U.S. Army bans use of Chinese-made drones due to ‘cyber vulnerabilities’

The DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone flies at the at the 2016 International CES, a trade show of consumer electronics, in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 7, 2016. A U.S. Army memo ordered that personnel cease use of DJI products due to "increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities" in the products.Photo by Molly Riley/UPI

Aug. 5 (UPI) — The U.S. Army banned use of a Chinese-made DJI drones and other equipment after identifying “operational risks.”

A U.S. Army memo, obtained by sUAS News and published online, ordered Army personnel to cease all use of Dajiang Innovation products, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow on direction.

“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,” the memo stated. “This guidance applies to all DJI UAS and any system that employs DJI electrical components or software including, but not limited to, flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, speed controllers, GPS units, handheld control stations, or devices with DJI software applications installed.”

The memo stated that DJI Unmanned Aircraft Systems are the “most widely used non-program of record commercial off-the-shelf UAS” used by the Army.

“There are U.S. special operators in Syria using DJI products,” former Army intelligence soldier Brett Velicovich told Defense One. “So I get it. I’m glad [the Army is] finally doing something about this.”

A spokesman for DJI said the company was willing to work with the U.S. military and other organizations to assess the security issues.

“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,” he said. “We’ll be reaching out to the U.S. Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by ‘cyber vulnerabilities.'”

A U.S. Army spokesperson confirmed the ban had been requested, but said it was still under review.

“We can confirm that guidance was issued; however, we are currently reviewing the guidance and cannot comment further at this time,” the spokesperson said.

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