UK Defence Chiefs Resume Purchases of Chinese-Made Drones

Chinese drones blacklisted by the United States are being purchased by the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).Contract details show the MoD placed a £132,337 ($165,936) order in March for drones and accessories from DJI, the world’s largest consumer drone company based in Shenzhen, southern China. The recent order is believed to be the first since the United States banned its agencies from using the company’s products in 2020, labelling them a potential security threat. The MoD also suspended purchases following the U.S. ban but, as the recently published contract reveals, there has been a change of mind among UK defence officials. “We take the security of our people and assets very seriously and have robust measures in place that are kept under regular review,” a spokesman told The Epoch Times. What the new craft will be used for is unknown, though the MoD had previously deployed Matrice 300 RTKs to monitor battlefield exercises and to locate any trespassers, including unauthorized observers. Several British police forces have also procured DJI drones for official deployment since the U.S. blacklist was drawn up. Washington placed DJI on an “entity list” in 2020 following claims it was aiding the surveillance of Uyghur Muslims held in Chinese internment camps, saying the company was among those enabling “wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance.” As a result, American businesses were barred from exporting technology to the company. DJI suspended its sales to Russia in April after it was accused of selling drones ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. DJI drones broadcast a special signal that allows security services to identify the location of the device and its pilot, a system set up to deter rogue users from causing disruption at airports and other sensitive sites. Ukraine claimed that Russia had obtained special equipment that allowed it to pinpoint pilots’ positions. The company has also stopped selling drones to Ukraine, saying it does not market or sell its products for military use, and claims distributors and resellers of its products follow its non-military policy. The company has previously been accused of deploying software that lets its drones send data about their flight paths back to company-controlled servers in China. US cybersecurity experts found a DJI drone control app allowed data to be sent to Chinese servers. DJI refutes claims its products pose security threats, saying the U.S. restrictions “have little to do with security and are instead part of a politically-motivated agenda to reduce market competition and support domestically produced drone technology.” The UK sometimes declines to match U.S. restrictions on Chinese companies, though it did strip Huawei out of Britain’s telecoms networks in 2020 after intense lobbying from Washington. Follow Peter Simpson is a British journalist who has worked for major international news media and spent a decade covering China from Beijing, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, during which he broke many exclusives. He is interested in all facets of the Sino-UK relationship and geopolitics. Other interests include sport, business, culture, and travel.

UK Defence Chiefs Resume Purchases of Chinese-Made Drones

Chinese drones blacklisted by the United States are being purchased by the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Contract details show the MoD placed a £132,337 ($165,936) order in March for drones and accessories from DJI, the world’s largest consumer drone company based in Shenzhen, southern China.

The recent order is believed to be the first since the United States banned its agencies from using the company’s products in 2020, labelling them a potential security threat.

The MoD also suspended purchases following the U.S. ban but, as the recently published contract reveals, there has been a change of mind among UK defence officials.

“We take the security of our people and assets very seriously and have robust measures in place that are kept under regular review,” a spokesman told The Epoch Times.

What the new craft will be used for is unknown, though the MoD had previously deployed Matrice 300 RTKs to monitor battlefield exercises and to locate any trespassers, including unauthorized observers.

Several British police forces have also procured DJI drones for official deployment since the U.S. blacklist was drawn up.

Washington placed DJI on an “entity list” in 2020 following claims it was aiding the surveillance of Uyghur Muslims held in Chinese internment camps, saying the company was among those enabling “wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance.”

As a result, American businesses were barred from exporting technology to the company.

DJI suspended its sales to Russia in April after it was accused of selling drones ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

DJI drones broadcast a special signal that allows security services to identify the location of the device and its pilot, a system set up to deter rogue users from causing disruption at airports and other sensitive sites.

Ukraine claimed that Russia had obtained special equipment that allowed it to pinpoint pilots’ positions.

The company has also stopped selling drones to Ukraine, saying it does not market or sell its products for military use, and claims distributors and resellers of its products follow its non-military policy.

The company has previously been accused of deploying software that lets its drones send data about their flight paths back to company-controlled servers in China.

US cybersecurity experts found a DJI drone control app allowed data to be sent to Chinese servers.

DJI refutes claims its products pose security threats, saying the U.S. restrictions “have little to do with security and are instead part of a politically-motivated agenda to reduce market competition and support domestically produced drone technology.”

The UK sometimes declines to match U.S. restrictions on Chinese companies, though it did strip Huawei out of Britain’s telecoms networks in 2020 after intense lobbying from Washington.


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Peter Simpson is a British journalist who has worked for major international news media and spent a decade covering China from Beijing, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, during which he broke many exclusives. He is interested in all facets of the Sino-UK relationship and geopolitics. Other interests include sport, business, culture, and travel.