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Chinese drone maker DJI has suspended sales in both Ukraine and Russia, where its consumer tech was deployed in war

April 27, 2022, 7:02 AM UTC

Chinese drone maker DJI announced it is halting sales in Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday, following reports that both sides in the conflict are utilizing the Shenzhen-based company’s consumer drones in military operations.

“DJI has taken this action not to make a statement about any country, but to make a statement about our principles. DJI abhors any use of our drones to cause harm, and we are temporarily suspending sales in these countries in order to help ensure no one uses our drones in combat,” said Adam Lisberg, a spokesperson for DJI, in a statement provided to Fortune.

Drones have become a vital piece of weapons technology in the ongoing war in Ukraine. Ukraine has relied on the cheap Turkish Bayraktar UAV drone to take out Russian tanks and launch systems, and last week the U.S. announced it would send 121 newly designed Phoenix Ghost drones—a so-called switchblade drone designed to detonate on impact—to Ukraine as part of a new military assistance package.

While military-grade drones are outfitting both Ukrainian and Russian militaries with heavy fire capabilities, simple civilian drones like those manufactured by DJI have also provided the warring sides with tactical advantages.

According to the Associated Press, Ukrainian drone users have been deploying DJI drones to track and monitor Russian convoys, while images and videos shared on social media show Russian forces using DJI products to provide surveillance and visual coverage during combat operations. Ukraine has also accused DJI of inadvertently leaking the location of Ukrainian drone pilots to the Russian military.

In March, Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said Russian forces were using DJI’s AeroScope system—which can notify third parties about the location of both a drone and its pilot—to pinpoint the location of Ukrainian drone operators, targeting them for retaliatory strikes. 

Fedorov said Russia’s military was using DJI products to “navigate their missile[s] to kill civilians.” In an interview with Chinese news site Guancha, DJI called Fedorov’s allegation “complete nonsense.” But the company did offer to ground all DJI drones in Ukraine, by deploying geofencing around the country.

Regardless, allegations against DJI began to harm the company’s sales in other markets. On March 25, MediaMarkt, Europe’s largest electronics retailer, pulled DJI products from its shelves, calling the move “a clear signal for the values that have the highest priority for us and which we see being attacked in an unacceptable way by Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine.”

In a statement released last Thursday, DJI reiterated that its drones were only designed for civilian purposes and said it “absolutely deplore[s] any use of our products to cause harm.”

DJI’s decision makes it the first Chinese company to publicly pull out of Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, although other companies, like state-owned petroleum giant Sinopec, have reportedly scaled back investment in Russia. Chinese taxi-on-demand service Didi also attempted to pull out of Russia early in the war, but then backpedaled its exit seemingly under the demand of Beijing, which has yet to recognize Russia’s action as an “invasion.”

Update, April 27, 2022: This article has been updated with a comment from DJI.

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