DJI has discontinued the production and sale of the AeroScope drone detection and identification system that has been adopted by airports, government agencies, and private businesses as a tool to keep airspaces around their facilities safe from unauthorized UAV penetration.
DJI made no formal announcement of it halting manufacturing of new AeroScope units, providing the information that it had pulled the plug on the drone detection platform in a pop-up screen on the product page. Options to buy the product are also absent on the site, though it was still available for purchase or rental at some UAV dealers and service providers.
Given the increasing demand for drone detection and identification tech amid the rising numbers of UAVs in the skies, the move by DJI to end its AeroScope activities may seem counterintuitive. But the expanding number of specialized companies providing full-scale alternatives – covering identification, producer and model type, pilot position, and in some cases mitigation capabilities – may have partly motivated the decision.
But so too, quite likely, have recent controversies that have buffeted DJI.
Last year DJI was forced to issue denials of allegations that the company had allowed AeroScope to be manipulated in ways that favored invading Russian troops in conflicts with Ukraine’s forces involving drone deployment. In doing so, the company refuted claims the Russian military had been allowed deeper access to the platform to detect and identify enemy UAVs and similarly rejected accusations that Aeroscope tech used by Ukraine had been remotely manipulated to cease functioning.
Amid the enduring debate around the topic, DJI was eventually obliged to revise earlier claims that identification data from its drones was communicated in encrypted form to confound third-party access and use – something recent research again confirmed was not the case.
The AeroScope flap was part of DJI’s decision in April to halt sales of its drones and related products to both countries.
Read: Could Russian use of AeroScope drive Ukraine pilots from DJI drones?
DJI’s move to stop production of AeroScope also follows its drones being blacklisted by multiple US government agencies on still unsubstantiated allegations the tech presented security threats to users, whose data could purportedly be leaked to authorities in Beijing. The company has repeatedly rejected those charges as well, noting operators themselves decide whether information on the craft can be communicated externally or not.
That DJI has become one of the favorite targets among major China-based tech companies for sanctioning by US politicians in the worsening relationship between Washington and Beijing is not new.
But the risk that additional punitive measures may be taken against it as diplomatic ties sour further may have been partial motivation for DJI’s decision to drop the AeroScope product – which was initially tailored for the US drone market – says Brendan Schulman, former DJI vice president of policy and current vice president of policy and government relations for Boston Dynamics.
“I don’t work there anymore, but probably two reasons,” Schulman tweeted following word DJI had halted AeroScope production “1. It doesn’t make sense to continue supporting a feature that was created to assist US security interests when being constantly attacked by US security agencies. 2. FAA Remote ID is being implemented.”