DJI drones have been in the news recently, sometimes with alarmist headlines such as ‘DJI BLACKLISTED.’ On this page, we will clear up some misconceptions.
DJI (Dà-Jiāng Innovations Science and Technology Co., Ltd) is a Chinese technology company that manufactures drones and camera stabilization systems.
Concerns regarding DJI drones typically stem from the following items:
- Cybersecurity concerns with DJI - unsecured data links between GCS and drone
- Cybersecurity concerns with DJI - Apps collect unauthorized information from devices
- Cybersecurity concerns with data transfer to DJI servers, which may include images, video, and telemetry data.
- China’s National Intelligence Law requires Chinese companies to cooperate with the government.
- DJI’s role in the Chinese government’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy
- DJI’s alleged involvement in the surveillance of ethnic minority Uighurs in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang.
These concerns have varying levels of validity and impact, and the news headlines can often be misleading.
Are DJI Drones’ blacklisted’?
As of today, DJI Drones have the following restrictions:
- The Department of Defense prohibits its funds from being used to purchase or use any commercial off-the-shelf drones, regardless of manufacturer, due to cybersecurity concerns. Announcement
- The Department of Defense prohibits the use of all commercial off-the-shelf drones from being used on military facilities and property. Announcement
- The Department of the Interior prohibits any funds (including from grants/contracts) from purchasing foreign-made drones without authorization. However, the existing fleet of DJI drones used by the Department of the Interior is still allowed. Announcement
- The Department of Justice prohibits the purchase or use of any drone that is manufactured or assembled by a covered foreign entity, which includes DJI (Announcement).
- As of January 2023, Florida prohibits all state agencies from purchasing or using any drone, not from an approved manufacturer. The list of Florida Approved Manufacturers can be found here. DJI is not an approved manufacturer.
Despite the headlines, actual DJI drone restrictions are uncommon. However, if you do not want to use a drone from DJI for any reason, feel free to purchase an alternative.
If you have documentation of another agency or entity that prohibits or restricts DJI drones, please let me know so I can update this list.
I heard a law called “PROHIBITION ON OPERATION OR PROCUREMENT OF FOREIGN-MADE UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS” applies to all federal funds. Is this true?“
No. There is a law by that name; however, it does not apply to all federal funds. This law can be found in Section 848 of the NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2020. However, the section’s title is misleading - this law only applies to the Department of Defense. From the actual text of the law - “The Secretary of Defense may not operate or enter into or renew a contract for the procurement of – (a) a covered unmanned aircraft system…”
I heard from my grant point of contact that DJI drones are prohibited. Are they wrong?
Without further information, it is unclear. That person may be mistaken or are aware of a more direct policy that affects their particular division or group. If you are instructed by your research grant point of contact not to use DJI drones or that DJI drones are prohibited from being purchased, please abide by those instructions.
Did the government ban people from buying DJI drones?
No. While individual agencies and departments implement some restrictions, there are no nationwide bans from purchasing or using DJI drones. In addition, the government did not ban the import of DJI drones for sale.
Has the UC system banned DJI drones?
No. There are currently no UC systemwide restrictions on purchasing or using DJI drones. Additionally, as of today, no UC campus has restrictions on purchasing or using DJI drones.
Are there cybersecurity concerns with DJI drones?
Yes. All smart technology should be considered to have cybersecurity concerns, including drones. The primary concern of DJI drones is whether they can send data back to the Chinese government. DJI drones can upload data, including images, videos, and telemetry data, back to DJI data servers (the cloud) for storage. There is concern that this data may be accessible by the Chinese government and that the data may also include security concerns such as wifi network configurations that may be used for breaching networks. There have been numerous reports that both support and refute these concerns.
There are several effective ways to mitigate these cybersecurity concerns with proper cybersecurity practices.
- Do not use your own personal devices (phones, tablets) or personal accounts (social media) when working with University equipment. Instead, register the drones to lab or department email accounts.
- Purchase platforms that do not require an additional phone or tablet. The higher-quality DJI projects, including the Enterprise editions and the Matrice series, offer all-in-one controllers that provide all of the necessary capabilities while not requiring an additional device.
- If a phone or tablet is required for operation, purchase a separate device without a SIM card.
- Do not authorize DJI to connect to any of your personal social media accounts
- Disable participation in DJI’s image and video social sharing service SkyPixel
- Only connect the drone to wireless networks appropriate for the general public, with security measures in place.
For further information, we have posted guidance on addressing cybersecurity concerns.
If I don’t want to get a DJI drone, what should I get?
If you would like to explore non-DJI drones, we have put together a list of drones on this page and have included information on the manufacturer, where the drone is manufactured, whether it is Remote ID compliant, whether it is NDAA 848 compliant and whether it is on the BlueSUAS list.
Is DJI funded by the Chinese government?
According to DJI spokesman Adam Lisbern, “DJI is privately held. The company is solely managed by and majority-owned by the founder team. Shareholders other than founders do not participate in the company’s management and operation.” Washington Post. DJI maintains that it had not received direct investments from the Chinese government. However, it has been reported that divisions of China’s State Council directly administer some funds that list DJI as an investment.
Can I collaborate with DJI on Drone research?
Most likely, no. As with all collaborations with foreign entities, please consult your export control office for an authorized review. In Dec 2020, DJI was placed on an economic sanction list that restricts the export of US patents and intellectual properties to DJI, citing involvement in wide-scale human rights abuses within China through high-technology surveillance and/or facilitated the export of items by China that aid repressive regimes around the world, contrary to US foreign policy interests.
What is NDAA 848 Compliance?
While Section 848 of the NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2020 applies only to the Department of Defense, other agencies have begun to use this as a basis for determining ‘safe’ drones. NDAA 848 compliance specifically means that
- The drone is not manufactured in China or manufactured by a Chinese company; and
- The drone does not contain any major components made in China or by a Chinese company. Major components are defined as:
- Flight controllers
- Data transmission devices
- The drone does not use a ground control system or operating software developed in China or by a Chinese company; and
- The drone does not use network connectivity or data storage located in China or administered by a Chinese company.