The Defense Department released a statement today reiterating its opposition to the U.S. military's use of small, commercial drones -- especially those made by Chinese company Da Jiang Innovations.
"The Department of Defense position is that systems produced by Da Jiang Innovations pose potential threats to national security," the Pentagon statement reads.
"A recent report indicated that certain models of DJI systems had been found to be approved for procurement and operations for US government departments and agencies," DOD said. "This report was inaccurate and uncoordinated, and its unauthorized release is currently under review by the department."
In 2018, DOD issued a ban on the purchase and use of all commercial off-the-shelf drones, regardless of manufacturer, due to cybersecurity concerns. The following year, Congress passed legislation specifically banning the purchase and use of drones and components manufactured in China.
The only exceptions to the law are when such drones are used as surrogates in counter-unmanned aerial systems operations, according to DOD, something which U.S. Special Operations Command has done.
Former Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord said in August 2019 the small UAS sector in the United States had "eroded," with China's DJI having cornered the market on quadcopters. Lord said DOD had become dependent in recent years on DJI, before discovering that "a lot of the information is sent back to China" from the company's systems, leading to a department-wide ban on its products.
"Small UAS are important to us," she said at the time. "We want to rebuild that capability."
A DJI spokesman subsequently called Lord's comments "false and misleading."
"DJI drones do not automatically send data to the Chinese government or to any unauthorized party," Michael Oldenburg said at the time, pointing to a February 2018 study of DJI's data practices conducted by Kivu Consulting, an independent cybersecurity auditor, that concluded "users have control over the types of data DJI drones collect, store, and transmit."