Yesterday the New York Times reported on an unclassified US government memo that claims DJI is using its drones and apps to spy on US infrastructure for China. We covered it here.
Today a representative of DJI got in touch with us to further debunk the claims from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s memo, stating that they can be easily disproven.
To start, DJI says that unless one of its drone users has chosen to sync flight data via the DJI GO app or sent the aircraft back to DJI, the company would have no flight data to provide. The policy is the same for requests from authorities in China, in the US, in Europe, and anywhere else in the world, the spokesman adds.
DJI also responded to this claim from the ICE memo:
“Since 2015, DJI has targeted a number of U.S. companies in the critical infrastructure and law enforcement sectors to market its UAS. As of July 2017, at least ten large companies and organizations operating in the railroad, utility, media, farming, education, and federal law enforcement sectors have already purchased and begun using DJI UAS. The most frequent uses include mapping land, inspecting infrastructure, conducting surveillance, and monitoring hazardous materials.”
In a statement given to Camera Jabber, DJI states:
DJI does not control where its customers operate their drones. DJI also has no way of accessing the data collected by its customers’ drones unless a customer affirmatively chooses to share information, as described above.
DJI is a commercial enterprise, and the United States is by far its largest market. DJI has no interest in compromising that market by violating U.S. law. DJI does not “target” infrastructure customers. DJI’s primary market is retail consumers—the vast majority are consumer sales (through Best Buy, DJI’s website, Amazon, or the DJI dealer network). Some in the dealer network have shop fronts (brick and mortar), and some sell into enterprise or commercial customers. DJI has one sales team in Los Angeles that manages its dealers in the United States. DJI has four enterprise sales people in United States who attend trade shows and visit potential customers and that is the extent of any enterprise sales channel. There is no established direct enterprise sales channel. DJI understands that Parrot also sells to largely the same customer bases, including specific commercial industries.
Responding to claims that it uses aggressive pricing methods, DJI says:
DJI has not dropped prices by 70% for any product line in the course of one year.
DJI does not sell products at a loss or cheaper in the United States than in China. Pricing information has been and remains publicly available on DJI’s web site. For example, as of September 19, 2017, the Spark sells for $499US and $3,299rmb ($500) in China.
DJI does not price products in the United States or elsewhere below its manufacturing costs; all sales are profitable. Compared to its competitors, DJI does enjoy certain cost advantages based on the location of its manufacturing and volume of its production. DJI’s size allows it to source components at competitive prices (volume discounts), and DJI has further reduced costs through vertical integration. DJI competes fairly in the market based on the quality and value of its products.
DJI’s products are priced fairly close to the prices of comparable products from competitors (e.g., the Parrot Bebop 2 is listed at a similar price as the DJI Spark). Some Parrot drones sell for lower prices than DJI’s drones because they are of lower quality or have more limited features. DJI’s consumer drones (e.g., the Spark, Mavic, and Phantom lines) are generally priced in the range of $500 – $1500. DJI is not aware of any comparable consumer drones that have sold for $3,500.
DJI’s pricing strategy has not caused Parrot or Yuneec to stop production. Only 3DR stopped producing drones. The cited article mentions lower market shares and recent layoffs for Parrot and Yuneec, but says nothing about them stopping production. 3DR has also continued operations as a software service provider. In the meantime, several other manufacturers have started entering the drone space, including GoPro.
DJI’s spokesman also points to DJI’s Local Data Mode, launched earlier this year, which allows users to take their drone offline to prevent it from sharing potentially sensitive information with external servers.