Australian Defence Force (ADF) chiefs offered senators a private briefing over surveillance drones as they were questioned over the suspension of Chinese drones at Wednesday's Senate estimates hearing.
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The ADF implemented a two-week suspension on its use of Da-Jiang Innovations Science and Technology (DJI) drones on 9 August, after the US military began their ban on 2 August citing cyber security concerns.
Major General Marcus Thompson, deputy chief information warfare, told Senate estimates the ADF took action on suspending the drones "virtually immediately" after it became aware of potential issues from Army colleagues in the United States.
“There were some concerns regarding the cyber security characteristics of the device," Major General Thompson told the Senate hearing.
After being questioned by South Australian Senator Alex Gallacher over whether national security had been breached through Australia’s military use of the drone, acting chief of the Australian Defence Force Vice Admiral Ray Griggs stressed: "We are being deliberately vague, Senator" and added "I would suggest a private briefing."
Senator Gallacher's line of questioning related to concerns that due to the cyber security characteristics of the drone, it was possible that someone "commandeered the drone of another nation."
The ADF conducted a risk assessment following the suspension of the drones and has since recommended their use, albeit in non-sensitive, unclassified situations.
It is understood the DJI drone is one of the most popular small camera carry drones worldwide and has a flying time of around 25 minutes and a range of about four to five kilometres. The drones are equipped with high resolution video camera that is capable of broadcasting imagery back to the operator in real time.