Chinese drone maker DJI has just announced the suspension of operations in Russia and Ukraine. According to Su Ziyun, director of the National Defense Resources and Industry Research Institute, the movement shows that DJI has lowered itself before the U.S. due to fear of potential sanctions.
He told Voice of America on May 4 that Western countries and NATO will assist Ukraine in monitoring the Russian military’s use of DJI drones. If DJI is caught supporting Russia, the U.S. will initiate so-called secondary sanctions against this Chinese company.
The defense expert analyzed that sanctions might come in two aspects. First, the U.S. may prohibit DJI from entering the civilian market. However, the most important thing is that U.S. companies possess DJI’s key flight control software. So the second sanction could be that these companies won’t provide DJI with needed services. As a result, DJI won’t have new products in the future, and therefore, it’ll become another Huawei.
The expert said if that happens, DJI’s survival will be put on the line if that happens. He also added that Mathworks had developed the world’s most advanced flight control software. In fact, it’s not DJI’s drone hardware that’s causing problems, but rather its built-in flight control software.
After the Ukraine war broke out, most Chinese companies have not withdrawn from the Russian market because of Beijing’s ambiguous stance.
Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior researcher at the Peterson Institute, told South China Morning Post on May 2 that DJI has set a precedent. After that, more Chinese companies might withdraw from both markets to maintain neutrality.
In March, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister sent an open letter to DJI CEO Frank Wang, urging him to cease doing business with Russia and saying that the Russian army was using DJI devices to direct missiles.