In a bit of late reporting, the Australian media found out the ADF had grounded its 40 or so DJI drones due to cybersecurity concerns in August. After two weeks, the drones were back in the air for training purposes. Exactly how you should use a consumer drone. Taking them to Syria or Afghanistan for surveillance or recon purposes is crazy considering the camera’s limited capability.

DJI put out a statement to Australian media and now to all media regarding the incident.

In a recent media report, the Australian Department of Defence (ADF) confirmed that they would conduct an assessment of their commercial off-the-shelf drones. DJI stands ready to support the ADF’s assessment and welcomes the ADF to contact us directly if they have any inquiries into our technology.

DJI makes civilian drones for peaceful purposes. They are built for personal and professional use and are not designed for military uses or constructed to military specifications. DJI does not market its products for military customers, and if military members choose to buy and use DJI products as the best way to accomplish their tasks, we have no way of knowing who they are or what they do with them.

As the world’s leading manufacturer of civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, safety and security are top priorities for our customers. Just last month, DJI announced that it is developing a new local data mode that stops internet traffic to and from its flight control apps, in order to provide enhanced data privacy assurances for sensitive government and enterprise customers. More here:http://www.dji.com/newsroom/news/dji-develops-option-for-pilots-to-fly-without-internet-data-transfer

Around the globe, businesses and governments rely on DJI to provide an aerial perspective on their work to save time, save money and sometimes even save lives. Even in highly sensitive applications involving critical infrastructure, customers use DJI products with confidence that they can accomplish their tasks. DJI has worked hard to earn our reputation as the drone industry’s leading innovator, and we will continue to provide solutions that our customers can depend on. If any of our customers have questions or concerns about DJI’s technology, we ask them to contact us directly so we can work to address them.

DJI and the Military

Why the big statement? In early August, DJI was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The US Army had grounded the drones and then backed away saying the order was under review. Then came news US Military bases retained the option to shoot down the consumer drones.

DJI and ADF

Oh yeah, that makes sense. Let’s fire on something incredibly small with an M16 on a civilian populated base. Not saying they couldn’t hit it and bring it down, but who wants to be the soldier responsible for missing and a 556 round coming down in base housing? Anyone? Thought not.

In the company’s consistent statements, they maintain they only make camera drones for peaceful purposes. It doesn’t offer military-grade encryption, so if the use case is something that requires it, rethink the purchase.

A Slate article from August mentioned US Special Forces using DJI products in Syria. The rationale was the drones were cheaper than military-grade drones. The US Defense Department cares about cost? Maybe when it comes to shorting the VA or sending troops overseas with the bare minimum, but new toys to deploy on the battlefield? That’s a good one.

While the US Army has been rife with conflicting statements, the US Marines have kept using the products in a way that actually makes sense. Training purposes. Head over to DVIDs Hub, a media center for the DOD, and there are pictures of training exercises both stateside and joint-NATO exercises in Germany.

One picture features a US Marine using a Mavic Pro in an EOD exercise while forward deployed to the Middle East. It’s a proof of concept and a damn good one. Take a look at the IED before you send in EOD. Camera tech on DJI drones can handle that. Recon of a hostile area? No. The focal length is too short. DJI drones are loud. And the loiter time is 25-27 minutes on a good day. Range? Too damn close if that’s what a Phantom is being used for.

We have Global Hawks, Predators and Reapers for a reason. I love camera drones as much as anyone else, but the idea of consumer drones being used in a military capacity outside of training/media purposes is laughable at best.

DJI’s Response

First, DJI drones using the company’s app were already geofenced from taking off at military bases. I remember growing up in the Navy. My dad worked at Naval Security Group installations around the country. The big ‘dino cages’ had no photography signs miles out.

Now, you can use the DJI drones without being tethered to the internet. It is checking all the right boxes. It’s on the Defense Department and US Army to inform soldiers and their families they aren’t allowed to fly a drone on base. Pretty simple thing to add when a change of duty station comes up.

DJI is a Chinese company. I suppose we should start banning iPhones and kick Walmart out? Where do you think the iPhone comes from or Walmart stocks its shelves with? DJI and other consumer camera drones are meant for hobbyists and photographers. None are military grade hardware. If they are being used as such, that speaks more to gross mismanagement at the DOD than it does a problem with DJI or other consumer drone manufacturers.


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