FCC Commissioner recommends banning DJI products in the USA over “National Security” risks

Oct 21, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Oct 21, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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After DJI’s high yesterday with their Ronin 4D announcement, they’re being brought back down to earth by the FCC after Commissioner Brendan Carr has called for its addition to the FCC Covered List, which would ban the company from selling its products in the USA.

A letter published on the FCC website states that DJI accounts for more than 50% of the US drone market and collects “vast troves of sensitive data”. The Chinese government’s power to compel DJI to assist in espionage activities, it says, is a national security risk.

“DJI drones and the surveillance technology on board these systems are collecting vast amounts of sensitive data—everything from high-resolution images of critical infrastructure to facial recognition technology and remote sensors that can measure an individual’s body temperature and heart rate,” Commissioner Carr stated. “Security researchers have also found that DJI’s software applications collect large quantities of personal information from the operator’s smartphone that could be exploited by Beijing. Indeed, one former Pentagon official stated that ‘we know that a lot of the information is sent back to China from’ DJI drones.

“DJI’s collection of vast troves of sensitive data is especially troubling given that China’s National Intelligence Law grants the Chinese government the power to compel DJI to assist it in espionage activities. In fact, the Commerce Department placed DJI on its Entity List last year, citing DJI’s role in Communist China’s surveillance and abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Add to this information the widespread use of DJI drones by various state and local public safety and law enforcement agencies as well as news reports that the U.S. Secret Service and FBI recently bought DJI drones, and the need for quick action on the potential national security threat is clear.

The document states that a former Pentagon official knows that DJI drones send a lot of information back to China, and DJI has fallen foul of security issues with the US government before over alleged vulnerabilities. DJI was even added to the US Economic Blacklist at the end of last year – the same list that stopped companies like Huawei from collaborating with Google – although it doesn’t seem to have done DJI much harm.

The document even cites the Huawei situation, labelling DJI as “an airborne version of Huawei”.

[T]he evidence against DJI has been mounting for years, and various components of the U.S. government have taken a range of independent actions—including grounding fleets of DJI drones based on security concerns. Yet a consistent and comprehensive approach to addressing DJI’s potential threats is not in place. That is why the FCC should take the necessary steps to consider adding DJI to our Covered List. We do not need an airborne version of Huawei.

If DJI were to be added to the FCC Covered List, that would essentially kill DJI’s business in the USA. No more government contracts and the FCC would reject every product they attempted to introduce to the USA. They wouldn’t be able to sell products there at all. And it wouldn’t just be drones. That means all their gimbals and other products would disappear, too, including the Ronin 4D announced yesterday.

You can read the complete document on the FCC website.

[via PetaPixel]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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14 responses to “FCC Commissioner recommends banning DJI products in the USA over “National Security” risks”

  1. Scott Weisgerber Avatar
    Scott Weisgerber

    Pretty soon we’re going to be able to buy anything. Do these lawmakers realize how many companies are based in China?

  2. Sherlock Avatar
    Sherlock

    Chopsticks are next

  3. Vic Moss Avatar
    Vic Moss

    Brandon Carr needs to not make stupid comments for the entire world to see and laugh at. His comment is so blatantly stupid it’s mind boggling.

  4. WSJAX Avatar
    WSJAX

    So are we going to ban all Chinese electronics, from the chips in our TVs, Smart appliances, computers, etc? Why just drones? Doesn’t make sense.

  5. Cheung Pang Avatar
    Cheung Pang

    US citizens deserve something like Kama LOL

  6. Cheung Pang Avatar
    Cheung Pang

    Maybe the US citizens deserve something like Karma LOL

  7. CraigI Avatar
    CraigI

    It’s strange that people in general do not understand how much data large corporations and foreign adversaries are gathering. Even stranger is when people complain if there’s an attempt to stop it. What I don’t understand: why isn’t there an effort to simply block IP / domains of bad actors — and then press criminal & civil charges?

    1. blokeinusa Avatar
      blokeinusa

      because not all IP’s are from knowingly bad actors. People’s computers, phones, printers, routers get infected and all one bad actor has to do is push “send” and your favorite or not so much websit or company gets ddos’d. In that case, why don’t we press charges on people who don’t keep their software up to date, run bad code. People get fined for having broken headlights, housing not up to code…I guess that would mean more money for the manufacturers.

      1. CraigI Avatar
        CraigI

        Chances are, actual companies like DJI or China Telecom or Huawei use standard domains/IPs. If they’re using masking, then it’s really easy to just block the apps/systems and count them as terrorist groups and bring criminal charges.

        1. blokeinusa Avatar
          blokeinusa

          Yes, only if you don’t want to hide the fact your actually spying. Do you really think they’d use their own IP’s? Why not just black list all chinese IP’s and call it a day? Or better yet, disconnect from the internet and we won’t have this problem

          1. CraigI Avatar
            CraigI

            Look – it’s pretty binary (and simple). Sending out data? That’s bad – doesn’t matter if it’s one or more IP addresses/domains — they got ’em.

  8. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    Wouldn’t is be much easier to just ban stupid people from working for the US Government.

  9. Mark Hamilton Avatar
    Mark Hamilton

    “Collecting sensitive data” has already been discredited and disproven. This is just a desperate attempt to slow down competition to our economy as far as I’m concerned and completely disregards the fact that many of us Americans relay on good quality drones to earn a living. You want us to stop buying them? Then make something better at a competitive price. Don’t just force us to stop using them. There are Russian, Chinese and American satellites in the atmosphere that pose more of a security risk than our little drones do. They can see the text on the book you are reading in the park. This is a ridiculous, lazy attempt to control the marketplace and has nothing to do with “security”.

  10. allenwrench Avatar
    allenwrench

    Dunno, can’t ever say with politics. But heard on an Antifa related podcast that they intend to use mini drones for defensive use against their enemies by converting them to explosives drones. Reminds me when I was a kid and we had duck and cover drills. If you hear a buzz…duck and cover!