Australia okays use of China drones in non-classifed operations

FILE PHOTO: Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne speaks during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, Britain September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Ansell/Pool

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian government has resumed the use of Chinese-built drones in non-classifed situations, the country’s defense minister said on Thursday.

Australia’s defense forces had put on hold its deployment of China-made drones while it reviewed cybersecurity, following in the steps of the United States, Defence Minister Marise Payne said on the sidelines of an event in Washington.

The U.S. Army said in August it had ordered its members to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd because of “cyber vulnerabilities” in the products.

“Following the decision of the U.S. Army, we reviewed our own use of those particular articles and paused our use of them for a while,” she said.

“Following that review, we were comfortable with resuming their use in an unclassified situation.”

The Australian newspaper reported that the Australia Defence Force had 40 DJI drones which were used in military exercises, though the exact role played by the drones was not specified. DJI is a market leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore