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Screengrab via DJI/YouTube

Drone maker DJI accused of sending sensitive U.S. info to China

The Chinese drone maker denies the allegations.


Phillip Tracy


Published Nov 30, 2017   Updated May 22, 2021, 9:25 am CDT

The world’s most popular consumer drone company has been accused of sending data to the Chinese government.

The U.S. government office claims DJI, whose drones you can find at Best Buy, has been transmitting sensitive information about U.S. infrastructure back to China, according to a report from the New York Times.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in an August report that it had “moderate confidence” DJI was working with the Chinese government.

Citing a “reliable” industry source, the report says DJI is targeting U.S. government buildings and private entities to “exploit sensitive U.S. data.” It goes on to claim the drone maker has specifically been targeting certain companies operating in railroad, utility, media, farming, education, and law enforcement to gather mapping and infrastructure specifics.

The report also states the company’s drones can collect facial recognition data even when the devices are turned off, and infiltrate users’ phone data.

The Department of Homeland Security warns the data could be used to launch attacks against the United States.

“The critical infrastructure and law enforcement entities using DJI systems are collecting sensitive intelligence that the Chinese could use to conduct physical or cyber attacks against the United States and its population,” the August report said.

Last year, the New York Times noted DJI’s user agreement contained an unnerving condition.

“Please note that if you conduct your flight in certain countries, your flight data might be monitored and provided to the government authorities according to local regulatory laws,” the agreement said.

The government also believes DJI, which now owns a huge share of the consumer drone market, has illegally undercut its competitors using a tactic called “dumping,” when a company exports a product for less than the cost it took to manufacture or sells it for lower than the price it would charge in its home country.

DJI released a statement refuting the claims, telling Fast Company the allegations are “utterly insane.”

“Many of the allegations in the ICE report are obviously false,” DJI said in a public statement. “The claims… can be easily disproven with a basic knowledge of technology and the drone industry, or even a simple internet search.”

It’s not clear what, if any, actions will be taken against the company.

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*First Published: Nov 30, 2017, 5:06 pm CST