The U.S. Army has ordered its members to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer SZ DJI Technology because of “cyber vulnerabilities.” The directive applies to all DJI drones and systems that use DJI components or software. It requires service members to “cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries and storage media and secure equipment for follow-on direction.”
Small commercially available drones like those manufactured by DJI are widely used in war-torn places like Iraq, where their size and ability to transmit high-quality video has made them invaluable scouting tools.
DJI has about 70% of the global non-defense commercial and consumer drone market according to Goldman Sachs analysts. The overall market, including military, is expected to be worth more than $100 billion over the next five years.
The Army’s move appears to follow studies conducted by the Army Research Laboratory and the Navy which said there were risks and vulnerabilities in DJI products. The directive cites a classified Army Research Laboratory report and a Navy memo, as references for the order to cease use of DJI drones and related equipment. ‘Cyber vulnerabilities’ may include harvesting sensitive data like geolocation or provide methods to remotely access the drones and gain access to video data, or for hijacking the devices entirely. Or alerting enemy defenders of their approach.
DJI responded with the following statement on their website:
Some recent news stories have claimed DJI routinely shares customer information and drone video with authorities in China, where DJI is headquartered. This is false. A junior DJI staffer misspoke during an impromptu interview with reporters who were touring the DJI headquarters; we have attempted to correct the facts since then, but inaccurate stories are still posted online.
We want to emphasize that DJI does not routinely share customer information or drone video with Chinese authorities — or any authorities… Any claims to the contrary are false.
ISIS has begun using unmanned aerial vehicles of both homebrew and off-the-shelf, in some cases using them to drop grenades, rockets and mortars on soldiers.
Other DJI-related news
In other DJI-related news, 3D Robotics (3DR), a previous camera drone competitor, announced a product partnership with DJI so that its ‘Site Scan’ aerial data analytics software platform now works with DJI drones purposed for large construction and engineering companies using drones.
DJI director of strategic partnerships Michael Perry stated: “This integration is a significant milestone for the AEC industry. We’re excited that 3DR Site Scan users can now use DJI drones to convert images into actionable data that helps project stakeholders save time and manage costs.”