The Trouble(s) with DJI’s Aeroscope

DJI is the world’s largest manufacturer of civilian drones and its products can be found in a wide variety of recreational and commercial settings. Given the ubiquity of DJI drones, their ease of use and affordability, many governments and police entities around the world now employ them in their day-to-day operations.

In October 2017, following a series of drone-related incidents, the Chinese drone giant released a drone detection and tracking system called Aeroscope designed to allow security administrators to spot errant or hostile DJI UAS in their airspace. Aeroscope has been adopted at a few major airports and is seen by some as an answer to a growing drone threat to air traffic. But, Aeroscope comes with some serious issues of its own.

Risky Investment?

Tensions have been rising between the United States and DJI’s home country of China and US officials have become increasingly fearful of Chinese-made devices potentially spying on American communications and critical infrastructure and transferring information back to China. 

In May 2019, President Trump signed an executive order allowing the US government to ban the importation or use at sensitive sites of flagged Chinese tech, declaring a “national emergency” over alleged attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in American IT and communication systems for spying purposes. Huawei’s 5G project has already been targeted for suppression by the US government and various US allies dropped the technology under American pressure. Could DJI and its products, including Aeroscope, be next?

The future looks ominous. Although the executive order singled no specific country or company out for punishment, it was widely interpreted as a swipe at China. Furthermore, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the US Department of Homeland Security issued an alert on May 2019 that Chinese-made drones may pose a “potential risk to an organization’s information.” The alert continued, 

The United States government has strong concerns about any technology product that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian state that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access…Those concerns apply with equal force to certain Chinese-made (unmanned aircraft systems)-connected devices capable of collecting and transferring potentially revealing data about their operations and the individuals and entities operating them, as China imposes unusually stringent obligations on its citizens to support national intelligence activities.”

Once again, no particular company was singled-out, but given that DJI drones account for around 80% of the US and Canada civilian drone market and that it maintains its headquarters and servers in Shenzhen, China,  DJI is the most likely target. DJI has vigorously denied any involvement in espionage and taken steps to relocate some of its operations to North America, but among US officials a heavy cloud of suspicion hangs over the company.

If the Department of Homeland Security or President Trump decides to crack down on DJI technology, use of Aeroscope, particularly at sensitive sites in American territory such as airports, seaports or military infrastructure may become impossible. And the threat isn’t limited only to the United States. As illustrated by the case of Huawei, the American government has been known to put heavy pressure on its allies to divest themselves of technology it considers dangerous, meaning security administrators in Europe, the Americas, and Australia may be forced to throw out Aeroscope and other DJI products if they want to continue doing business with the US.

Although the threat of an American crackdown should weigh heavily on the mind of anyone thinking of integrating Aeroscope into their airspace security set up, Aeroscope presents a couple of other serious limitations that merit consideration.

CerbAir is proud to be the French leader in counter-drone solutions with proprietary technology developed in-house, within the European Union. That means there are no potential backdoors or diplomatic snags that could put your sensitive airspace, or your investment at risk.

The Other 20%

DJI drones account for about 80% of the civilian drones on the market today and its Aeroscope system is capable of picking up the vast majority of them. But what about the other 20%? In the case of a dedicated criminal or terrorist group, the solution is as simple as purchasing a non-DJI drone (of which there are dozens of models and companies to choose from) to slip through a security system and reach their target. Some adversaries, like the Syrian rebels who attacked a Russian airbase in early 2018, even build their own drones from scratch – making impossible for Aeroscope to catch.

At CerbAir, our drone detection solution detects the overwhelming majority of civilian drones on the market today (DJI and non-DJI alike), and our direction-finding feature allows a security administrator to locate the rogue drone pilot on top of his UAV. Police or security personnel can be immediately directed to the area and apprehend the offending pilot, eliminating the drone threat at its root and reducing the chances of repeated incidents. Gatwick’s nearly 3-day closure cost the airport authority and airlines nearly £17 million in lost revenue. Imagine the savings if the drone operator could have been taken out within the very first hour of the incident.

Is it worth the risk?

DJI and Aeroscope are household names and many people are attracted to the simplicity of adopting an Aeroscope anti-drone solution without really doing much research on the pros and cons. But, buyer beware. While Aeroscope is a fine product, the risks of a US crackdown on DJI and the limitations and vulnerabilities built into Aeroscope’s fabric might make it more trouble than you’ve bargained for. 

When looking for an anti-drone solution, ease of installation and use, as well as cost should all figure into your calculations. But a few other key features to consider include a CUAS solution that is:

  • Unlikely to get caught up in diplomatic struggles between superpowers,
  • Does not suffer from potential espionage and hacking risks (prefer in-house developed technology),
  • Detects nearly all drones on the market, not just one brand,

About CerbAir

CerbAir is a European leader in CUAS (anti-drone) detection and neutralization solutions. CerbAir’s DroneWatch is a combination of scalable, drone detection with our Hydra radio frequency sensor and our software powered by proprietary algorithms. Our anti-drone solutions allow security administrators to detect, characterize and neutralize* hostile drones and locate their pilots from the moment the drone remote control is switched on.

*The purchase or usage of jamming technologies only applies to public order, national defense or national security needs, or public law enforcement in accordance with local regulations.

Press Release: AirMap and CerbAir integrate UTM & CUAS

Press Release: AirMap and CerbAir collaborate to integrate UTM and Counter-UAS technologies for a comprehensive low-altitude airspace safety and security solution

Paris, 21 June 2019 – Paris Air Show – CerbAir, a leading European manufacturer of Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS) solutions, and AirMap, the leading global airspace intelligence platform for drones, today announced their collaboration to provide integrated, comprehensive solutions for low-altitude airspace safety and security.

Following the worldwide growth in the use of UAS, or drones, there has been a significant increase in drone-related incursions reported at airports, sensitive sites and events. With today’s announcement, CerbAir and AirMap are responding to the urgent need to combine efficient UAS traffic management with reliable protection from rogue or accidental drone intrusions.

As an integrated system, the technology and services of CerbAir and AirMap produce a comprehensive suite of UAS management and detection solutions. AirMap’s UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Platform enables public authorities and airspace managers to deliver safety-critical services such as registration, airspace information, authorizations, and traffic management to UAS operators in low altitude airspace. CerbAir’s DroneWatch technology assures detection and characterization of unregistered drones, and its Direction Finding, Azimuth, and optional Electronic Countermeasure functions enable authorities to identify and immediately address unauthorized UAS and their pilots.

“UAS technology will only reach its full potential if low-altitude airspace is safe, secure, and managed. Unlocking the full economic and societal benefits that drones can provide requires management of registered and authorized drone operations as well as detection of unregistered or bad actors. Combining AirMap’s UTM technology and services with CerbAir’s C-UAS solutions is a natural fit,” said AirMap EVP of Global Business Development Larry Berkin.

“Recent UAS-related disturbances at major airports and intrusions over critical infrastructures or events, are vivid proof of the necessity of uniting C-UAS solutions with UAS traffic management. The combination of AirMap’s UTM and CerbAir’s DroneWatch systems is a much-needed advance in the field of airspace security,” said CerbAir CEO and Co-founder Lucas LeBell.

About AirMap: AirMap is the world’s leading airspace intelligence platform for UAS, otherwise known as drones. Industry developers, drone operators, and airspace managers rely on AirMap’s airspace intelligence and services to fly safely and communicate in low-altitude airspace. AirMap unlocks safe, efficient, and scalable operations by connecting the world’s drones to airspace authorities through an open platform of APIs and SDKs, with integrations by top drone manufacturers and solution providers including 3DR, DJI, DroneDeploy, Matternet, and senseFly. Deployed in the Czech Republic, Japan, Switzerland, the United States, and available in over 25 countries, AirMap leads the industry in delivering technology solutions for UAS Traffic Management (UTM) and U-space to enable safe and responsible drone operations at scale. To learn more about AirMap, visit: www.airmap.com

About CerbAir: CerbAir is the French leader in CUAS (anti-drone) detection and neutralization solutions. CerbAir’s DroneWatch is a combination of scalable, drone detection hardware and of software powered by proprietary algorithms which allow security administrators to detect, characterize and neutralize rogue drones and locate their pilots from the moment the drone remote control is switched on. CerbAir’s technology has assured airspace security and assisted in rogue pilot apprehension at a number of high-profile events including major music festivals in Europe and North America, and over critical infrastructure such as airports, administrative structures and correctional facilities in countries around the globe. CerbAir has earned the trust of major corporate and institutional players like various Ministries of Defense and Ministries of Interior and recently collaborated with the elite French police unit RAID during the 2019 D-Day Commemorations held in Normandy, France. To learn more about CerbAir, visit our homepage: www.cerbair.com

 

Press Contact

Thomas Gueudet

Chief Commercial Officer / Security Expert

Thomas.gueudet@cerbair.com

+33 6 61 56 91 82