Drone wars: US Army bans China’s DJI drones over cyber fears

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DJI drones displayed in the company's first flagship store in Shenzhen, China.   Photo: Reuters/Bobby Yip

The US Army has ordered personnel to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd due to “cyber vulnerabilities” in the equipment.

The ban appeared in a memorandum attributed to the Army’s office of the deputy chief of staff dated Wednesday, Aug. 2, and first published Friday morning by the sUAS drone blog.

“Due to increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products, it is directed that the US Army halt use of all DJI products,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson wrote in the memorandum.

Gen. Anderson’s instructions apply to DJI unmanned aerial systems and products that use DJI electronic components or applications, including flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, GPS units and other devices, the memo outlined.

The memo instructs Army personnel to “Cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices and secure equipment.”

“We can confirm that guidance was issued; however, we are currently reviewing the guidance and cannot comment further at this time,” an Army spokesperson told The Washington Times.

DJI said in a statement that it was “surprised and disappointed” at the Army’s “unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision.”

The privately held company said it would contact the Army to determine what it means by “cyber vulnerabilities” and was willing to work with the Pentagon to address concerns.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs and Oppenheimer estimated in 2016 that DJI had about 70% share of the global commercial and consumer drone market. Goldman analysts estimated the market, including military, to be worth more than $100 billion over the next five years.

The move appears to follow studies conducted by the Army Research Laboratory and the Navy that said there were risks and vulnerabilities in DJI products.

The memo cites a classified Army Research Laboratory report and a Navy memo, both from May as references for the order to cease use of DJI drones and related equipment.

Source

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