US Army orders units to ditch DJI drones over 'operational risk'

Drone maker DJI was just hit with a big blow — the U.S. Army has ordered its units to stop using drones made by the Chinese company, citing an 'operational risk' associated with doing so. The apparent risk was confirmed in the document by the U.S. Navy, with 'cyber vulnerabilities' being one of the given reasons. The order came to light in a leaked military document.

DJI is arguably the best-known drone maker that offers UAVs that anyone can buy. The company's higher end drones have found their way into various commercials markets, including things like land surveillance and commercial videography. However, the maker's drones have also been used extensively by parts of the U.S. military — more than 300 releases for use have been issued by the Army alone.

The order was obtained by SUAS News, which released a scan of the document showing the 'Department of the Army' heading alongside a note saying it is 'for official use only.' The order references a classified report issued by the Army Research Laboratory titled 'DJI UAS Technology Threat and User Vulnerabilities.' The report is dated May 25 of this year, indicating the military began evaluating the safety of these drones months ago.

According to the note, 'DJI Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) products are the most widely used non-program of record commercial off-the-shelf UAS employed by the Army.' That makes it especially unfortunate if the drones do end up having a big vulnerability, though the extent of the issue isn't clear, as the report detailing the problems is classified.

However, the order does note that drones should stop being used if they have 'DJI electrical components or software' — the units are also ordered not to use any other devices that may feature DJI software, indicating that some vulnerability was found with a DJI application (or more). Any units using the software are told to uninstall them immediately; all drones are ordered to have their batteries and storage removed.