US Army Bans DJI drones Over ‘Cyber Vulnerabilities’

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( — August 7, 2017) — The US Army has ordered a ban on all consumer drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI over ‘operational risks and cyber vulnerabilities.’

The memo issued by the Pentagon commands to “cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries /storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow on direction.” It is not clear though exactly in what way the DJI drones and equipment are vulnerable to a cyber-attack.

According to a memo obtained by Small UAS News, signed by the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson, the Army ordered a complete stop of use of all DJI Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

The order also banned all products related to DJI drones such as “flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, speed controllers, GPS units, handheld control stations, or devices with DJI software applications installed.”

According to the memo, the US Army Research Lab allegedly found certain “operational risks” and “vulnerabilities,” but they haven’t disclosed additional information describing the exact nature of those faults.

“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.

Beside standard technology every DJI drone is equipped with sensors and analytics software for recording and diagnostics of flight. The system is similar to black boxes in commercial airplanes that contain useful information on flight and performance so technicians can repair a drone if it gets broken.

The most popular DJI drone is the Phantom whose latest version is equipped with a 4k camera and three axis stabilizers. Also, it has improved flight capabilities and can fit easily in a backpack. The memo read that the US Army had issued over 300 Airworthiness Releases authorizing the use of DJI products on aerial missions in combat zones.

Drones have been proved highly useful in fast field reconnaissance and the decision on banning the product has great impact on field use. However, Brett Velicovich, a former Army intelligence soldier who runs Expert Drones, told Defense One that using consumer products could be damaging.

“There are US special operators in Syria using DJI products,” Velicovich said. “So I get it. I’m glad [the Army is] finally doing something about this.”

DJI’s Public Relations Manager Michael Perry said the company had not been informed about the decision to ban the product. “We’ll be reaching out to the US Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by ‘cyber vulnerabilities,’” Perry said.

The Drones manufacturer DJI is assumed to have around 70 percent of the global UAS market.