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DJI responds to drone attacks: “We have limited ability to control what people do with our products”

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The world’s largest drone manufacturer, DJI, has issued a statement after two of their drones armed with explosives were used in an apparent assassination attempt against Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro last week.

The drones in question appeared to be Matrice 600s; commercial-level UAVs intended for aerial photography and costing around $5000 each. The Venezuelan government claims that each Matrice was packed with a kilo of C4 and were intended to kill Maduro and other important Venezuelan political figures.

A video of the drone exploding from media at the event

DJI spoke with Dezeen magazine and told them that “DJI makes products purely for peaceful purposes.”

“While we build some prudent safety and security features into our products, we have limited ability to control what people do with them.”

They stated that the overwhelming majority of DJI drone operators use their drones peacefully, and they “deplore any use of our products to bring harm to anyone.”

“As with any technology, if people decide to misuse our products in any way, they have to be responsible for their actions,” they said.

Two DJI Matrice 600’s were seemingly used in an attack against President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela last week.

Who was responsible for the drone attacks and why did they fail?

It is, as yet, unclear who exactly was reponsible for the attacks. One group calling themselves ‘Soldiers in T-shirts‘ claimed responsibility on Twitter. Maduro alleged Venezuela’s ultra-right in alliance with Colombia’s ultra-right and their outgoing president, Juan Manuel Santos were behind the assassination attempt. The Venezuelan government has used the attacks as justification for a further crackdown on political opponents and have arrested at least 6 people.

Neither drone ultimately made it to their intended targets. According to Venezuela’s Attorney General, this was because they were deflected from reaching their intended course through protective radio emissions eminating from Venzuelan intelligence personnel (similar to drone killing devices we’ve written about previously). Video footage from multiple angles since the attack suggest that one drone exploded above the soldiers on parade (causing 7 injuries) while the other crashed into the window of an apartment, causing the apartment to catch fire (this was initially reported in some outlets as the result of gas explosion). The website Bellingcat has an excellent rundown of all evidence related to the drone attack including video footage and photos from multiple angles, if you’re interested.

A soldier injured by the exploding drone at the Venezualan National Guard celebration parade in Caracas

Despite some claims in media, it seems unlikely the government would stage an attack against itself. As the Economist noted, “Dictators depend on projecting an image of omnipotence… in the television footage, Mr Maduro looked befuddled; the massed ranks of the National Guard broke discipline and ran off in panic.” In essence, the attacks made Maduro look weak, not strong.  False flag operations have happened throughout history but thus far, this does not appear to be one of them.

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