A Chinese drone manufacturer, DJI, which was added to an investment blacklist by the US last year, announced on April 26 that it was stopping operations in Russia and Ukraine.
In a statement released by the drone maker, DJI said: “DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions. Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine.”
“We are engaging with customers, partners and other stakeholders regarding the temporary suspension of business operations in the affected territories,” the statement further added.
The corporation had previously said it regretted any harm caused by the use of its products, notably in the military.
Additionally, DJI also said it makes products for customers and that it is “unequivocally opposed” to attempts to put weapons on its drones.
In a separate statement, released on April 21, it said: “DJI believes strongly in these principles. Our distributors, resellers, and other business partners have committed to following it when they sell and use our products.”
“They agree not to sell DJI products to customers who clearly plan to use them for military purposes or help modify our products for military use, and they understand we will terminate our business relationship with them if they cannot adhere to this commitment,” the statement added.
DJI and Russia
In March this year, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov wrote on Twitter: “In 21 days of the war, Russian troops have already killed 100 Ukrainian children. they are using DJI products in order to navigate their missile.”
“@DJIGlobal are you sure you want to be a partner in these murders? Block your products that are helping Russia to kill the Ukrainians!” the tweet added.
At that time, he also shared an open letter written to the CEO of the world’s largest drone maker Frank Wang.
In the letter, he wrote: “The socially responsible business always supports values of humanity, responsibility, and peace. We believe your company also shares them. Now, responsibility is the choice, the choice that defines the future. And now, more than ever, people’s lives depend on your choice.”
In addition, Fedorov said: “We call on your company to end any relationship and stop doing business in the Russian Federation until the Russian aggression in Ukraine is fully stopped and fair order is restored.”
“The Russian army uses an extended version of DJI AeroScope, which was taken from Syria. The distance is up to 50 km,” he further said while explaining the situation.
It needs to be noted that the AeroScope feature is a complete drone detection platform that allows for real-time drone identification and tracking. According to the DJI, this technology is used in all of its current drone systems.
But, according to Fedorov’s comments, this technology has been disabled for Ukrainian users. Earlier reports claimed while Russian AeroScope platforms were in fine working order, service for Ukrainian units had been degraded, potentially leaving Ukraine susceptible to drone warfare.
Later in a reply to Fedorov, DJI tweeted saying: “All DJI products are designed for civilian use and do not meet military specifications.”
“The DJI AeroScope system is built into all recent DJI drones and broadcasts information about a drone in flight to AeroScope receivers. This functionality cannot be turned off,” the Shenzhen-based Chinese drone company said.
Additionally, while responding to the claims of grounding Russian drones in Ukraine it said: “If the Ukrainian government formally requests that DJI set up geo-fencing throughout Ukraine, we will arrange it according to our policy. It would apply to all DJI drones in Ukraine, no matter who is flying them, but it may not stop all flights.”
The company also told Fedorov that DJI cannot obtain user information and flight data unless actively submits it to the company.
It said: “We do not have the ability to identify and verify a user’s location, and therefore we do not hold the data you have requested.”
It is noteworthy that last year, the US officials added the company to an investment blacklist due to its role in facilitating human rights abuses against China’s Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and other ethnic and religious minorities. This restriction means that US investors will be barred from buying or selling shares of the companies which are included in the list.
Prior to that DJI was already added to the US entry list along with other companies. This means that all these firms were restricted from buying US products or importing American technology without a special licence.
Regarding such restrictions, DJI then said it had done nothing wrong to justify being placed on the list.
It was also said the company was “evaluating options to ensure our customers, partners, and suppliers are treated fairly”.
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