Interview: DJI drones ahead of others in quality, reliability, cost, says U.S. officer

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A man poses with the newly-released DJI Mavic 2 Pro (R) and Mavic 2 Zoom drones during the launching ceremony in New York, the United States, Aug. 23, 2018. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

LOS ANGELES, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Chinese DJI drones are ahead of all others in terms of quality, reliability and cost, so most fire departments across the United States use them, a senior officer of Fremont Fire Department in California said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

"We believe the intelligence the drones give us and the increased safety they provide for our employees and the public far outweigh the risk," said Jeff Kleven, UAS (unmanned aircraft system) Program Manager of Fremont Fire Department.

DJI made headlines in California's Bay Area and beyond not long ago by helping locate a missing teenager.

Police deployed a DJI drone, which was equipped with a thermal imaging camera system that enables searching in the dark, and successfully found the missing deaf student.

"We decided to work with DJI several years ago because at the time they were producing the best product," Kleven told Xinhua.

Photo taken on Aug. 23, 2018 shows the newly-released DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone during the launching ceremony in New York, the United States. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

"DJI's hardware and software were lightyears ahead of everyone else. This reason coupled with the fact that they have products that are affordable for most departments, and made DJI an easy choice," he said.

Although other companies have started to close the gap in recent years, DJI is still ahead of all of them in terms of quality, reliability and cost, Kleven said. As a result, most departments across the country still use DJI drones, he added.

According to Skylogic Research, a drone analyst company, the Chinese drone manufacturer holds more than 70 percent of the worldwide civil drone market share.

Kleven told Xinhua all the battalion chiefs in his fire department carry drones in their vehicles, which allows them to have a quick response vehicle that can respond anywhere in the city or other areas for mutual aid.

Fremont Fire Department currently has 14 drones of different sizes and abilities. It hopes to have a fully staffed drone team in the future whose only job is to fly drone missions, including emergency and non-emergency operations, pre-planning and training, according to Kleven.

Last month, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a warning that Chinese-made drones contain components that collect operation and customer data for intelligence use. DJI submitted a letter to the U.S. Senate on Monday, denying "incorrect" speculation about the company's data security practices.

"We are doing everything in our power to limit the possibility of the occurring of data leakage. We record our data locally and we do not upload any information to DJI's site," Kleven said.

He voiced his hope that the security features put in place in the future will alleviate the concerns.

Regarding the influence of China-U.S. trade disputes, Kleven said the trade dispute has not affected his fire department other than an increase in costs of Chinese drones.

"At this point this appears to be a small increase, but we are keeping our eye on the situation," he said.