DJI has ceased production and availability of its AeroScope drone detection system which is used to help keep drones away from airports and government facilities. However, Ukrainians claimed Russia used the tech to track their drone movements in the war.
The Chinese-owned drone and gimbal company has made no formal announcement that it has ceased production of AeroScope, but as reported by Drone DJ, visiting the company’s official webpage for AeroScope shows a statement that it is “no longer in production.”
Launched in 2017, DJI positioned AeroScope as a way to track and identify DJI drones from a distance. It was able to identify the registration numbers of drones and plot them on a map using the existing communication links between a drone and its controller.
At the Center of Controversy
The tool was quickly adopted by airports, government agencies, and private businesses that wanted to keep the airspace around certain locations protected form unauthorized drone incursions, but the technology had recently come under fire as Ukrainian soldiers and officials claimed DJI was intentionally throttling the capabilities of AeroScope used by its army.
“According to the most recent reports from the Ukrainian army, the AeroScope technology is effectively turned off for Ukrainian operators,” co-founder of the Blynk IoT platform Bolodymyr Shymanskyy tweeted said last year. “In fact, while Russians have the technical capabilities to track Ukrainian DJI drone operators, the Ukrainian army can not do the same.”
Ukrainian soldier Volodymyr Demchenko told CNN that Russians were using the tech to track their drone’s movements.
“Russians see from where we are starting and where we are landing and once it happened to us, we were attacked like right away. The drone was landing and the next, like in 30 seconds, a mine was like really close, like 30 meters away,” he said last spring.
I'm the head US spokesman for DJI, and let me say very clearly — these reports are FALSE. 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.
— Adam Lisberg (@adamlisberg) March 10, 2022
Over the course of several weeks, DJI was accused of either directly assisting the Russian military or actively suppressing the capabilities of its AeroScope technology for Ukrainians. DJI vehemently denied all these claims. Eventually, it chose to stop selling its drones in both Ukraine and Russia in what was likely an attempt to remove itself entirely from the situation.
While AeroScope did receive major negative PR in the last year, that had largely died down by mid-2022. DJI even promoted AeroScope last August as the best solution for proposed Remote ID drone tracking regulation put forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Pulling the Plug
But DJI has decided to pull the plug on AeroScope, which Drone DJ notes follows the company’s recent issues with the United States — namely its addition to the economic blacklist and the Department of Defense’s “Chinese military company” blacklist.
Former DJI employee Brendan Schulman says that DJI likely discontinued the service for two reasons: one, it doesn’t make sense to continue supporting a feature that was created to assist U.S. security interests while it is at the same time being constantly attacked by U.S. security agencies and two, the FAA Remote ID is being implemented and it doesn’t include AeroScope like the company hoped it would.
Image credits: DJI