“Fear-Driven Policy:” US Lawmakers Seek To Ban DJI Drones From Government Use
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the American Security Drone Act of 2019, would ban federal agencies from purchasing Chinese-manufactured drones due to cybersecurity concerns, reported The Wall Street Journal.
The legislation, led by Sen. Rick Scott (R., Fla.), would limit state and local police forces and other government agencies from using federal funds to buy Chinese drones. It also states that federal agencies would have 180 days to dispose of all Chinese drone and come up with new solutions.
The bill comes as nationalism and protectionism are running wild across the country, government officials and corporations are trying to cut their reliance on Chinese products, especially drones that could put high-value assets at risk. Many officials and top corporate management teams are worried that these drones are sending sensitive images and videos back to the China government and or state-sponsored hackers.
“Relying on drones made by our adversaries is a clear risk to our national security,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), another sponsor, said in a statement. He added that Chinese manufacturers have “stolen sensitive drone technology from America’s businesses and military for years and now sells it back to us.”
Sen. Scott, and other co-sponsors, which include Sens. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), appear to be explicitly targeting DJI, the world’s largest maker of consumer drones based in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.
In a statement reacting to Scott’s bill, DJI officials said: “banning or restricting the use of drone technology based on where it is made is a fear-driven policy not grounded in facts or reality.”
The bill would paralyze local police departments, prevent them from combating crime. It would also ground over 600 DJI drones used by the Interior Department to inspect critical infrastructure.
Mark Bathrick, director of the Interior Department’s Office of Aviation Services, told The Journal that the use of Chinese drones saved taxpayers $14 million in 2018.
“Our drone program would be shut down,” he said in response to the bill.
About 520 state and local police, sheriff, fire and emergency services agencies in the U.S. are currently using DJI products because of its cutting edge technology, far superior to any U.S. firm that is a maker of consumer drones.
The bill doesn’t cover the armed forces, but the Pentagon banned DJI last year.
However, the Navy still bought $190,000 worth of DJI drones, and the Air Force spent nearly $50,000 on them not too long ago. Both services used special exemptions granted by the Pentagon’s acquisition and sustainment office “on a case by case basis, to support urgent needs,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews told VOA.
And it seems that DJI is getting the Huawei treatment, where the government is conveniently identifying any Chinese company it doesn’t like a national security risk.
Mon, 09/23/2019 – 19:25
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