Tags: China | Trump Administration | interior | drones | dji | national security | threat

Interior OKs Chinese-Made Drones, Despite Security Worries

Customers shop at a store of DJI Technology Co. in Shenzhen city, south China's Guangdong province in June
Customers shop at a store of DJI Technology Co. in Shenzhen city, south China's Guangdong province in June. (Zhu min/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 16 July 2019 10:04 PM

The Interior Department has green-lighted the purchase of drones from a Chinese manufacturer that experts in both government and industry view as a national security threat, Defense One reported.

On July 3, the department OK'd the purchase of two models of drones built by SZ DJI Technology, a Chinese firm that dominates the global drone market. Security experts have warned the company acts as a channel for Chinese government espionage, Defense One reported.

But Interior officials say the agency is taking a number of technical precautions to prevent that, the news outlet reported.

“It’s a very narrow, very specific, very limited authorization,” Mark Bathrick, director of the Office of Aviation Services, told Nextgov. “We’re doing the very best we can to make sure the data we collect is secure.”

DJI is one of the many Chinese firms accused of secretly feeding data on U.S. customers to the Chinese government. Last month, national security experts warned a Senate subpanel that drone manufacturers like DJI collect “an unprecedented level” of intelligence on America’s physical, social and economic infrastructure, Defense One reported.

They compared the threats to those posed by Huawei, the Chinese telecom titan the White House is trying to effectively blacklist from U.S. markets.

Experts estimate roughly 80 percent of the drones in the U.S. are manufactured by Chinese companies, with the vast majority built by DJI, the news outlet reported.

Meanwhile, drones are becoming a critical tool in the department’s efforts to survey federal land, monitor wildlife and respond to natural disasters, and Bathrick told Nexgov his office plans to purchase thousands of new unmanned aircraft in the years ahead.

“We’re looking at drones from all over the world, and we’re applying the same [security] requirements,” he told Nextgov. “For us, this [authorization] is an interim solution. This is just a milestone in our longer journey for secure and scalable solutions.”

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The purchase of drones from a Chinese manufacturer that experts in both government and industry view as a national security threat has nonetheless been approved by the Interior Department, according to Defense One.
interior, drones, dji, national security, threat
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2019-04-16
Tuesday, 16 July 2019 10:04 PM
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