DJI drones still flowing to Russia despite April suspension of sales [Report]

Ukraine Russia drone

Despite DJI’s decision last April to halt importation to and sales of its products in Russia and Ukraine as a means of undermining their use in the war between the two countries, news reports now reveal the company’s drones continue surreptitiously flowing to Russian armed forces with the help of collaborators in China, the Middle East, and Europe.

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal found that DJI drones have been streaming to Russia’s military command in Moscow, then supplied to ground forces pursuing their invasion of Ukraine. Repurposing of its UAVs and related products as tools of war was exactly what the company sought to choke off when it decided to suspend sales in both countries last April. But since that time, individual and state backers of Kyiv have raised funds, procured drones – particularly those from DJI – through resellers, and delivered those to officials in Ukraine, often with much fanfare. 

Findings in the Journal’s investigation indicate a similar activity has been afoot to supply Russia with DJI drones, albeit in a decidedly stealthier manner.

Read: Ukraine’s $540 million drone budget highlights UAVs’ critical role in defense efforts 

Using Russian customs records it obtained through third-party monitoring organizations, the Journal says it determined drones made by DJI have been bought in various parts of the world, then imported with the help of contacts in the United Arab Emirates and Europe. 

In addition to that under-the-table distribution cofounding DJI’s move to cease sales to the two warring neighbors and keep its craft from being used in the conflict, it also defies international sanctions imposed on Moscow after it launched its invasion.

DJI officials are quoted in the report reiterating the company’s opposition to the drones it produces for peaceful personal and enterprise use being used to wage war by Russia, Ukraine, or anyone else. They also noted that though it suspended import and sales of its products in both countries last April, the company cannot control what people around the globe do once they purchase its UAVs from myriad retailers – a fact backers of Kyiv have celebrated with each additional delivery of donated craft.

ReadRussia’s Ukraine drone shortage darkens Moscow’s war prospects 

In addition to DJI drones destined for Russia being bought from resellers in China and shipped on from there, the Journal reports numbers of the craft have also been purchased and exported to Moscow from the United Arab Emirates. According to a Russian gun dealer contacted during the investigation, UAVs have been bought in the Gulf for around $6,800 apiece – far higher than normal market prices.

The paper says officials in the Netherlands have arrested an individual charged with supplying Russia with around $270,000 of equipment prohibited under the international sanctions, “including DJI drone parts.”

DJI drones are not the only non-military drones from China still being deployed by Russia’s army as it mounts a new offensive in Ukraine.

ReadUkraine seeks 1,000 ‘FPV kamikaze drones’ in new funding drive 

Last week the Ukraine Weapons Tracker group tweeted images of a crashed Russia-deployed drone that has been identified as a Mugin-4. The craft, produced by China’s Mugin UAV company, was outfitted with what the tweet described as an “OF-62 76mm HE-FRAG projectile, normally fired from AK-176/AK-726 naval guns, seen fitted with a AM-A B/V aerial PD fuze.”

Like DJI, Mugin has denounced the use of its drones by both sides in the war, and no longer permits direct sales or distribution to Russia and Ukraine.

Subscribe to DroneDJ on YouTube for exclusive videos

Load more...
Show More Comments