The United States has made an announcement suggesting that drones being manufactured by Chinese manufactures might be used as spy tools. This includes drone manufacturers such as the DJI. According to a report that warns about Chinese drones, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that they could be a ‘potential risk to an organization’s information’ since certain products ‘contain components that can compromise your data and share your information on a server accessed beyond the company itself.’
The warning will have a direct impact on companies, including the likes of DJI, that make use of company servers for obtaining information about their drones. As per the DHS, this information could be shared outside of the company possible with Chinese authorities. The announcement comes when the U.S. is already pressuring Huawei under the blanket of Entity List.
Although the report by DHS has not stated the names of any specific companies, it is quite clear that DJI is the target. The company is based in Shanghai and accounts for 75% of global drone sales. The DHS report read, ‘The United States government has strong concerns about any technology product that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian state that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access.’
It goes on to state, ‘Those concerns apply with equal force to certain Chinese-made (unmanned aircraft systems)-connected devices capable of collecting and transferring potentially revealing data about their operations and the individuals and entities operating them, as China imposes unusually stringent obligations on its citizens to support national intelligence activities.’
The last sentence is crucial as it suggests that despite a company’s strict policies or even the bests of interests, the Chinese government can pressurize it into sharing data without disclosing it to the customers. DJI was probably expecting something of this sort to take place because the drone manufacturer recently made some changes for securing its U.S. market. The company now offers the customers to operate the drones in ‘local data mode’ – a mode that is similar to your smartphone’s airplane mode.
DJI has assured its customers that the customers have ‘full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted. At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses.’ Corporate customers of DJI can user their own I.T. systems or independent cloud as opposed to DJI’s cloud servers for fleet management.
DJI has further stated that ‘for government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends. Every day, American businesses, first responders, and U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously.’
What do you think of the moves the U.S. is making against Chinese companies?