This February 2017 photo provided by DJI Technology Inc. shows a test of a type of drone in downtown Denver, that the New York Police Department can use to reduce risk to officers and bystanders during a response to dangerous situations. The department said Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, that potential uses for its 14 drones include search and rescue, hard-to-reach crime scenes, hostage situations, and hazardous material incidents. (DJI Technology Inc. via AP)

INTERNATIONAL – DJI has unearthed cases of fraud involving its own employees that may trigger losses of about 1 billion yuan (R2.80bn) for the world’s largest drone maker, marking one of the largest recent cases of graft among China’s technology giants.

SZ DJI Technology, which discovered the corruption in an internal probe, said it’s fired multiple workers who inflated parts costs for personal gain and contacted law enforcement. 

The drone maker is still looking into the situation, which is “extensive” and involves a major sum, it said in a statement. The company didn’t say how many employees were involved in the instances of graft.

DJI, which employs 14,000 people around the globe, is the runaway leader in consumer drones with almost three-quarters of the market. 

The case exposes a lapse in internal controls at one of the country’s best-known consumer technology giants, a symbol of the rising global reach of a clutch of fast-growing corporations based in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen. Hong Yongxin, a company spokeswoman, confirmed the loss amount separately.

“We are taking steps to strengthen internal controls and have established new channels for employees to submit confidential and anonymous reports relating to any violations of the company’s workplace conduct policies,” the company said in a messaged statement. “We continue to investigate the situation and are cooperating fully with law enforcement’s investigation.”

DJI in recent years has also begun tackling a still fairly wide-open enterprise arena. It’s developed unmanned aerial vehicles for agriculture and surveying as dozens of competitors around the world flood the market with cheap drones, from $10 toys to sub-$100 camera-carriers. Its $1,999 Mavic 2 is aimed squarely at an enterprise segment that accounts for more than half of a $9 billion market.

Among other things, the company’s put out a development kit that lets software developers write applications for specific tasks, similar to the way Apple caters for its iPhones. 

In October, the company announced deals for the Mavic 2, which will soon survey power grids for Southern, while American Airlines Group will test the craft for plane inspections.