The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has clarified their position on Chinese made drones. In a DOD statement on DJI drones, the agency stated that “systems produced by Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) pose potential threats to national security.” (Read the full statement here.)
The statement appears to be in response to a recent Pentagon audit, released to the public, which reviewed DJI’s Government Edition drones. That audit stated “The DJI Government Edition versions that were tested, show no malicious code or intent and are recommended for use by government entities and forces working with US services.”
This audit caused some confusion about whether or not DJI drones were approved for government purchase without an exemption to the rule. It would appear the DOD division that performed the audit didn’t get the proverbial “No DJI” memo – but they’ve gotten it now.
“A recent report indicated that certain models of DJI systems had been found to be approved for procurement and operations for US government departments and agencies,” says the DOD statement on DJI. ” This report was inaccurate and uncoordinated, and its unauthorized release is currently under review by the department.”
The ban on Chinese-made drone technology has been a long running story – but since the first memo appeared questioning the security of Chinese drone platforms, Congress has passed legislation formalizing the ban. From the DOD Statement:
In 2018, DOD issued a ban on the purchase and use of all commercial off-the-shelf drones, regardless of manufacturer, due to cybersecurity concerns. The following year, Congress passed legislation specifically banning the purchase and use of drones and components manufactured in China. DOD complies with Section 848 of the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and additional guidance provided by Executive Order 13981.
The text of the NDAA can be found here. Departments can apply for an exception to the rule under certain circumstances, and some agencies may be able to utilize commercial off the shelf platforms. However, as the DOD statement makes clear, exceptions will be made on a case by case basis.
“Mitigating the threats posed by small UAS, including DJI systems, remains a priority across the Department, and DOD continues to ensure existing policy remains current and appropriately implemented,” says the DOD statement.