back to article Chinese drone-maker DJI denies aiding Russia's Ukraine invasion

Chinese drone-maker DJI has denied multiple allegations it has aided Russia's military during the illegal invasion of Ukraine – an extraordinary claim, as the firm has previously come to the attention of US authorities for leaking data and aiding human rights abuses. DJI's involvement in Russia's illegal invasion first became …

  1. DrXym Silver badge

    Not surprising

    It's a closed platform and there is obvious military application for drones. There are tools that will modify the firmware, so perhaps it is possible for Ukraine to redo the firmware so their drones are not broadcasting unique identifiers so they don't show up on Aeroscope, since that's how the product works.

    It's actually an interesting dilemma for the west. DJI drones are a security risk, so how do you counter that threat? One way might be ban DJI drones from military / government use and change procurement to favour open platforms. But if you favour open platforms then you run the risk of bad actors obtaining those same drones and abusing no-fly zone rules, turning them into flying bombs or whatnot.

    But since there are already a number of open source drone projects maybe it's time to just accept the risk and embrace the change to open source.

    1. FozzyBear

      Re: Not surprising

      Depending on how high the drone is, a shotgun will fix the broadcasting/secuirty issue

  2. b0llchit Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Giving away control

    The whole concept where you connect your stuff to the internet under control of a third party is equally risky and suspect. Yes, we all "love" the cloud. Just until it is used against you, which inevitably will happen, sooner or later.

    Drones are no exception, but a mere instance where you bought a Trojan horse and smiled while hauling it into your home. You get what you paid for.

  3. Clive Galway

    If you want to see which drones are in your area, just fire up a set of goggles / video receiver - the video feed is not encrypted, and typically it's GPS coordinates will be displayed on the OSD (HUD), along with a handy bearing and distance to the person controlling it.

    DJI drones would make pretty crap weapons platforms for strapping bombs to though - their Thrust to Weight ratio is pretty shit as they use plastic for the chassis, not carbon fibre. You would be way better off building one yourself using INAV or BetaFlight flight controllers - they don't announce their position in the same way as DJI ones do, have no in-built geofencing, and can be configured to send telemetry (GPS position etc) back to the transmitter. This link is specific to that drone and that transmitter (it uses channel-hopping) and is essentially not snoopable.

    1. Andy 73

      All true..

      ...and very shortly we will see renewed calls from politicians to make any DIY, self assembled or component based drone illegal (because war!).

      We will be told (not for the first time, and again, falsely) that we must only be permitted to own commercial drones from accredited companies because anything else is dangerous. Then there will be a big scramble between politicians and well funded companies to decide who gets all the money.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All true..

        Yeah, somebody think of the children already!

        /s

      2. Clive Galway

        Re: All true..

        When in reality, if you are going to ban something, the thing to ban is drones with autonomy and GPS.

        GPS is essentially un-jammable (Yeah you can jam it, but if you do, it's potentially gonna interfere with critical systems such as passenger planes) - so the sane thing to do would be to only allow drones which can solely be manually controlled via a standard control link (eg 2.4ghz), which can easily be jammed with little consequences to other things - thus causing the drone to failsafe and fall to the ground as it has no autonomy.

        TLDR The only real risk is from drones which can follow a pre-programmed flight path via GPS.

        But no - polititians totally don't get this, and are tending to more err on the side of trying to require ALL drones to have GPS :facepalm:

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: All true..

          Not sure "banning" GPS would achieve anything. A drone could have GPS, be using it fly a preprogrammed flight path, and it would be undetectable. It seems unenforceable, yet it prevent hobbyists, farmers, etc. from using GPS ... not sure it would achieve anything.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "One retailer – Germany's Media Markt – stopped sales of the drone-maker's products."

    This should be done for as many businesses which continue to profit from Russia as is practical.

    E.g. UK public sector contracts with Infosys should be rescinded, but maybe Sunak's wife wouldn't like it. Sunak wouldn't know anything about that of course.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: "One retailer – Germany's Media Markt – stopped sales of the drone-maker's products."

      I agree with the sentiment. But we need to be careful, if we include all of China's companies in that, we risk splitting the world with an iron curtain again.

      Anything we can do to reduce dependency on Russian oil and gas would be better. That hits them where it hurts and is targeted specifically at Russia.

      1. NightFox

        Re: "One retailer – Germany's Media Markt – stopped sales of the drone-maker's products."

        The trouble is when Western energy companies were falling over themselves a couple of weeks ago to get out of Russia, it wasn't Russia who came in and bought them out at a bargain basement price, in many cases it was China. So one of the side effect of sanctions was we handed control of a lot of the worlds energy to China on a plate.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "One retailer – Germany's Media Markt – stopped sales of the drone-maker's products."

          "Sanctions" are, by definition, supposed to be punitive. And you are right that there are undesirable side effects - especially for long term - or permanent - sanctions.

          However "sanctions" also overlap with "strategically secure sourcing policy" (I'm sure there is a better term), which is intended to be long term. E.g., Germany plans it energy sourcing so that it isn't vulnerable to Russian aggressive behavior, even if it isn't the cheapest in the short run. E.g., the US imposes tariffs on selected finished products like drones to protect new strategic industries.

          IMO, sanctions are greatly overused - much like antibiotics and pesticides they just create create new problems after a few years. On the other hand "strategically secure sourcing policy" is underestimated and underused and we are heading for a very hard collision with reality due to that error.

          There is a balance between dependency and self-sufficiency - figuring that out is an art that can't be based purely on xenophobia, nor can it based purely on quarterly profits.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "One retailer – Germany's Media Markt – stopped sales of the drone-maker's products."

            Regarding energy supplies: Germany (and most of the rest of Europe) has about 12 months supply in its gas network if Russia cut off gas entirely tomorrow

            If that actually happened, I'm betting that Russia would blink first. They need the income

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "One retailer – Germany's Media Markt – stopped sales of the drone-maker's products."

          China picked up a lot of cheap energy sources but it didn't make up the loss of income for Russia, nor the loss of volume - once Russian holding tanks fill up they'll start having serious problems, as we saw a couple of years back when oil prices went negative. It's very difficult to _stop_ pumping wells once operational

          Russia is stuck in a cleft stick. Bear in mind that whilst there's a lot of speculation that their "elite forces" are being held back. It's looking more likely that the elites actually went in first in the assaults on Hostomel airport, etc - something the Ukrainians appear to have been expecting and practiced for.

          IE: The reason the conscript army is stumbling around in logistical chaos is because the blitzkrieg failed in the first 6 hours, Russia's elite forces were exterminated and their "top shelf" weapons are essentially only available in quantities of 1-10 items. The entire edifice is a gutted zombie thanks to decades of rampant mendaciousness and the facade is rapidly falling off

  5. MrBanana Silver badge

    Spam ?

    "thousands of spam messages containing the same content" complained the Chinese company.

    The irony is strong in this one.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Claims are interesting

    Evidence would be even better. At this point, no side is bothering with it anymore.

    If the West is as keen on human rights and due process as it says it is, then evidence is needed. Otherwise, it's "with us or against us" all over again, and not only that doesn't speak well of us, it greatly helps the propaganda of other countries, making it so easy to paint those allegations as only political and hypocritical.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Claims are interesting

      Nobody bothers with evidence anymore. We have arrived in the era of unsubstantiated claims and "personal" truths.

      Evidence is old school and boring, outrageous claims are hip and fresh. Not saying DJI does or does not help actively or passively the Russians, just stating that claims is all it takes nowadays.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Claims are interesting

        Oh, to be honest, it's not new. It's been pretty much like that forever. But it's disappointing that, with all said talk about human rights, due process, and so on, countries giving lessons are still not even *trying* to follow their own lessons.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Claims are interesting

          Not quite. Some time ago kids still dreamed to become firefighters, MDs or astronauts, now all they want to be is "gangstas".

          You always had unscrupulous people, but they were usually aware (or made aware) they were doing something wrong. Nowadays advertisement is constantly hammering in that egoism is a virtue and the only acceptable attitude. I, me, myself! Let them eat cake.

  7. Bendacious

    The illegal invasion of Ukraine

    I am enjoying the partisanship of this article. Mainly because I am not on Putin's side. Does anyone remember Hitler's illegal invasion of Poland? or the UK's illegal invasion of Iraq? I'm not trying to make a political point, I just find the term "illegal invasion" funny, in the context of a war. That soldier illegally shot me. That tank illegally rolled over my pumpkins. Not to say that Putin is not a war criminal, of course he is. I'm not holding my breath to see him in The Hague. I just think the article author is trying too hard. I'm only picking on that phrase though, as I enjoyed the article as a whole.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: The illegal invasion of Ukraine

      There are, believe it or not, "legal" ways to start a war, self defence being one of them.

      This is why Putin has pushed the "NATO were getting ready to invade" mantra.

      Same as Iraq, the whole "Weapons of mass destruction" bollocks.

      Hitler's invasion of Poland had no such justification.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The illegal invasion of Ukraine

        Of course it had the same justifications, what do you think? There was plenty of Nazis craptalk about how those other countries and people were threatening the very existence of the Germans.

        Frankly, I challenge you to come with a single example of a war where the leaders who started it didn't say something along the lines of "they left us no choice, our war is just and our future depends on it".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The illegal invasion of Ukraine

          "They have weapons of mass destruction..."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The illegal invasion of Ukraine

      "Illegal" has a legal meaning only within the boundaries of established legal system, and even then it is often precarious.

      On the international level "legality" is still the Wild West. Nevertheless Ukraine is in the Europe's neighborhood and it is in NATO's essential interests to shut down Russia's violent destructive behavior. That can only be done in a reasoned and measured way with penalties, punishments, red lines, and conditions that amount to unilateral de facto law.

      The Magna Carta was created out of parchment, ink, and a need.

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