If you’ve wondered if DJI drones are a security risk, you’ve come to the right place. This article explores the Offline data mode of DJI drones, how Russia has exploited AeroScope to track drones, and DJI’s lobbying efforts to dispel national security concerns.
Russia exploits DJI’s AeroScope system to track drones.
While DJI did not intend to use its AeroScope system to track drones in wartime, recent reports have revealed that Russian forces have exploited the company’s technology. This includes the ability to pinpoint the location of the drone operator, which the Russian military could then use to target drone operators.
This system identifies the communication links between UAVs, including the drone pilot’s location. While DJI denied that it was assisting the Russian military with the use of its drones, Ukrainian users reported that the system is still available in the country.
DJI drones transmit the AeroScope signals locally. These signals are sent via standard 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequencies. However, they are not transmitted over the internet. DJI could theoretically turn off the AeroScope alerts. However, Ukraine is not asking DJI to turn off the signals but wants its AeroScope receivers to work.
According to Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, DJI helped Russia target Ukrainian drone pilots with their AeroScope system. Ukraine has also accused the company of assisting Russia in killing civilians with the same drones. This has led to speculation that the DJI AeroScope tracking system may be intentionally limiting the system’s capabilities.
The DJI AeroScope system works against Da-Jiang drones. It can pinpoint where these drones are launching from and determine their exact location, but it is useless against R18 and Punisher drones. The drones that are vulnerable to the AeroScope system could be easily avoided by drone operators using software programs.
Although the AeroScope system is not yet widely deployed in the United States, Russia may already have hundreds of receivers installed in its military. As a result, Russian government agencies can decipher drone data. The Russian government also likely has the means to acquire the data collected by DJI drones.
The DJI AeroScope tracking system allows local authorities to identify drones engaging in dangerous flight maneuvers. DJI drones continuously transmit a signal with an identification number that the AeroScope system can read. This signal can give the authorities valuable information about a drone, including its location, model name, and serial number.
The AeroScope system works by sending an unencrypted signal to a receiver to identify drones. This signal can be interpreted by a receiving system, including a satellite. Although DJI originally envisioned this system as a tool for drone manufacturers, other companies are already using it. Moreover, the United States government plans to require drone companies to transmit location data by 2023. This means that the system is not optional and will be mandatory for all drone operators.
This technology is not yet legal, but terrorists may use it. It could violate laws such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Aircraft Sabotage Act. But if the technology becomes widespread, it could allow the government to target drone operators who may be flying uncrewed aircraft.
DJI lobbying to dispel U.S. national security concerns
Recently, DJI drones have made headlines because of their security risks. The company has been the target of multiple governments and private sector organizations’ warnings. One particular issue has surrounded DJI’s mandatory data flow to the Chinese Communist Party. In addition, independent cybersecurity research companies have found hidden coding in some related applications that allows Chinese developers to execute other code. This code then gathers user data reams and transmits them to third-party servers without the user’s knowledge.
While DJI has denied any such information, the government has stepped up its warnings against its products. One of the latest is a new ban on DJI drones as a security risk’. The government is concerned about the potential for Chinese intelligence agencies to intercept the data that DJI drones collect. Some officials have even warned that this could lead to national security problems.
Some have argued that the security risks associated with DJI drones go beyond the risk of a data breach. The U.S. Department of Defense has said that drones threaten national security. The company was also placed on the Entity List by the Department of Commerce, which accuses DJI of contributing to human rights abuses in China. Because of these concerns, the U.S. government is trying to stop DJI from transferring technology to China. However, DJI has fought against these security concerns for more than a year. The company has also produced a “Government Edition” model, which is meant to protect sensitive data.
DJI has responded to the concerns over its drones as a security risk by releasing a patch. The company has been working with the U.S. government to quell public fears. However, it seems that the company is struggling to compete with China’s current offerings. It is hard to compete with China and its high-tech drones.
Although the Defense Department is banning DJI drones, the company still controls a large percentage of the market in the U.S. In addition, DJI drones made up 77 percent of the American hobby drone market in 2020. Meanwhile, DJI drones accounted for 90 percent of the drones included in the Bard College database used by public safety agencies.
Another concern is that DJI drones collect personal information and can be used for spying on users. According to a former Pentagon official, the company’s drones send sensitive data to China. The National Intelligence Law in China grants the Chinese government the power to compel DJI to aid in espionage activities.
While the U.S. government is not restricting DJI drone sales in the United States, further action could hinder the company’s tight grip on the U.S. market. Further, the FCC has asked its partners to update the company’s Covered List to reflect the changes.