High-Flying Masquerade: DJI’s Shadowy Shell Game Unveiled

In a tale that reads straight out of a corporate espionage novel, DJI, the world-renowned drone manufacturer, finds itself at the center of a controversy that could rival any high-stakes thriller. Recent discoveries by Half Chrome and Konrad Iturbe suggest that DJI may be dodging potential restrictions by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through the use of shell companies to continue selling their drones under different names. Let's unpack this saga and understand the implications it may have.

READ MORE: COGITO SPECTA AIR DRONE TEARDOWN REVEALS STRONG SIMILARITIES TO DJI AIR 3

Hat tip to Half Chrome for getting their hands on the drone and to Konrad for doing a lot of the research and digging up the photos! See below.

Update: DJI Researcher Kevin Finisterre added more eyebrow-raising information that seems to confirm how much DJI is involved. See below.

The Art of Disguise: Cogito and Specta Air

At the heart of the controversy is a company named Cogito, registered in Hong Kong, which is reportedly selling the Air3 drone under the moniker Specta Air. This maneuver comes as some members of Congress push for DJI to be added to the FCC's “Covered List,” which would place it in the same category as companies like Huawei and ZTE, known for their contentious relations with U.S. national security interests.

READ MORE: THE SPECTACULAR COGITO SPECTA AIR: A SURPRISING ECHO OF THE DJI AIR 3

Evidence suggests that Cogito's operations are not as independent as they claim. The Specta drone, ostensibly a product of Cogito, shares an uncanny resemblance with DJI's Air3 — from batteries to body design and even propellers. This revelation raises eyebrows, given DJI's reputation for not licensing its designs to other manufacturers.

Beyond the Surface: The Plot Thickens

Further digging into the matter by Iturbe reveals that Cogito isn't the only entity in this elaborate scheme. Anzu Robotics, for instance, has been caught selling a drone suspiciously similar to DJI's Mavic 3E/3T, albeit in an “ugly green” hue.

READ MORE: DJI AVATA 2: LEAKED PHOTOS SUGGEST IMMINENT LAUNCH NEW DJI DRONE

High-Flying Masquerade: Dji's Shadowy Shell Game Unveiled 2

Another company, Skycatch, Inc., has been linked to DJI through a partnership but also appears to be peddling a drone strikingly similar to a DJI Matrice, under the guise of the Skycatch Explore2.

What makes these revelations particularly alarming is the implications for U.S. national security. The use of shell companies to circumvent potential FCC restrictions not only raises questions about corporate ethics but also about the possibility of espionage.

The drones sold by these shell entities lack certain features that make DJI's offerings compliant and user-friendly in the U.S., such as compatibility with RemoteID, spare parts availability, and the DJI Care perks.

The Tech Behind the Mask

One critical aspect of these drones that's been altered in the transition to shell companies is the remote control (RC) system. Unlike genuine DJI products, none of the drones sold through these alleged shell companies use the DJI RC-N1, meaning they circumvent the app ecosystems of Apple's App Store and Google Play. This move suggests a potentially darker motive, as it allows for the operation of the drones and their apps outside the scrutiny of these major tech platforms.

A Call for Creativity and Transparency

The situation brings to light the intricate lengths companies may go to in order to navigate around regulatory barriers. While the creativity of such endeavors could be lauded in a different context, when it comes to national security and consumer , the stakes are far too high for games of corporate cat-and-mouse.

As the FCC and other regulatory bodies take a closer look at these practices, the hope is for a future where innovation thrives within the bounds of transparency and integrity. For DJI and its mysterious affiliates, the message is clear: the world is watching, and it's time to come clean.

DroneXL is reaching out to DJI for comments, and we will update the article with their response.

Update:

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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18 Comments

  1. excellent, anytihng that gives a middle finger to the USA is a great company in my book

      • I’ll live somewhere else if you are footing the bill including the $3000 exit tax. Show me to the boat.

      • Who says he lives in the US. I don’t share his opinions but he could be a Bot or live somewhere else. Most of these “people” are bots or paid posters designed to split the US apart. Don’t fall into the trap. Oh and DJI has been a slimy company from day one. Not really sure how people didn’t see it a long time ago.

  2. Welp..this kinda puts a big dent in the argument by many that Deej is a squeaky clean victim of U.S. regulatory and domestic UAS OEMs terrible attack campaign, as only being to boost sub-quality drones and purposefully risking lives. DJI undoubtedly have the best “off the shelf plug n play” fit and finish as well as capabilities for the money. But I fear faaaar too many have become mesmerized by the low cost functionality, to the point they are claiming Frank and friends are entirely without reproach. Hopefully this will make people think more objectively..and maybe get them to embrace sourcing and building their own high feature UAS, or employing domestic talent that can absolutely do it for them. I personally know multiple UAS engineers who could build, industry specific no less, airframes that would smoke DJI in capability. No they may not have as much glossy conformal molded plastics to drool over..and may force you to be more informed about how to fly safely beyond an RTH button, but since when is having to be as learned as you can be about a technology a bad thing while supporting an equally talented local tech workforce?? Great reporting as always Haye!!

  3. This article is horrible and feels very wrong me sided. DJI is being forced through non free market regulations to be banned from the USA. This article talks about how the apps working off the android store or Apple Store is bad yet fail to understand both companies are in hot water for having a monopoly on their phone app stores. Also non free market behavior. Let’s not mention the huge push to ban DJI possibly comes from the likes of Skydio. This article makes me less thrilled to read unbiased opinions about DJI

    • All corporate competitors try to injure, undercut and outright quash their competition. That’s taken place for centuries/millenia, and will never cease as long as there is an open market. I’d suggest never to take any article at face value and investigate all allegations of anything yourself. I’ve read Haye for some years now, and I can say that he does his homework and has never had a problem correcting something should it turn out inaccurate. 1000% support your sovereignty of opinion, just don’t close your opinion to an allegation being simply anecdotal or one sided without investigating the claims 1st hand. Subversion isn’t always simply about money or a certain market, it’s usually also always about power or the benefit that bypassing regulation or power can give. Things aren’t ever that simple or black and white, but they are pretty much always adversarial in nature..especially now if it’s in the tech arena. We do need plenty of good faith skeptics these days, so dig in and let the facts take you wherever they go!

      • I’ve read the facts and understand the details. I’ve been educating myself on the attempts to ban DJI for years. This has nothing to do with espionage. There is absolutely zero evidence of it happening in any form with DJI. This is about the fact that DJI makes a superior product and Skydio cannot compete. So they paid off a handful of Republicans to make a stink about it. I’d go deeper into details, but something tells me your mind is set when your first argument is that “companies have played dirty forever.” That’s not a valid reason to write a law. That’s a super slippery slope, and it’s not surprising to me that the “party of small government” is once again trying to take away more rights to make a buck.

      • Wasn’t talking about a sweat shop churning out redneck target practice, something else we can expose here in a sec. But to start, couldn’t give a shit less about any of that anyway, beyond my own DJI and Autel snappers I use for personal fun. I honestly dig both of them for their limited purpose. The people I’m talking about and the types of UA I’m talking about are well beyond any glorified camera makers mass produced consumer punchline. DJI make exactly 2 ‘industrial’ market drones that try to offer something tactile. 2 diff versions of the same tree trimmer to be more accurate..a spray drone redressed as a ‘delivery’ drone yet isn’t capable of doing anything with LTE other than…you guessed it…send pics. Which is laughable when local C2 is useless 10 miles downrange and behind or below something. Just one example of how narrowly scoped any boilerplate photo drone company is. If you don’t know or can’t find someone here, of which there are many, that can build you a beast of a bird for the same $15K DJI or Autel or even the dastardly Skydio are asking for just a hamstrung base model, that’s your prob not mine. Maybe expand your exposure to all that’s out there and can actually be made near you, instead of waiting for one of the idrone companies to do it for you, drop it in your lap..and hold your hand while ya fly it. But I guess you are unintentionally right about something, if it were easy..many more really would do it. That’s what I’m trying to encourage, not some fabricated political argument from all sides that everyone should be sick of. As for that workforce of ours that’s now underwhelming? Rethink sending your kids to the almighty university instead of a trade or tech school and our skilled citizenry will return….and not need someone else to make their own drones for them, among other positive things.

  4. When you try to ban a company from operating in the US with zero evidence of any wrongdoing, then this is what you get. Everyone is going to be worse off for it. However, I say good for DJI. They make a superior product, and rather than putting money towards research, Skydio decided to buy off some Republicans to propose a BS law. I was disappointed to see the slant on this article. These aren’t shady dealings. The real shady dealing is what’s going on in the United States Congress.

  5. No it’s quite literally called having worked within the regulatory sphere of industrial UA for years as well as help develop multiple platforms..whereas it sounds pretty clear that your is of purely political partisanship. Saying you’ve done the research on something is laughable, when you so obviously have not on this specific article. You are a lazy fool and want everything handed to you. You want to know how it’s easy to tell that..you make it all about ‘politics’, a legitimate fools errand. Enjoy being someone’s tool, but understand not everyone has to do that just “because!” you want to.

  6. Awfully funny how the exact version of the screeching was able to be forecast..well before any politi-fools screeched the first thing.
    Anyone having a problem with objective research on a topic will effectively red flag themselves to most anyhow. So have fun with that as well, though sad as it is.

  7. To those idiots above saying how this proves that DJI is a chinese spy company, this only proves what a company has to do to ensure the sale of its products when the current Dem moron government accuses them of spying. Maybe try thinking for yourself instead of being a complete retard led around by hack bloggers and government propo.

  8. But why is there no outcry about people using Against Metashape to map sensitive infrastructure? A russian designed & owned mapping software??? The DOI should be transparent about this and blacklist it as well. It took three individuals to leak the bomb to the Soviet Union. Yet we continue to map sensitive infrastructure with Chinese drones and process the data with Russian software. And people really don’t think this information isn’t getting back to operatives in those countries? That said, I own three DJI drones by the way. Two will be sent to the Ukraine so they can defend themselves from invasion. The other is my travel vlogging toy. The Chinese are welcome to watch me cycle and pick up some tips on my form🤣

  9. Just a bunch of babble. Drones are the future. The future is now and cannot be stopped. As Americans the disciplines we once had many, many decades ago has been bred almost completely out of us. If you think for 1 second, that an American standing on an assembly line with a cell phone in one hand and a donut in the other can make your product as well as people who have mastered multiple disciplines, then you are a fool. DJ is going nowhere and only getting stronger every day. Go DJI !!

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