DJI unveils centralised drone operations management platform FlightHub

FlightHub enables the management of real-time drone operations, flight data, drone fleets, and pilot teams on a single platform.

Chinese drone developer DJI has announced FlightHub, a web-based application aimed at helping enterprises manage drone operations in one place.

FlightHub's "map view" feature provides live telemetry data of all drone operations, making it easier to manage simultaneous flights and multiple drone teams, DJI said. Information from the company's geofencing system is also displayed on FlightHub to ensure users are aware of safety or regulatory issues that may limit flights.

Its "real-time view" feature, meanwhile, provides live video feeds from up to four onsite drones for onsite pilots and offsite engineers to relay information to each other.

FlightHub also includes features that enable users to sync and store historical drone flight data in a "secure, searchable database", ensuring "regulatory compliance, pilot accountability, and improved team management, regardless of the scale of the project or size of the fleet", according to DJI.

A future feature will allow information from the DJI Pilot app, including photos and videos, to be transferred to FlightHub, eliminating the need to manually transfer data using SD cards.

Additional features allow users to track equipment usage in every drone, as well as manage teams through a "hierarchy system of administrators, captains, and pilots". DJI said the ability to segment teams by client, location, and mission type improves resource and team management.

FlightHub is compatible with DJI's Matrice 200 series of enterprise drones as well as the Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 series, and Inspire 2 drones.

The subscription-based service will be available to pre-order through the DJI online store on November 7, but will not be accessible to customers until after the open beta program -- taking place between November 14 and December 14 -- has been closed.

There are three subscription tiers: Basic, priced at AU$159 per month for the management of up to five drones; Advanced, at AU$469 per month for the management of up to 10 drones; and Enterprise, which does not have a set price and is targeted at organisations that need to manage more than 10 drones.

Last month, DJI launched AeroScope, which uses the existing communications link between a drone and its remote controller to broadcast identification information such as registration and serial number, as well as other information pertaining to flight safety and functionality including location, altitude, speed, and direction. The product can be used by police, security agencies, aviation authorities, and other authorised parties with an AeroScope receiver.

DJI insisted in October that "most" drone flights will not be automatically recorded in government databases, as the system relies on drones broadcasting information directly to local receivers. This is designed to protect the privacy interests of people and businesses that use drones, the company said, as well as to avoid the costs and complexities involved with creating such databases and connecting drones to network systems.

Personally identifiable information will also not be automatically transmitted until regulations or policies in the pilot's jurisdiction require it, DJI said.

In August, the company announced it would be developing a new local data mode that blocks internet traffic to and from its flight control apps, after the US Army ordered its members to stop using DJI drones because of "cyber vulnerabilities".

The company said at the time that its flight control apps routinely communicate over the internet to ensure a drone has up-to-date local maps and geofencing data, correct radio frequency and power requirements, and other information deemed relevant to flight safety and functionality.

The new local data mode enables users to disconnect from the internet during flights, making it impossible for data such as photos, videos, and flight logs to reach DJI's servers.

DJI had said this will provide "enhanced data privacy assurances" to government and enterprise customers with "heightened" data security needs, such as those performing sensitive operations around the world.

The company insisted that it does not collect or have access to user flight logs, photos, or videos unless the user shares them by syncing flight logs with DJI servers or by uploading photos or videos to DJI's SkyPixel website.

The local data mode had been in development for several months, the company said, and is available on the DJI Pilot app.

However, it will not be available in all countries if there are regulations that require pilots to have the most up-to-date maps and information.

DJI had begun updating its firmware to eradicate commonly-used vulnerabilities exploited by customers to circumvent no-fly zones and other restrictions such as speed and height. The company also started removing old, vulnerable firmware versions from its servers.

The move was prompted by drone enthusiasts posting instructions and how-to guides to alter the firmware of DJI drones on YouTube, Facebook, forums, and even dedicated websites.

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