UPDATED 20:56 EDT / AUGUST 06 2017

EMERGING TECH

U.S. Army bans use of Chinese-made DJI drones on cybersecurity risks

The U.S. Army has issued a blanket ban on all drones manufactured by Dà-Jiāng Innovations Science and Technology Co. Ltd., better known as DJI, over “cyber vulnerabilities” relating to the Chinese drone maker.

First published Friday by drone industry site SAUS News, the Army memo, issued Aug. 2, stated that “due to increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products, it is directed that the U.S. Army halt use of all DJI products.” Army units that currently use DJI drones are directed to “remove all batteries and storage media from their DJI drones and await further instructions.”

DJI responded to the news in a statement: “We are 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.”

Although the reason for the ban is not spelled out in the memo, the cybervulnerabilities referenced may be related to reports in April that DJI was in discussion with Chinese government officials on data sharing, including aircraft telemetry and GPS location data. A separate report in May claimed that the data gathered by DJI could be found publicly.

That DJI gathers data from users is a fact, with the company even going as far as stating that it would cripple the drones of users who do not register them. It also has made attempts to restrict owners from hacking their drones as well. This is a company that likes to exert control on the drones that it sells, complete with direct access to those drones, so the Army’s apparent concerns about those practices makes sense.

It’s not clear how many drones will be taken out of service by the directive. But according to reports, the Army Aviation Directorate has provided “airworthiness releases” for DJI drones more than 300 times for a variety of missions.

Photo: deepfrozen/Flickr

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