DJI is a private Chinese company and the world’s top UAV seller, controlling two thirds of the global market. The company specializes in civilian UAVs and aerial imaging technology.
DJI is most known for its ‘Phantom’ – an unmanned mini quadrotor helicopter, which has become popular amongst aerial photographers. DJI’s Phantom drone is the world’s most common civilian drone.
DJI UAVs are used by the Israeli military, police and private Israeli companies for surveillance and crowd control in the occupied East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.
In 2018, Israeli media reported that the Israeli company Ispra developed the Cyclone riot control system to fit on DJI drones. The Cyclone system is a specifically designed system installed on UAVs to unleash tear gas on protesters. On 30 March 2018, identical technology was used by the Israeli military against protesters in Gaza taking part in the Great March of Return marking the 42 anniversary of Land Day.
Photo evidence obtained by the campaigning group, Hamushim, shows that DJI’s Matrice 600 drone was used by the Israeli military to drop tear gas on protesters in Gaza taking part in the Great March of Return activities, stretching between March and June 2018. The system installed on DJI’s UAV unleashing the gas on protesters was manufactured by the Canadian company, Actuonix Motion Devices.
By the end of 2017, every commander in the Israeli military’s Infantry, Border Defence and combat Intelligence Units had a DJI drone at his disposal to use during crackdowns against Palestinians and intelligence gathering operations.
Four out of the five battalions of the Combat Intelligence Units have received the DJI Matrice drone. The Matrice weighs around 2.4 kg and has a battery life that lasts for around 35 minutes, and has an advanced camera that can film in the day and night.
The Israeli army’s five infantry brigades – Givati, Nahal, Paratroopers, Kfir and Golani – as well as the newly formed Border Defense Corps, use DJI’s Mavic drone. The Mavic weighs around 700 grams and has a single battery life of up to 20 minutes at a speed of 65 km/hr and is so small it can fold into a pouch.
In each Unit, the drones are operated by a team of three soldiers who act as controller, spotter and back-up who, along with the Unit’s commanders have undergone weeks of training.
In July and August 2014, Bladeworx – an Israeli company specialized in UAV aerial photography, was contracted by the Jerusalem municipality to provide aerial patrols along the route of the Jerusalem light rail.
For an entire month 24/7, Bladeworx operated a unit of 6 Phantoms above the Palestinian neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina, which transmitted HD video and images to the headquarters of the municipality, the Israeli police and the light rail.
In 2014, DJI’s Phantom quadcopters were used by the Israeli army during the repression of demonstrations in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank.
Company UAVs were also used by the National Media Response Unit of the Israeli police. The Videos produced by the unit are used by the Israeli government for pro-Israeli propaganda (Hasbara).
The Israeli Defence Ministry cannot buy DJI drones directly from the company (as it’s a Chinese company), but through local Israeli distributors. The company’s official representative and distributor in Israel is Hobbiz Ltd. Hobbiz Ltd’s lab employees undergo training by DJI.
In addition, there are three other registered distributors of DJI products in Israel: LOOL TV, Bug Multisystem Ltd., Benda Magnetic.