Florida Approved Drones: Is This the List for State Use and Purchases?
Teal drone Blue sUAS Florida approved drones

Source: Teal

A short list of Florida approved drones for state use and purchase has caused some confusion and concern in the Florida public safety community.

Early this morning, the Florida Department of Management Services published a list of Florida approved drones, as per the screenshot below.  However, since publication this morning, the page has been locked, leading to questions about the validity of the publication and the Department’s plans for implementation.

The list mimics the original Blue sUAS list of trusted and secure drone platforms.  The original Blue sUAS list mentioned five specific drone models built in collaboration with the Department of Defense, including the U.S.-manufactured ANAFI USA developed by French drone company Parrot.  The Florida list appears to refer to any products produced by these five manufacturers, whether or not produced in the U.S.

The Blue sUAS list was originally designed to designate hardware appropriate for use by the Department of Defense, after military agencies expressed concern over the security of China-made tech platforms.   Since then, the U.S. General Services Administration, the entity responsible for regular government purchases, has also limited government purchases through the Administration to those models on the Blue sUAS list.   While some government agencies have complained that the limited list of platforms did not meet their needs, the DoD has remained steadfast in its position on Chinese-manufactured drone platforms from leading manufacturer DJI.

U.S.-based manufacturers that developed platforms to meet the security requirements outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have complained that using the list as a source of “approved” platforms limits the growth of the U.S. drone industry.  As inclusion on the Blue sUAS list demands rigourous testing, the Department of Defense has been slow to add to the list: a current Department of Defense program designed to codify and simplify the process of being added to the list of “trusted” drone manufacturers includes 11 new manufacturers.

If the list of Florida approved drones stands, there will be a significant effect on the Florida drone industry, and especially the public safety sector.  Recent data from DRONERESPONDERS.org, the largest support and education network for drones in public safety, indicates that 90% of public safety departments surveyed use drones from Chinese drone manufacturer DJI. The Department of Management Services page stated that “all government agencies using drones not on the department’s approved list must submit a comprehensive plan for discontinuing their use…”  Hopefully, that plan will not simply mean discontinuing drone programs throughout the Florida public safety sector.