Drone-maker DJI rubbishes reports of mass layoffs, says it is busy meeting demand amid pandemic

Celia Chen

Shenzhen-based DJI, the world's biggest drone maker, denied online speculation that it planned to lay off 50 per cent of its employees, saying it is very busy with a number of new projects as countries around the world battle the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“DJI is busy with new projects and will bring huge surprises to global consumers soon,” said DJI spokesman Xie Tiandi in a statement on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo on Thursday. “We don’t have time to deal with absurd and false speculation.”

Rumours about DJI firing staff had circulated online and were picked up by several local media.

The global economy is being hit by the knock-on effects of the coronavirus, which has kept many people at home, disrupted global supply chains and depressed offline consumption. China’s tech industry was already under pressure due to the US-China tech war before the coronavirus outbreak began.

However, amid the health crisis, drones have been used by authorities to enter badly affected areas and automatically spray disinfectant, reducing the risks for emergency personnel.

Spain’s military uses DJI agricultural drones in fight against Covid-19

DJI posted a recruitment ad on its website last month, looking for researchers, designers, product managers as well as data analysts. DJI’s Xie said fighting the pandemic remains a priority and DJI is providing drone technical support for countries and regions across five continents.

Previously, DJI had been caught in the crossfire of deteriorating relations between the US and China, with the US raising questions about data security. DJI’s drones – which account for 75 per cent of the global market – have been banned by the US military since 2017 and the US Interior Department recently grounded its fleet of about 800 Chinese-made drones for all but emergency purposes.

In Spain, one of the countries most badly hit by the coronavirus outbreak, the military has deployed agricultural drones – including a model made by DJI – to spray disinfectant. DJI drones have also been used to combat the virus in Chile, Indonesia, the Philippines, Colombia and the United Arab Emirates.

DJI’s China rival XAG, was also identified in a university research study recently as one of the most suitable drone suppliers to carry out community disinfection operations in the UK.

Additional reporting by Che Pan.

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