France, Germany and Denmark will continue to work closely with leading Chinese drone manufacturer DJI – a company banned by the US military and the Department of Homeland Security. The advanced drones are designed to provide detailed aerial pictures of critical infrastructure including Government buildings and military bases. Harry Wingo, a professor at the National Defense University, has expressed concerns over the use of Chinese drones.
The National Defense University is a Government funded institution for the development of national security strategy based in Washington.
Professor Wingo told a US Senate on drone security, drones could give the Chinese company an unparalleled view from above the US.
He added: “DJI says American data is safe, but its use of proprietary software networks means how would we know?”
The DJI has denied its drones pose any threats to security.
In a letter the Chinese company said: “DJI drones do not share flight logs, photos or videos unless the drone pilot deliberately chooses to do so.”
“They do not automatically send flight data to China or anywhere else.”
The US Department of the Interior Office of Aviation Services (OAS) has previously refused to use DJI drones and said it did not meet data management assurance standards.
In July the OAS lifted its outright ban but has since inflicted strict restrictions on its use, limiting it to non-sensitive mission.
However the US military and Homeland Security has still imposed the ban.
Pentagon spokesman Mike Andrews told US news website POLITICO, waivers were only issued on a “case by case” basis.
However the hostility towards Chinese products, which coincides with the yearlong trade war between the two world superpowers, has not been reflected across Europe.
Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council of Foreign relations, said: “There is very little thinking along the lines of, ‘Is this something we should be concerned about?
“No one is actually concerned.”
The French military and Germany navy deploy commercial off-the-shelf DJI drones.
A French military spokesman said the Mavic Pro drone which has a range of 7km (4.3 miles) “can be launched instantaneously”.
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A German military spokesman said he was “not aware of any security issues”.
A Danish military spokesman also confirmed it has used the Chinese drones for a variety of purposes including commercial and military use.
He said: “A number of DJI drones have been bought for unclassified and non-operational use, such as news-production, inspection of drain-pipes and advertisement in connection to property sales.
“For classified military purposes other systems are acquired.”
A spokesman for the European Commission said: “It’s up to member states to decide on what drones to buy and to ensure that the data they gather with these drones is secure.”
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