US military bases get nod to shoot down private drones

A drone in SZ DJI Technology's headquarters in Shenzhen, China. The US Army has ordered its members to stop using drones from this Chinese manufacturer because of cyber vulnerabilities.
A drone in SZ DJI Technology's headquarters in Shenzhen, China. The US Army has ordered its members to stop using drones from this Chinese manufacturer because of cyber vulnerabilities.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • The Pentagon has given more than 130 military bases across the US the green light to shoot down private and commercial drones that could endanger aviation safety or pose other threats.

The number of uncrewed aircraft in US skies has zoomed up in recent years and continues to increase rapidly - along with concern among US and private-sector officials that dangerous or even hostile drones could get too close to places such as military bases, airports and sports stadiums. The move came after the US Army ordered its members to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer SZ DJI Technology because of "cyber vulnerabilities" in the products.

While the specific actions that the US military can take against drones are classified, they include destroying or seizing private and commercial drones that pose a threat, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday.

The classified guidelines were distributed early last month, and the Pentagon sent out unclassified guidance on how to communicate the policy to communities last Friday.

"The increase of commercial and private drones in the United States has raised our concerns with regard to the safety and security of our installations, aviation safety and the safety of people," Captain Davis said.

In April, flights of nearly all drones over 133 US military facilities were banned due to security concerns.

Drones have become popular as toys and with hobbyists, and have commercial uses such as aerial photography.

Separately, the US Army has halted the use of Chinese-made DJI drones, according to a memo on Aug 2 that was posted online and verified by Reuters.

The memo stated that service members were required to "cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media and secure equipment for follow- on direction".

It added that DJI drones are the most widely used by the army among off-the-shelf equipment of that type.

DJI said in a statement that it was "surprised and disappointed" at the army's "unprompted restriction on DJI drones", adding that it was willing to work with the Pentagon to address the concerns.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'US military bases get nod to shoot down private drones'. Print Edition | Subscribe