It seems that DJI is facing even more struggles in the US as the Department of Defense (DoD) adds the companies to the list of Chinese companies on its official blacklist classifying them as a “Chinese military company”. DJI’s been facing problems with the US government since at least 2017 when the US Army banned the use of DJI drones over perceived cyber vulnerabilities. DJI was then added to the US Economic Blacklist in 2020.
Being added to various blacklists doesn’t seem to have stopped the sale of DJI products in the USA but this latest addition to the DoD alleges that DJI is a Chinese military company, something which DJI has disputed many times now. The DoD announcement adds DJI along with a dozen other Chinese companies to the list, joining the 28 others previously included.
The Department is determined to highlight and counter the PRC Military-Civil Fusion strategy, which supports the modernization goals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by ensuring its access to advanced technologies and expertise are acquired and developed by PRC companies, universities, and research programs that appear to be civilian entities. Section 1260H directs the Department to begin identifying, among other things, Military-Civil Fusion contributors operating directly or indirectly in the United States.
The Department will continue to update the list with additional entities as appropriate.
The United States Government reserves the right to take additional actions on these entities under authorities other than section 1260H.
In response to the claims made by the DoD, DJI has once again responded with a rebuttal in a statement made to DroneDJ.
DJI does not fall under any categories set by the law to be included on the list. DJI is not a military company in China, the United States, or anywhere else. DJI has never designed or manufactured military-grade equipment, and has never marketed or sold its products for military use in any country. Instead, we have always developed products to benefit society and save lives… We stand ready to formally challenge our inclusion on the list.
DJI stands alone as the only drone company to clearly denounce and actively discourage military use of our products, including suspending all business operations in Russia and Ukraine to try to keep our drones out of the conflict there,” the statement said. “There is no reason why DJI has been added to the Defense Department’s list of ‘Chinese military companies.
– DJI Statement
DJI did indeed withdraw sales and suspend business operations in Ukraine and Russia, but it took them quite a while after concerns were initially raised in order for it to happen. Many companies in the photo and video industries – as well as the business world in general – suspended sales to Russia pretty early on in the conflict at the beginning of March. DJI’s withdrawal didn’t come until the end of April, almost two months later. In fact, even after Germany’s largest electronics retailer withdrew DJI products from its shelves in an attempt to pressure the company, it still took an entire month for DJI to actually do anything about it – at least publicly.
The DoD doesn’t cite the conflict in Ukraine as a reason for being added to the list, nor does it mention the alleged involvement of the DJI in Beijing’s surveillance and repression of Muslim Uighurs in China – something else which DJI has regularly disputed – but one can’t help but wonder if they were contributing factors, even if the evidence may be only circumstantial.
Being added to this latest list will certainly raise a few eyebrows amongst potential DJI customers in the USA, though… Customers who may now be considering going with more US-based alternatives – even if none of them seems to be able to figure out how to do active tracking properly! Or maybe, now that it’s starting to get colder outside, they’ll use Google’s new AI from the comfort of their computer desk!
You can read the complete list of companies added to the DoD blacklist here.