U.S. Interior Department Restricts Use of Chinese-Made Drones

The Department issued a grounding of around 800 drones for security concerns.
Fabienne Lang

A fleet of around 800 Chinese-made drones has been grounded in the U.S. 

The U.S. Interior Department issued an order on Wednesday for a temporary grounding of all non-emergency or training drones out of fear that they could be used for spying.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt issued the statement, explaining that he hoped this may also urge national drone-makers to pick up the slack and create more locally-made drones. 


Spying fears justified?

Bernhardt issued the recent order affirming the temporary cessation of non-emergency operations from October last year. The hope is that it ensures "cybersecurity, technology, and domestic production concerns are adequately addressed."

The order does permit approved emergency situations to still utilize these drones, such as in the event of fighting wildfires, search and rescue missions, and dealing with natural disasters that could impact life or property. Training operations also still permit limited drone usage. 

The effects of this halt

The world's largest consumer drone maker, DJI Technology from China, said in a statement on Wednesday that it is "extremely disappointed” in the Interior Department's order that "inappropriately treats a technology’s country of origin as a litmus test for its performance, security, and reliability."

DJI added that the concerns have "little to do with security and are instead part of a politically-motivated agenda to reduce market competition and support domestically produced drone technology, regardless of its merits."

Moreover, the Interior Department's efforts could also be hindered by this decision.

In the U.S., drones are used to collect data and inspect matters of endangered species and soil erosion. Conventional methods will have to be used, making the progress slower and more labor-intensive. Furthermore, this could place people at higher risks and inflate the costs of these tasks.

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