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The Military Businesses China Privacy Security Transportation United States Technology

US Army Walks Back Decision To Ban DJI Drones Ever So Slightly (suasnews.com) 27

garymortimer shares a report from sUAS News: News has reached me that another DJI memo was passed around on Friday the 11th of August. An exception to policy with recommendations from the asymmetric warfare group that will permit the use of DJI kit once some conditions have been met. The Android Tactical Assault Kit will become the ground control station (GCS) of choice when a DJI plugin has passed OPSEC (Operational Security) scrutiny. In a separate report from Reuters, DJI said it is "tightening data security in the hopes that the U.S. Army will lift its ban on DJI drones because of 'cyber vulnerabilities.'" The company is "speeding deployment of a system that allows users to disconnect from the internet during flights, making it impossible for flight logs, photos or videos to reach DJI's computer servers," reports Reuters. While the security measure has been in the works for several months, it's being rolled out sooner than planned because of the Army's decision to discontinue the use of DJI drones.
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US Army Walks Back Decision To Ban DJI Drones Ever So Slightly

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  • They probably realized the near-term alternatives suck, and there is active combat that needs them now.

  • Impossible to log (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 14, 2017 @08:48PM (#55013457)

    Actually, just because it's not transmitting a log doesn't mean it's not recording a log, or burst reporting a log summary once the drone clears the area. A wise intel officer for a foreign power can easily extrapolate the data based on the "on/off" nature of what it does. This can even allow you to pinpoint things enough for a decent zero survivor air strike.

    But, hey, what do I know

  • reconnect later
  • DJI collects a cr@ploads of flight data, including location data. Just sniff their app's traffic using xposed framework. DoD should definitely be concerned. Also, collected data varies depending on your locale settings. RU and CH are threated specially by the app for some reason.

  • by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2017 @02:03AM (#55014897)
    DJI is several years ahead of its competitors, including US companies. In tech industry it is forever.

    I see on youtube a lot of videos as in the USA people are fined routinely for flying a tiny quad-copter say in a national park (while one can fly a huge and really loud helicopter there all right). There are enforced bans of tens of miles in radius around large cities, etc.

    Instead of creating such obstacles in a negative way, a government in fact could do a lot for the development of this industry. For example create spacious RPAS (UAV) parks were people could come with their unmanned aircraft and pilot freely (perhaps with technical guidance?). Or teach students in schools UAV electronics, aerodynamics, piloting, meaningful regulations, safety.

    But instead we see only ban this, ban that. So as a result we see as the US and European civil UAV industry is lagging behind. It is not possible to build a hundred of good quad-copters or fixed-wing civil RPAS. A base, a mass market is necessary for this.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The bans protect a lot of established interests.
      Its like a red flag been walked in front of a car. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      A drone could allow citizen bloggers and reporters to:
      Report on mil
      Report on political events.
      Infrastructure spending
      Use of land (ag gag) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      In the past a helicopter costs and closed airspace could avoid all that.
      Too many interesting things to see going up and looking around from public land.
  • A DJI Phantom is just a bunch of motors and sensors controlled by a small computer running some software. If the military doesn't trust the software then flash it, or rip the board out entirely and make a new one. I'm sure the industrial military complex can scrape a few engineers together to build a replacement board and software that runs on it.

    There is even mature open source drone software [ardupilot.org] that could be adapted easily enough and is already in use in commercial drones and even in places like Boeing and

    • Ah yes, the 'it's just ..... ' argument. If the military wanted to fund it's own collection of motors and sensors, it would have. And it fact, it has on a number of occasions. Obviously, there is a desire to have something that isn't quite as expensive or even as capable and the DJI consumer drones are cheap and impressively flexible. They're also pretty chatty but that is something that hundreds of dumb civilians have figured out how to bypass.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        Writing their own software or board isn't necessarily expensive. And by "chatty" you mean the US military using a drone that sends information back to China. Not just the software on the device but the software controlling it. It is an obvious security risk and not one the military should try to work around with some hack or trust to software they cannot modify.

        As there is open source drone software and board designs it seems eminently doable to replace the board. Or use a DJI-like device. But perhaps in

  • The US military has been using drones that are not only designed and built in China, they are connected to the internet the whole time sending telemetry to Chinese servers??? Why not just cc them on every order our troops receive? Loop them in on every conversation in the Pentagon?

    Are we frikkin idiots or something? Are we just crossing our fingers and hoping our largest rival isn't snooping on that data? That they aren't slipping nasty surprises into our equipment? That they aren't doing the rational th

    • Why not just cc them on every order our troops receive?

      Because not every use of drones is in support of troop activities?

      Are we frikkin idiots or something?

      I think that term applies. The military uses DJI aircraft for some things; it also has an entire arsenal of other drones that aren't connected to DJI for use in military ops.

      What's next, buying our radios from North Korea?

      I hear we buy the plates that the officers eat chow on from China. Just a rumor, but that's enough to throw accusations.

  • So, you are saying that while the drone is flying, it is connected to the internet? How is this being done? What radio frequencies are being used? What receiving equipment is being used?

    There is so much acceptance that it is true, I'd like someone to point me to something that would educate me on how all this is working.

    A quick peek at the DJI forums has folks saying that they flow out in the wilderness with no internet all the time. So... what is going on here?

    • The flight logs and video are stored in the app. DJI has a website that, unless you make some effort not to, will download most of that data for the rest of the world to see. For Joe Sixpack, that's great. He can show all of his friends the time he pretended he was a 747 making an instrument landing at the local airport. If you are less publicly inclined it might be an issue but it's very easy to shut down.

      And even easier to shut everything down if you don't trust the little green switch on the app - ju

  • It's pretty simple, force DJI to abandon its Big Brother attitude and open-source their products just like 3DR did with the Solo.

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