a voice that carries weight with the various levels of law makers.

Not just another group of malcontents complaining about their rights being violated!
There are some DAC being one. Issue is there is large group, AUSVI pushing the other side.
 
Would revoke FCC license to use radio frequencies.
I don't think these limitations would be deployed as a disruptive device, but more of a DJI back-door that would disable drones that require an Internet connection to fly or pre-flight. As you alluded to, the FCC would never allow such an RF disrupter device. Just a theory.

D
 
I'm an activist, not an anarchist.
Interesting comment. Let's do a test.

Let's say you're driving home at midnight. You come to an intersection. The traffic light is red. 2 minutes pass. 3 minutes. 4 minutes. You finally decide that the light is malfunctioning. You look both ways. There are no cars in either direction. You run the light. Does this make you an anarchist?

Essentially, my hack is the same thing. Like that traffic light, the potential to break rules is there. It exists. Like that traffic light, I don't bypass any safety systems unless they malfunction. I don't think this makes me an anarchist. While I concede the POTENTIAL for anarchy is there, I certainly don't use my drone hacks for that purpose. Like running that red light, those hacks are in place as a safety net to insure my mission can be completed. As I stated earlier, often times I'm out with a survey crew, which is expensive for my clients. So it's not like I get to just go back the next day. The job HAS to be finished on the spot.

Discuss.

D
 
I disagree that Skydio can’t compete. I absolutely loved the Skydio 2+ I had. It had some odd limitations and could use an upgraded camera for sure but it has many features DJI lacks. I sold it due to them going commercial and got a Mavic 3 Pro. I would have bought a Skydio x10 (what ever it’s called) at consumer pricing in a heartbeat. I felt I was forced to go backwards going to DJI. It’s so dumb at so many things. I do like the DJI RC Pro controller though.

If DJI is banned I guess I’ll have no drones. Because Skydio is commercial only now.
 
Interesting comment. Let's do a test.

Let's say you're driving home at midnight. You come to an intersection. The traffic light is red. 2 minutes pass. 3 minutes. 4 minutes. You finally decide that the light is malfunctioning. You look both ways. There are no cars in either direction. You run the light. Does this make you an anarchist?

Essentially, my hack is the same thing. Like that traffic light, the potential to break rules is there. It exists. Like that traffic light, I don't bypass any safety systems unless they malfunction. I don't think this makes me an anarchist. While I concede the POTENTIAL for anarchy is there, I certainly don't use my drone hacks for that purpose. Like running that red light, those hacks are in place as a safety net to insure my mission can be completed. As I stated earlier, often times I'm out with a survey crew, which is expensive for my clients. So it's not like I get to just go back the next day. The job HAS to be finished on the spot.

Discuss.

D
The laws in my state (and in most states) says you are allowed to run a traffic control device that is not functioning correctly. As soon as you do that, you have to go back to obeying all the traffic laws on the next and subsequent encounters; it is temporary. You are not allowed to tamper with the traffic control device and you can only run it if it is safe to do so. These steps are available to all motorists, not just the ones who have a "hack." It isn't necessary to break to law at this point.

Your hack is the violation of the agreement you have with DJI; neither DJI not the FAA have given you permission to *bypass* anything that is not working correctly. Hacking likely violates some of the federal rules as well. It's like using a rogue traffic control device (as used by first responders) which is expressly prohibited by my state law (and in many other states). Your hack is permanent and it goes way beyond alleviating a single inconvenient malfunction encounter. If you find a way to use your original drone to legally bypass a malfunction without hacking into the software then perhaps it might fly but you take steps that are not available to anyone else because the laws don't apply to you. After your job is done, do you put the original software back into place? Do you bypass other safety systems and label them as inconvenient "malfunctions" because "they get in your way?"

These safety laws are not based on mission success or project costs. You're not just allowed to finish the mission no matter what. If there is a unforeseen TFR in place, do you still fly? Nothing stops by drone from taking off when a TFR is in place but when I see it, I ground myself. You don't need a hacked drone so when you have a mission planned and a TFR is in place, does the anarchist go ahead anyway?
 
I disagree that Skydio can’t compete. I absolutely loved the Skydio 2+ I had. It had some odd limitations and could use an upgraded camera for sure but it has many features DJI lacks. I sold it due to them going commercial and got a Mavic 3 Pro. I would have bought a Skydio x10 (what ever it’s called) at consumer pricing in a heartbeat. I felt I was forced to go backwards going to DJI. It’s so dumb at so many things. I do like the DJI RC Pro controller though.

If DJI is banned I guess I’ll have no drones. Because Skydio is commercial only now.
I would buy the X10, too....wouldn't hesitate.
 
The laws in my state (and in most states) says you are allowed to run a traffic control device that is not functioning correctly. As soon as you do that, you have to go back to obeying all the traffic laws on the next and subsequent encounters; it is temporary. You are not allowed to tamper with the traffic control device and you can only run it if it is safe to do so. These steps are available to all motorists, not just the ones who have a "hack." It isn't necessary to break to law at this point.
The flaw in your argument is that running a malfunctioning red light is not breaking a law. My analogy is that you're essentially "hacking" your way past the light by essentially disobeying it ONLY when it malfunctions. Don't get too hung up on the word "hack," as I use that word loosely for the purpose of the analogy.




Your hack is the violation of the agreement you have with DJI;
Which agreement is that? I have no agreement with any hardware I purchase, which includes far more dangerous hardware like a car or truck or motorcycle. I pay for the hardware and it is mine. My "contract" with said manufacturer is complete. My drones are no different.

I would honestly like to see this "agreement" you speak of. Interesting argument.




neither DJI not the FAA have given you permission to *bypass* anything that is not working correctly.
I don't need their permission any more than I need permission to modify the muffler system on car or motorcycle. If I'm in violation of noise ordinance, I can get a citation. If I'm in violation of airspace, I can receive a fine. But the act of modifying is not, in and of itself, against any laws.

Also...

The manufacturer may recommend against modifications and may even void your warranty. But, again, there are no laws against modifying my drone or my car.




Hacking likely violates some of the federal rules as well.
Well..."rules" is a slippery slope. To be clear, hacking doesn't violate any LAWS. Regarding modification of software and/or hardware, I would have to see these rules you speak of. At this point I'm 95% sure no such rules exist. But I concede I may be wrong. I'm open to viewing the nomenclature. As of this writing, I can find no evidence of the "hacking rules" you speak of.





It's like using a rogue traffic control device (as used by first responders) which is expressly prohibited by my state law (and in many other states).
That's an erroneous analogy. I'm not using the hack to change the lights. I'm using the hack to run the red light when it malfunctions. The key word being "malfunctions."




Your hack is permanent...
No, it is not. None of them are. I can update software and firmware any time I wish, thus negating any hacks I may have employed.




...and it goes way beyond alleviating a single inconvenient malfunction encounter.
I highly disagree. The hacks lay in the background, silent, waiting for a malfunction. These hacks come into play MAYBE a couple times a year. Again, it's only when LAANC MALFUNCTIONS that these hacks come into play. And one doesn't have to search too far to find MANY UAV pilots who have suffered at the hand of these permissions/LAANC/NFZ malfunctions. FWIW, these malfunctions are DJI's doing. So I fix (bypass) the DJI malfunctions.

You spoke of a contract with DJI. What about THEIR end? They sold me a drone under the guise that I could fly it anywhere I had permission to. Seems it is DJI who is in "violation" of our "contract."




If you find a way to use your original drone to legally bypass a malfunction....
In the industry, there is a word for "bypassing a malfunction." That word is "repair." I've never seen an "illegal repair" in ANY context.




...without hacking into the software then perhaps it might fly but you take steps that are not available to anyone else...
Correct.



because the laws don't apply to you.
Again, which laws would those be?





After your job is done, do you put the original software back into place?
No.




Do you bypass other safety systems and label them as inconvenient "malfunctions" because "they get in your way?"
Yes. I disable all of the Object Avoidance crap on all my drones. And sometimes I bypass the GPS lock by flying in ATTI mode (something I do quite often). But these are settings (options) within the software. So I guess I'm not "breaking any laws" in this regard...funny....






These safety laws are not based on mission success or project costs.
Again, which laws do you speak of? I seem to be asking this a lot. You keep referencing "laws" I've never heard of.




You're not just allowed to finish the mission no matter what. If there is a unforeseen TFR in place, do you still fly?
What exactly is an "unforeseen TFR???" LOL....there are only TFR's. They are never "unforeseen." Maybe YOU don't see them, but I always check for TFR's before flying.

In my city there is a two-week event called the Balloon Fiesta, which is a hot air balloon event. Within airspace they always have right of way, and there are many TFR's throughout the city. So for 2 weeks I just park my drones, even if work is outside the TFR. This should give you a feel for my safety paradigms.





Nothing stops by drone from taking off when a TFR is in place but when I see it, I ground myself.
As any good UAV pilot should. I couldn't agree more.



You don't need a hacked drone so when you have a mission planned and a TFR is in place, does the anarchist go ahead anyway?
Of course not. You're conflating. I was very specific that my hacks only come into place when there is an NFZ malfunction. Try as you may, I am NOT flying "illegal missions" willy nilly. As I pointed out already, I obey all laws. All rules. All regulations.

Good chat.

D
 
I'm mostly agree with Russ. Obviously we'll have different approaches to resolving the problem but he makes a lot of good points:

 
None of us know for sure but it would be naive to believe it cannot happen. I guess we might have to find out. Every DJI drone is different so it is possible that some of the older models can fly forever but the newer ones that depend on logging in your account, connecting to WiFi, security database updates....not sure if the US can ground your drone but DJI can....for sure.
Glad i still have my Mavic Pro
 
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Part one introduced it's own FUD and didn't really contribute to the overall discussion.
Part two has the most useful stuff "Other Potential Actions Besides Bans and Lobbyists".
Part three points out some of the reality - America (other than in raw computers) has dropped the ball on electronics, manufacturing, and pushing the envelope - letting the Asian companies leap far ahead (look back at part two).

BUT, I work for a group that I can't divulge and the reality is that ANY Chinese company is effectively an arm of the CCP. If the CCP wants access, they have access. It's an unfortunate reality that most Americans don't know this, and so many American companies choose to be in bed with Chinese companies. Because of this reality, for the last few years that US Military, security services, etc have had to take the stance that electronics coming from China that have the capability to store and transmit data can very likely be used to send data back to the PRC to be mined. They have entire organizations that do nothing but that. And it has been proven that even basic computer chips produced there have had code embedded into them to do that very thing. So unless someone has actually reverse engineered the code in a DJI drone and understand every line of it and what it does, who knows what they might be able to do?

There is also a reason that China can undercut anything made in this country - they can effectively limit wages however they want to, by guidance from the CCP, when they want to control a market. I learned this years ago when I worked for the Navy and visited a commercial shipyard where they showed us their newest giant crane for moving ship sections. Historically those had all come from Germany, but this new crane was "as good as" the older cranes, but cost a fraction of them. Due to corporate espionage, and effectively forced labor, the Chinese can decide to enter a market and ultimately dominate it if they want to - pushing all others out. And of course unions in this country have driven wages for manufacturing far beyond what those jobs are truly valued at, thus passing along the cost to the customer. It's the reason why entire industries no longer exist in this country and have moved overseas or into South American markets. Americans, because of cheap overseas (or south of the border) labor, have become accustom to certain price points for products. That's a negative side effect of globalization - certain products will always be cheaper when produced in certain places. And unfortunately, many times those places aren't our friends, or allies.

This situation has a lot more variables than many drone flyers seem to want to acknowledge. I'm not saying an outright ban on the sell of DJI drones is the answer, and like I said, Part two gets closest to suggesting some alternatives.
 
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