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DoD Rolls Out Blue UAS 2.0, Adding 11 More Companies to the List of Drones Approved for Government Use

BY Zacc Dukowitz
13 October 2021

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently released a second list of drone companies approved for government use.

The first list only had five drones: Teal’s Golden Eagle, Vantage’s Vesper, Teledyne/FLIR’s Ion M440, Skydio’s X2D, and Parrot’s Anafi USA.

Those drones were generally referred to as Blue UAS—now Blue UAS 1.0—and the new list is called Blue UAS 2.0. That list has eleven vendors, including Wingtra, senseFly, and Skydio.

One big difference between the first round of Blue UAS and the second is that the first listed specific drone models while the second lists vendors.

It’s not clear if this means that all drones made by those vendors are automatically approved for government use, or if only certain models are, but it does seem to be a more open approach to these approvals than was used for the first list.

Why Another Round of Blue UAS?

Two of the motivating factors behind creating a second, longer list of approved government vendors for drone technology were reducing cost and adding capabilities.

The need for additional capabilities in sUAS that are policy-compliant and cost effective was a large driving force behind Blue sUAS 2.0. The project will increase the diversity, capability, and affordability of sUAS on DIU’s ‘Blue UAS Cleared List.’

DoD Press Release on Blue UAS 2.0

On the capabilities front, the DoD wanted to add drones that could provide features like mapping, infrastructure inspections, the ability to carry secondary payloads, and be used for more traditional reconnaissance tasks.

On the cost front, these new vendors will provide a wider range of cost options, allowing government agencies more flexibility in how they allocate their resources.

wingtra-blue-uas
Photo credit: Wingtra

Here is the full list of companies included in Blue UAS 2.0:

  • Ascent AeroSystems
  • BlueHalo LLC
  • Easy Aerial Inc.
  • FlightWave Aerospace Systems Corporation
  • Freefly Systems East
  • Harris Aerial
  • Inspired Flight Technologies Inc.
  • senseFly Inc
  • Skydio, Inc.
  • Vision Aerial
  • Wingtra AG

sensefly-blue-uas
Photo credit: senseFly

Making the Process Easier

When the first list of Blue UAS came out in August of 2020, it wasn’t entirely clear if there would be more drones approved in the future, or what the approval process might look like for companies interested in getting the Blue UAS designation.

But the Blue UAS 2.0 effort makes it clear that there will be many more vendors to come. (We wouldn’t be surprised to see a 3.0 list come out in 2022, and so on.)

easy-aerial-blue-uas
Photo credit: Easy Aerial

Making the approval process easier was actually a core focus of Blue UAS 2.0, which explicitly focused on “reducing administrative barriers for onboarding policy compliant, commercial small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) into the Department of Defense (DoD).”

To put it plainly, the DoD wants to make it easier for companies to get approved for government use—and Blue UAS 2.0 is a prototype of what this new, more efficient process could look like.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of demand for sUAS across DoD so enabling our warfighters to more easily use drones is critical to broader adoption across the force.

– Michael Brown, Director of the Defense Innovation Unit (DUI)

To formalize this new approval process, last month the Deputy Secretary of Defense shared a new policy for all DoD organizations on how to buy the drones they want to use.

The guidance provided in the policy outlines procurement procedures for all kinds of UAS, regardless of their size, weight, or capability.

Drone companies that felt left out in the cold after the first list of Blue UAS were announced must be happy to hear about the new, streamlined approval process being created. It will be interesting to see how many other companies enter the queue for approval in the coming months.

But—DJI Will Probably Never Be on the Blue UAS List

It’s worth noting that, in the press release announcing the new streamlined policy for procurement, DJI is called out by name as a persistent threat to national security:

Mitigating the threats posed by small UAS, including Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) systems, remains a priority across the department.

DoD Press Release on New UAS Procurement Policy

It’s interesting that DJI is called out so explicitly, with no context or further information provided—especially since a leaked Pentagon report found that DJI’s Government Edition Matrice 600 and DJI’s Government Edition Mavic Pro were free of privacy concerns back in July.

dji-government-edition-mavic-pro-wind-turbine
Photo credit: DJI

Regardless of whether it’s true that DJI poses a “threat,” as the DoD press release claims, given the strong language they used we probably won’t see DJI on the list of Blue UAS, no matter how many iterations it goes through.

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