US Army and Navy Ban Use of Aerial Drones Made by Chinese firm, DJI

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy have forbidden its personnel and units from operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) made by DJI (Dà-Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Co., Ltd) based in China, which is the world’s largest maker of aerial drones for civilian use.

The comprehensive ban on the use of any DJI-made UAV was apparently triggered by deep Pentagon concerns over “cyber vulnerabilities” given DJI’s links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). DJI is known to have said it will cooperate with requests from the Chinese government and the PLA to reveal customers’ drone data.

The Pentagon in a memo ordered its personnel to “cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow on direction.”

The memo said the proscription against DJI is due to “increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products.”

Another cause of concern is that DJI has access to a range of flight data and information from a mobile phone’s audio feed, and the video feed from a drone, which the company stores on servers located in China, Hong Kong and the U.S.

DJI responded to the ban with disappointment. It said it was “surprised and disappointed to read reports of the U.S. Army’s unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision. We are happy to work directly with any organization, including the U.S. Army that has concerns about our management of cyber issues.

We’ll be reaching out to the U.S. Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by ‘cyber vulnerabilities’.”

With headquarters in the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, DJI is the world’s top company in the civilian-drone industry, accounting for 70% of the global consumer drone market.

It manufactures UAVs for aerial photography and videography; gimbals; flight platforms; cameras; camera stabilizers; flight controllers and propulsion systems.

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