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I Was Wrong and DJI Issue Worse Than I Expected.

Before you read this I need to make sure you understand my goal here is to provide advice, guidance, experience, and opinions to public safety pilots to help them fly safely and to reduce unnecessary and avoidable personal liability for aviation activities.

I sent out an email to my list subscribers about DJI Pulls the Plug on Your Big Drone Investments and Leaves You Hanging.

In that email, I incorrectly listed the Matrice 200 V2 as already reaching DJI End of Service (EOS). As I said to DJI, “I do agree that I made an error in the statement in the email about the EOS for the Matrice 200 V2. My apologies for that. It appears it is at EOD.”

The abbreviations used are End of Production (EOP), End of Availability (EOA), End of Development (EOD), End of Service (EOS).

DJI asked me to inform the list subscribers in my following email about my error. I said I would. However, I’m not sure it makes anything better.

In the back and forth with DJI’s corporate communication director Adam Lisberg, I asked Lisberg the following targeted questions, to which I received no response in subsequent emails.

I asked:

  • Which models is DJI going to pursue Airworthiness Certification on?
  • The way I read the chart is if it says EOP under End of Production that means that metric has already been met. Is that an incorrect reading?
  • The trend I read from the DJI table is that products are going EOP -> EOA -> EOD -> EOS.
  • If product lines are already at EOD, what is the official position of DJI when it comes to the time until EOS that people can expect? I’ll gladly share that with readers as well. Will EOS be 1, 2, 3,or 4 years for EOD products?
  • Has DJI licensed any aftermarket manufacturers for parts and service after EOS?
  • How long will DJI develop and service the units that are already past their EOP?

Crickets.

Lisberg did say, “We don’t have any additional guidance at this time about when models will move from one lifecycle stage to the next. We will make those announcements as they occur.”

So I guess it will just have to be a surprise!

It seems to get the maximum life out of a DJI investment, logic would say you would want to avoid purchasing any product headed towards the exit. Once it has reached the End of Production, it is on its way out over some undetermined period. Your investment will be limited.

The Matrice 200 and 210 stopped production in February 2019 according to DJI, and 34 months later, DJI is pulling the plug on service and support. Is that an indication of how quickly other models may be dropped?

According to DJI, additional drone models that have reached the first stage of End of Production include Matrice 600, Matrice 600 Pro, Matrice 200 series, Matrice 200 V2 series, Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, and Mavic 2 Enterprise.

Lisberg also said, “The only product you mentioned with a confirmed EOS is the original Matrice 200, which was first introduced in February 2017, and was superseded by a newer model two years later. As you are surely aware, product lifecycles in the drone industry move quickly, as they do in many tech industries, and I’m not aware of any tech company that supports and services every model it ever made into perpetuity.” (Technically DJI also pulled the plug on the Zenmuse XT camera as well.)

And that one statement from DJI and the comments from this Linkedin post by pilots are frightening.

As DJI appears to have confirmed, these products will quickly go out of production, development, and support. This is what tech companies do, not aircraft manufacturers with standards and obligations they have to meet.

These issues are not DJI issues alone. As of today, all drone manufacturers that see themselves as tech companies are in the same troubled spot—leaving pilots in a terrible position.

The way I read Lisberg’s statement is DJI views itself as a tech company. But the reality is they are selling items used as FAA-recognized aircraft. The minute a public safety or other pilot puts any of these “tech company” products into the air; they are bound by the FAA regulations concerning aircraft. Specifically Federal Aviation Regulations Part 91, 107, Part 135, and more. Regulations can have civil, financial, or criminal penalties.

So I go back to my original point in this post that once a product has reached its End of Development (EOD), it shifts more liability to the pilot that operates the aircraft.

If a manufacturer is no longer developing solutions for known problems on its platforms, how will any pilot be able to not run afoul of operating carelessly or recklessly under CFR 91.13 that all Part 107 and COA pilots are subject? Ignorance is not a defense.

One public safety agency said to me, “We had this exact conversation within our team after we had the DJI presentation on the maintenance program. If 107 and the COA require us to follow the manufacturers’ recommendations on maintenance, how do we do that if there is no more service? Scary.” I would add the same issue if faced once a manufacturer ends development as well.

As I previously said, “Without any ongoing manufacturer support, development, or service for any drone model, it would not be prudent to fly it. Unsupported drones will have significant safety risks and the Pilot-In-Command will have to operate the aircraft at their own personal risk. ”

I stand by that opinion.

If you are not flying a DJI UAS, you should check with the manufacturer of your tech product on support cycles.

Any safety standard from the FAA does not recognize any drone built and sold as a tech company product. This is why I call them toys.

If you want to see what the standards are for an actual aircraft manufacturer, please read CFR Part 21.

As you will see, aircraft manufacturer obligations for safety and accountability extend far into the future. So do their responsibilities for notification regarding failures, malfunctions, and defects.

Tech companies do not report failures, malfunctions, and defects. Those issues cause drones to fall out of the sky, crash and fly away every day. Just because you don’t hear about them does not mean they don’t happen. It means you are not being told about them. So how can you make an informed decision if your drone complies with CFR 107.15?

Just to be clear I’m not picking on DJI, all drone manufacturers that have not obtained an Airworthiness Certification for a drone model are producing tech company products that are no safer than a toy since they are not built to a recognized aircraft safety standard. I think that is an undisputed fact.

I wonder if the NTSB just tipped their hand at how critical it will be to purchase and fly drones that have achieved an Airworthiness Certification in the future when they said, “As drone delivery and other applications develop, airworthiness certification will become more prevalent for certain unmanned aircraft similar to that of manned aircraft.”

About Steve Rhode

The Public Safety Flight website is dedicated to news, honest information, tips, and stories about the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), UAVs, aircraft, and drones in the fire service and other public safety niches.The site was founded by Steve Rhode, an FAA-certificated airplane commercial and instrument certificated pilot and a very experienced Part 107 UAS commercial pilot. Steve is the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and the North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy. He also provides expert advice to drone pilots through Homeland Security Information Network and he is an FAA Safety Team drone expert. Steve loves to work closely with public safety pilots to answer questions and share information, real-world truth, and drone operation advice. You can contact Steve here, learn more about Steve here, or join his public safety pilot private email list here.

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