The Trump administration had prepared an order to be initiated that bans every foreign-made drones from being used in the federal departments, research organization, or any government body. The reason cited behind this major decision has been termed as a national security risk.
According to TechCrunch, the draft order was made a few weeks ago, and it clearly states that no drone with foreign-made origins or having any of its parts being made in foreign will not be used for government purposes. It is because the Trump administration fears that sensitive data that may have been recorded while its use will be released or leaked to the conflicting nation-states. The draft has pointed towards China as one of the major adversary nations in question, as China is a hub for drone making, and are known to supply drones for both Government and non-governmental use.
The draft also says that this policy has been to encourage the use of locally and domestically-built drones in the country. If the draft is passed, the Federal agencies, research organizations, etc. will have only a month to comply and get rid of all foreign-made drones. But the draft also mentions that bodies like the military and other Intelligence Community will be granted extensions to comply and may also be exempted from the policy.
When questioned for comment on this new draft policy, a Spokesperson of the White House denied releasing any statement on it. Fears were created amidst the Government when Beijing was alleged to use its Chinese-built technology to spy on the US. Hence, bans were made on companies like Huawei and ZTE due to their connection with China, and were removed from operating in the US. Massive protests took place against this decision, as claims were made against these companies for holding a risk to the US because of their Chinese connections.
As a kind reply to the above decision made by the US government, Beijing retorted by removing every US-made technology from their offices and banning it without any further consideration.
The US government has been scrutinizing its prevalent use of foreign-made drones from January itself. And the Department of Interior issued an order that grounded almost 800 foreign-made drones from being used, except for some emergency. It was done to avoid and address the concerns related to valuable information being collected in the drones during their usage and being leaked to adversary countries in question.
TechCrunch released information about an email being seen by them that was dated July 2019. The email clearly shows disagreements happening between the decision to take all foreign-made drones aside and banning them. This email is dated just a few months back before the decision to ban such drones took place. The Chief Information Officer of the Dept. of Interior, William Vajda, says in two or three emails of his to some of his senior staffers that they understand the risks involved in their drone program and will soon be taking appropriate steps to mitigate the risks.
According to him, the safest and best solution to mitigate the risk will be to use drones that have been exclusively and singly made in the US itself. No drones having any of its parts from foreign should be used.
The Chinese company that will be affected the most by this decision will be DJI, which is leading the drone market by being the supplier of almost 70% drones all over the world. The DJI market is said to be worth $15 billion, with their major clients belonging to the US.
When asked for further comment on the situation, a spokesperson of the Dept. of Interior said that they are still analyzing the situation and are working on to find out further risks involved in using foreign-made drones.
After the information of foreign drones usage ban was released, a spokesperson of DJI Michael Oldenburg said, “While we haven’t seen the document, this proposal is another attack on drone technology based on its country of origin, which recent reporting has shown has been criticized within federal agencies including the US Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and even the White House Office of Management and Budget.”
He further added that on communicating within themselves, the federal agencies have said that such an approach will not help in America’s interest and will not solve any cyber crime-related issue. Also, DJI drones have been validated and marked secure for use in government operations. According to the spokesperson, their drones do not hold any risk to the country.