The Pentagon instructed the U.S. Army against using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from a Chinese drone manufacturer, due to issues on alleged “cyber vulnerabilities.”
Certain “operational risks” related to the use of DJI’s drones led to the issuance of a memo, following reports from the U.S. Army Research Lab and U.S. Navy.
Benefits and Risks
The reports claimed that the supposed risks involved in using DJI’s equipment significantly offset their benefits. The ban covers a broad scale, as DJI’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are “the most widely used non-program of record commercial off-the-shelf” products currently in use by the Army, according to the memo.
These products comprise several electrical components and software such as flight computers, GPS units, radios, cameras and batteries among others. The Pentagon ordered a complete disengagement in using all of DJI equipment, including the Army Aviation Engineering Directorate’s more than 300 separate Airworthiness Releases for the Shenzhen-based company’s products.
While the ban came as a surprise for DJI, it can be surmised that the order aligns with the Trump administration’s protectionist policies on using foreign-made military equipment. An amphibious search-and-rescue XTV fleet from Shank’s Argo, for instance, will likely hold more favor from the Army if these are made from North America.
Michael Perry, DJI public relations manager, said that the company has planned to contact the Army and clear what it indicated as cyber vulnerabilities in the memo. Likewise, a company spokesperson noted that the military unit has not provided a reason behind the ban, or if the memo also covers other drone manufacturers.
Military equipment has become more complex due to the rise of new threats on cyber security. While the ban on DJI drones and other products seemed sudden, it can be construed as a preventive measure on using equipment that can supposedly compromise military operations.