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Australian Defence Bans Camera-Toting Chinese DJI Drones

Australian Defence has put a ban on the use of small Chinese drones, which it claims to have been using mainly for its departmental public relations work.

This work is said to have included spectacular aerial imagery of military exercises.

Major-General Marcus Thompson, deputy chief of information warfare, told a Defence Senate Estimates Committee that a decision had been made to suspend the DJI camera drones following advice from the US military.

According to some reports, the Americans warned their Australian counterparts that the Chinese Government probably had a secret key to break a DJI’s encryption. It was also suggested that the drone’s software could be remotely controlled and or include malicious features.

DJI has dismissed the claims and maintains the drones are manufactured for strictly  “peaceful purposes” and definitely not military use.

Asked by the committee about the reason behind Defence’s decision to bar the drones, General Thompson said: “There were some concerns regarding the cyber-security characteristics of the device.”

The Chinese drones have a flight time of about 25 minutes and a range of four to five kilometres. They are said to be equipped with high-res video cameras, capable of broadcasting imagery back to the operator in real-time.

When the United States military moved to ban the drones, it circulated a memo to service members to “cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media and secure equipment for follow-on direction”.

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