Most companies welcome public praise, but not when it comes from a high-ranking Russian general who calls your products “a true symbol of modern warfare.” That’s the situation faced by Chinese drone-making giant DJI, which has responded by reaffirming that its drones are intended for civilian use only.
The South China Morning Post reports that Army General Yuri Baluyevsky, the former Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, has been heaping praise on DJI’s drones in his new book, writing that they have brought “a real revolution” to traditional artillery weapons thanks to their enhanced accuracy and efficiency compared to precision-guided missiles.
Last Friday, the Russian embassy in China used social media platform Weibo to post about a report on the book from state media outlet Sputnik. The post included a quote from Baluyevsky that read, “The Mavic quadcopter drone made by China’s DJI has become a true symbol of modern warfare.”
The Russian embassy quickly took down the post, but not before it was lambasted by Chinese internet users who complained it could have repercussions for the already US-sanctioned DJI. “What do you want by saying this? Western countries to block DJI? Or more sanctions on China?” one post read.
DJI was added to the US government’s investment blacklist in December last year over claims it was involved in the surveillance of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. The sanctions have contributed to DJI’s share of the drone market dropping from a high of 74% to 54% in 2021, though it remains the number one consumer drone maker.
DJI condemned the post with a statement on Weibo. “All DJI products are designed for civilian purposes and cannot meet the requirements of military specifications,” the company wrote. “We do not support applications for military purposes.”
This isn’t new territory for DJI. It suspended sales in Russia in April following numerous reports of the country’s troops using its drones to navigate missiles in Ukraine. DJI at the time said the move was not a statement about any country “but a statement about our principles.”
In March, Ukrainian vice president Mykhailo Fedorov sent a letter pleading with DJI CEO and founder Frank Wang to stop selling products to Russia. Fedorov said the Russian army was using an extended version of the DJI AeroScope drone detection program and that DJI products were being used to kill civilians.