DJI, the world's largest manufacturer of civilian drones, is being blamed for limiting the use of DJI Aeroscope for the Ukrainian military. The accusations are strongly denied by the drone maker.
DJI AeroScope is a drone detection system that provides data about the drone's location, heading, altitude, speed, serial number, etc. as well as the pilot's location.
DJI Aeroscope is used as a drone detection system by airports, prisons, and the like.
Does DJI sabotage Aeroscope in Ukraine?
DJI dealer Taras Troiak who is based in Kiyv claims that he is not entirely sure about DJI's position and alleges that the world's largest drone maker might intentionally sabotage the DJI Aeroscope systems in Ukraine.
His claims are echoed by a lengthy post on Twitter by @vshymansky who says:
According to recent reports from Ukraine, the Chinese drone producer DJI have limited the capabilities of its “Aeroscope” technology for Ukrainian army, giving a significant air reconnaissance edge to Russian invaders.
Read more: What is AEROSCOPE?
DJI Aeroscope is basically a piece of proprietary hardware allowing to track the movement of any DJI drone in the range of 10 kilometers. Along with supplementary DJI-made antennae the range can be extended up to 50 kilometers.
Besides that, Aeroscope technology allows one to see the EXACT position of the drone operator as well as his personal details which he used when registering with DJI.
The Ukrainian military uses various models of DJI drones in their reconnaissance activities. There is no wonder in that – DJI is the largest drone maker in the world.
Though Russians are using Aeroscope hardware, they use the technology to track the drone operators' positions in order to target their artillery/rocket fire. In other words, Russians use DJI technology to kill Ukrainian drone operators.
According to the most recent reports from the Ukrainian army, the Aeroscope technology is effectively turned off for Ukrainian operators.
In fact, while Russians have the technical capabilities to track Ukrainian DJI drone operators, the Ukrainian army can not do the same.
This, in turn, means that the largest Chinese drone manufacturing company secretly supports the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine. By providing access to all its technology capacities to Russians and turning them off remotely for Ukrainians.
Please note, this might turn out to be a technical problem.
But this is unlikely, as there are also reports that:
1. DJI will limit or completely stop supplies of their drones to Ukraine
2. Could enable a No-Fly-Zone in Ukraine at any time soon
I hope to see an official statement and clarification from @DJIGlobal soon.
Meanwhile, DJI owners in Ukraine are advised not to update any software or firmware, turn off geolocation, and only register their drones outside of Ukraine.
Got reports of a few Aeroscope systems still working in Ukraine, however many others (including those guarding nuclear plants) refuse to work.
By the way, it is not a new story – Russians were relying on the DJI anti-drone tech since 2016 when they occupied parts of Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Besides providing Russians and their proxies with Aeroscope technology DJI supports them by creating no-fly zones.
In fact, DJI central server software allows the company to define a zone where no single DJI drone can fly. Just because the Drone Software works in sync with DJI central server.
DJI denies downgrading Aeroscope in Ukraine
DJI spokesperson, Adam Lisberg responded quickly to these allegations on Twitter
“I'm the head US spokesman for DJI, and let me say very clearly — these reports are FALSE. We are aware of problems with some AeroScope units in Ukraine; they may be connected to prolonged loss of power/internet. But there is NO deliberate action to downgrade AeroScope there.”
“This is FALSE. Some units in Ukraine are malfunctioning, and we've been trying to diagnose the problem to get them fixed.”
When asked if DJI would apply geo-fencing to Ukraine and make the country a no-fly zone he said the following:
“Our geofencing restrictions for Ukraine (and the rest of the world) are visible at https://dji.com/flysafe/geo-map. Our geofencing is designed for notification, not enforcement. And as others on this website can tell you, determined hackers aren't bothered by geofencing.”
While we have seen geo-fencing being applied by DJI in Syria a few years ago, it seems unlikely that the drone maker would take such measures, mostly because the use of hacking software will make it fairly easy for drone pilots to get around DJI geo-fencing restrictions.
Taras Troiak, however, advises members of his 15,400 Facebook group to refrain from updating their DJI drones and urges people to activate DJI drones in other Countries before shipping them to Ukraine via Poland or other neighboring countries.
It is up for debate how effective such measures would be.
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