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Paterson pushes to ground over 3,000 Chinese drones across government

The Australian government owns over 3,000 Chinese-made drones that utilise technology linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), flagging them as a security risk, according to a government-wide audit.

user icon Daniel Croft
Wed, 05 Jul 2023
Paterson pushes to ground over 3,000 Chinese drones across government
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The audit, which was launched by shadow cyber security minister James Paterson, found that the government owned a total of 3,114 devices created by Chinese manufacturer DJI, mostly including cameras and drones, but also batteries and gimbals.

Paterson said he “launched [the] government-wide audit in March through Senate questions on notice which has revealed yet another alarming exposure to high-risk authoritarian technology, following earlier audits of TikTok application use and Hikvision and Dahua cameras.”

DJI products of this kind have been blacklisted in the US due to their use of technology linked to the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the CCP.


“DJI is also deemed to be complicit in human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang,” said Paterson in a media statement issued on Wednesday (5 July).

It was found that 38 government departments and agencies used DJI devices, with Climate Change and Energy having 82 devices, Foreign Affairs and Trade owning 15 devices, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet with six devices.

Following the discovery, Paterson has made a number of government recommendations, including a “government-wide grounding of all DJI drone fleets”, following in the footsteps of the Australian Federal Police, Australian Defence Force, and Australian Border Force.

Prior to this, Paterson said in May that the disabling of at-risk Chinese devices should extend to critical infrastructure operators

Both the departments of Home Affairs and Defence have suspended their use of DJI drones as a result of Paterson’s earlier findings, and the federal government previously agreed to remove all Chinese-made security cameras from government buildings across the country due to the security issues they presented.

As he has with prior audits and findings, Paterson has been critical of the Albanese government’s crackdown on at-risk Chinese devices.

In his latest media release, Paterson said that the Labor government “needs to move beyond its whack-a-mole approach, where it is reliant on an opposition Senator to sound the alarm on cyber security risks, towards a more systemic, robust and proactive model.”

Paterson continued, saying he asked earlier this month for the Albanese government to create an office that assesses security threats from “high-risk technology”, which would be built into the Department of Home Affairs.

“This office should map and remove problematic technology already embedded in government systems, while also assessing emerging technologies before they are deployed to ensure appropriate mitigations are in place.”

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Born in the heart of Western Sydney, Daniel Croft is a passionate journalist with an understanding for and experience writing in the technology space. Having studied at Macquarie University, he joined Momentum Media in 2022, writing across a number of publications including Australian Aviation, Cyber Security Connect and Defence Connect. Outside of writing, Daniel has a keen interest in music, and spends his time playing in bands around Sydney.

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