“We take the security of our staff and assets very seriously and have robust measures in place which are regularly reviewed,” a spokesperson said. The ministry had suspended purchases of DJI drones at one point, but did not ban them.
The Department of Defense had previously used DJI drones, but the purchase would be the first made public since US authorities blacklisted the company in 2020.
DJI says it does not market or sell its products for military use, and its distributors and resellers have pledged to follow the policy.
In April, it suspended sales to Ukraine and Russia after Ukraine’s deputy prime minister accused the company of helping Russia attack its neighbor.
The suspension was the first of its kind by a major Chinese company. Ukrainian officials had claimed that DJI drones broadcast data on the whereabouts of their operators so that they could be more easily tracked down by Russian soldiers.
The drones broadcast a special signal that allows security services to identify the location of the drone and its pilot, a system put in place to deter dishonest users from disrupting airports and other sensitive sites. Ukraine had claimed that Russia had obtained special equipment allowing it to locate the position of the pilots.
The US Department of Defense said last year that DJI drones “pose potential threats to national security” and remain banned by the department.
In 2020, the US Department of Commerce said the company was among those enabling “large-scale human rights abuses in China through abusive DNA collection and analysis or ‘high-tech surveillance’.
Companies such as telecommunications company Huawei and camera maker Hikvision have been placed on the entity list. Cutting companies off from American technologies such as advanced semiconductors and software is often a blow to their development.
Britain has often refused to mirror US restrictions on Chinese businesses despite concerns from human rights groups. It has decided to remove Huawei from its telecommunications networks in 2020 and many departments in Whitehall use Hikvision cameras.
DJI said the U.S. restrictions imposed on the company “have little to do with safety and are instead part of a politically motivated program to reduce competition in the marketplace and support the technology of drones produced in the country”.
The company has previously been accused of deploying software that allows its drones to send data about their flight paths back to company-controlled servers in China.
Cybersecurity researchers who examined a DJI drone control app in the late 2010s said they found features to send data to Chinese servers, though DJI said drone users could opt out. of data collection.
Later measures to appease the US government included the creation of a “local data mode” that prevented any data sharing by DJI drones over the internet.
UK police forces and other emergency services use DJI drones as a cheaper alternative to helicopters, with police in Devon and Cornwall operating 35 of the remote-controlled vehicles.
The force has thermal imaging cameras mounted on some of its drones allowing police to track down suspects at night. Drones have been used for police protests and have been used during coronavirus lockdowns to monitor rural areas.
DJI is based in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. The company did not respond to a request for comment.