DJI Denies Throttling Ukrainian Army Drone Tech Amid Rumors

DJI has denied accusations that it is limiting the capabilities of drone technology used by the Ukrainian army after rumors spread on social media that the Chinese consumer drone manufacturer was throttling its AeroScope technology.

AeroScope is DJI’s drone detection platform that can identify unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) communication links and gather information like flight status, paths, and other information in real-time.

In short, it is a proprietary hardware and software solution that lets users track the movement of any DJI drone within a 10-kilometer radius. With an optional expansion, that range can be boosted to 50 kilometers and obtain key information about a drone in as little as two seconds. AeroScope works with all Phantom, Inspire, Mavic, and Spark series drones.

The Accusation

On March 10, co-founder of the Blynk IoT platform Bolodymyr Shymanskyy tweeted an accusation that DJI was intentionally limiting the capabilities of AeroScope by the Ukrainian army, citing sources inside Ukraine. Shymanskyy never reveals any details about his sources.

“According to the most recent reports from the Ukrainian army, the AeroScope technology is effectively turned off for Ukrainian operators,” Shymanskyy says. “In fact, while Russians have the technical capabilities to track Ukrainian DJI drone operators, the Ukrainian army can not do the same.”

Shymanskyy says that Russians are using AeroScope to track a drone operator’s position and target that location with artillery and rocket fire.

“In other words, Russians use DJI technology to kill Ukrainian drone operators,” he says.

Because he claims that the technology is being limited for Ukrainians but not Russians, it is a sign of implicit support by China for the Russian invasion.

“This, in turn, means that the largest Chinese drone manufacturing company secretly supports the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine. By providing access to all its technology capacities to Russians and turning them off remotely for Ukrainians,” he says.

Shymanskyy points to a post on Facebook that describes the AeroScopes that were supplied to Ukraine as all malfunctioning as “confirmation” of his claims.

While he admits it might be a technical problem, Shymanskyy says that is unlikely and cites other reports that DJI will limit or completely stop supplies of its drones to Ukraine and could enable a No-Fly-Zone in Ukraine at any time. At the time of publication, neither of these situations had come to pass.

DJI Denies Accusation

Not long after Shymanskyy published his series of tweets, Adam Linsberg, the DJI North America Corporate Communication Director, said the claims were not true.

“These reports are false,” he says. “We are aware of problems with some AeroScope units in Ukraine; they may be connected to prolonged loss of power/internet. But there is no deliberate action to downgrade AeroScope there.”

PetaPixel reached out to DJI for an official comment from the company and was pointed to a reply from the DJI Support Twitter handle, published on Sunday. In it, the company indicates that any issues with AeroScope are caused by loss of power or internet.

“DJI continues to provide full global technical support and services, including our AeroScope Remote ID solution. We are working with customers to resolve some AeroScope malfunctions in Ukraine that we suspect are related to interim loss of power and/or internet services,” the company says.

DJI drones have seen widespread use by the Ukrainian military as a way to find and pinpoint the location of invading Russian forces. While there has been some concern that DJI’s tracking information may put pilots in danger, at the time of publication, there was no indication that the broad amount of data DJI collects from its AeroScope system was being shared with the Russian military, despite concerns of such a possibility.

Image credits: Header photo by Ryan Mense for PetaPixel.