DJI has been accused of contributing to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, with its drones enabling the Russian military to kill Ukrainian civilians, according to the Ukrainian vice-prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov.
In a letter to DJI founder and CEO Frank Wang, then posted on Twitter, Fedorov urged him to ‘end any relationships’ with the Russian military, insisting that its troops are using DJI’s products to navigate missiles to kill Ukrainian civilians. He asked the Chinese tech giant to block all DJI products purchased and activated in Russia, Syria, and Lebanon.
While DJI conceded there was video evidence indicating the Russian military was using its drones, it also said it had no control over this.
At the heart of the matter is a feature built into DJI drones since 2017 called AeroScope. This was initially presented as a safety feature – if a ‘rogue’ DJI drone gets too close to an airport or otherwise enters a prohibited airspace, law enforcement or the military can track it down using a special AeroScope receiver: every DJI drone broadcasts a signal can be used to calculate its position as well as the pilot’s. DJI claims these AeroScope receivers have a working range of 50Km.
Ukraine is claiming that not only is the Russian military using DJI drones to track down Ukrainian drone operator’s positions, but that its own DJI drones have had their AeroScope receivers disabled. DJI concedes that there have been problems with AeroScope systems on the Ukranian side – but apparently no such problems with drones operated by the Russian military.
Fedorov specifically requested that DJI:
– switch on the DJI Aeroscope function for Ukrainian users;
– block all DJI products functioning in Ukraine which were purchased and activated not in Ukraine;
– block all DJI products (operating in Ukraine) which were purchased and activated in the Russian Federation, Syria and Lebanon.
DJI responded that its products were designed for civilian use and were not to military specifications.
The MediaMarkt retail chain, with 800 stores across Europe, cited ‘information from various sources’ about Russian use of DJI drones in Ukraine for its decision to de-stock the Chinese brand, without specifying where the information came from.
‘In the last few days, we have received more and more information from various sources that the Russian army is using products and data from the Chinese drone supplier DJI for military activities in Ukraine,’ MediaMarkt said.
‘As a responsible company, we have taken immediate action and removed the manufacturer from our product range groupwide until further notice,’ it said on its official Twitter account.
While many Western firms have been pulling out of Russia in protest at the brutal invasion, DJI has stayed on, like most Chinese companies.