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Small Chinese-made drones banned by defence department

DJI drones have been banned by the defence department following commentary from the US military.

Defence chiefs have offered to provide a background briefing to politicians on their decision to ban the use of small Chinese drones that were being mostly for the department’s public relations work.

Major General Marcus Thompson, the deputy chief of information warfare, has confirmed to a Defence Senate Estimates Committee that a decision had been made to suspend the DJI camera drones after “commentary” from the United States military.

The Australian revealed the ban in September which had been triggered by US Army memo that raised concerns about systems that use DJI components or software.

General Thompson said the time between receiving the alert and the ban had been “virtually immediate”.

In response to questions from Committee Chair Senator Alex Gallacher about the reasoning behind the decision, General Thompson said: “ there were some concerns regarding the cyber security characteristics of the device.

Senator Gallacher then stated “if you go back far enough someone commandeered the drone of another nation.”

General Thompson did not comment on Gallacher’s statement.

Acting Defence Chief Vice Admiral Griggs said: “ I would suggest a private briefing.”

Committee members were told that Defence had made a public statement at the time the ban became public and Defence was happy to provide this to the committee.

The drones had not been used widely but mostly for public affairs, the committee was told. The section has been known to use the drone to provide spectacular aerial imagery of military exercises.

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

The devices are one of the most popular small camera carry drones in the world and boast a flying time of about 25 minutes and a range of about four to five kilometres.

They are equipped with high resolution video camera that is capable of broadcasting imagery back to the operator in real time.

Islamic State in the Middle East has gained a reputation for adapting the drones to carry grenades and bombs or act as aerial surveillance.

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