I have been following stories about, as well as personally experiencing, DJI restricting where their drones can fly, going beyond just warning you about restricted areas and actually locking down or restricting your drone capabilities. So it was interesting to also read a post in Motherboard about the company also locking down drones to prevent against hacking, modifying, and tweaking your DJI drones as you wish. Drones, for me, are a poster child for the entire Internet of Things, and I think DJI’s approach is a sign of what is to come for all Internet-connected devices.
In the coming years, there will be a lot that the IoT community can learn from the drone space. From the technical to the regulatory, drones will be pushing forward conversations about our networks, cameras, security, privacy, surveillance, and corporate and government control over us, and our devices. Drones stimulate some interesting emotions within people associated with the industry and, more importantly, people who know nothing about drones and will be weighing in on regulation at the municipal, all the way up to the federal and international levels.
I thought it was interesting when DJI began enforcing the recommendations I get in the dashboard for my drones and requiring that I update my drones, RC controller, and mobile applications to reduce their liability regarding what I and actually doing with my devices. However, locking down drones so people can’t modify, augment, or fix their own drones is a whole other layer to this discussion that isn’t just about stopping ISIS from strapping bombs to their drones, it is also about maintaining sovereignty over their creations, and limiting what we can do as owners when it comes to fixing our devices. We already see the right to fix conversation bubble up in the John Deere ecosystem, but it is something we will continue to see showing up in IoT ecosystems across many different business sectors.
The bold entry into our homes and lives that IoT device manufacturers are making amazes me, but what amazes me even more is how consumers allow this to happen with little resistance. Another outcome from the drone sector I believe we’ll see more of is drone operators standing up to defend their right to fix, as well as push back their own data, content, and algorithmic ownership over what is produced using devices. Sadly, consumers do not understand the value of their data, but hobbyists and commercial operators of drones, and hopefully other devices, do see the value of it and will begin to shift the balance when it comes to who is profiting off the data our devices are generating.
There will be many technical, business, and political lessons to be learned from the drone space in coming years. I’m strangely thankful that my Drone Recovery project happened because, before that summer, I really was not interested in drones, but now I’m not just interested, I own three drones and have an active interest in understanding what manufacturers like DJI are doing. I’m feel that what DJI is doing with their platform will set a precedent (good and bad) for other IoT operators to follow — something I’ll be keeping a close eye on.