- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2017

The Pentagon has ordered an Army-wide ban on drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI due to unspecified “cyber vulnerabilities.”

The ban appeared in a memorandum attributed to the Army’s office of the deputy chief of staff dated Wednesday, Aug. 2, and first published Friday morning by the sUAS drone blog.

“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,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson wrote in the memo.

The guidance applies to all DJI unmanned aerial systems as well as any products that use DJI electronic components or software, including flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, GPS units and other devices, the memo said.

The memo instructs Army personnel to “Cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices and secure equipment.”

“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.

“We are surprised and disappointed to read reports of the US 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 US Army, that has concerns about our management of cyber issues,” DJI said in a statement. “We’ll be reaching out to the U.S. Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by ‘cyber vulnerabilities’”

The Army had issued over 300 separate releases authorizing the use of DJI products for aerial missions prior to this week’s policy change, according to the memo.

DJI manufactures most of the commercial, off-the-shelf drone systems used by the Army, the memo said, and accounts for about 70 percent of the international consumer drone market, generating $1.4 billion in sales in 2016. Security concerns pertaining to its products have persisted last year, however, after it was reported that DJI drones were surreptitiously sharing flight data with Chinese authorities.

The Pentagon’s memo outlining its new drone restrictions references a classified Army Research Laboratory report dated May 24, 2017, and a Navy memorandum released a day earlier both involving risks associated with DJI products. Neither were immediately publicly accessible.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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