In March, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, wrote a letter to DJI Global, a Chinese drone manufacturer, asking the company to cease operations in Ukraine.
“In 21 days of the war, Russian troops [have] already killed 100 Ukrainian children. they are using DJI products in order to navigate their missile[s],” the Ukrainian official said. “Are you sure you want to be a partner in these murders? Block your products that are helping Russia to kill the Ukrainians!”
At the time, DJI responded by stating that its drones are only meant for civilian use, adding that the DJI drones’ aerospace systems could not be turned off.
“DJI has not changed the functionality of our Aeroscope system in any way in Ukraine, and many Ukrainian AeroScope units are still functioning,” the March statement from DJI added. “DJI’s sales and service in Ukraine have been consistent and unchanged.”
Now, DJI has announced that it is halting sales of its products in both Russia and Ukraine. Per Reuters, DJI is the first Chinese company to halt sales in Russia as a result of the war.
In a statement, DJI said that the move was made “not to make a statement about any country, but to make a statement about our principles.”
"DJI abhors any use of our drones to cause harm, and we are temporarily suspending sales in these countries in order to help ensure no-one uses our drones in combat,” the company said.
DJI posted a different statement on its own newsroom page.
“DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions,” that statement said. “Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine. We are engaging with customers, partners and other stakeholders regarding the temporary suspension of business operations in the affected territories.”
DJI separately confirmed to the Verge that it was dropping sales in those countries. The Verge added that “both countries are using DJI drones for reconnaissance, and we’ve seen reports of Ukraine turning some of them into makeshift weapons.”
An article published this week in Foreign Policy took another look at how drones are being used in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Citing U.S. officials, Foreign Policy described drones as “a dominant—if not the dominant—feature of the conflict.”
“While the use of heavy combat-capable drones has tapered off, the Chinese-made DJI Mavic drone and its Polish and Turkish counterpart surveillance drones have become almost ubiquitous in footage from the Ukrainian battlefield, experts said, giving both sides a much clearer snapshot of the war and improving targeting to a point where neither side can make headway,” the report said.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.