The U.S. Department of the Interior has grounded all of its drones that were manufactured in China or contained China-made parts, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. According to the Journal, the agency has more than 800 drones used to fight forest fires, survey erosion, monitor endangered species, and inspect dams. All of these drones are either made in China or made with Chinese parts.
These drones will remain grounded while the agency conducts a review of the security risks posed, reported The Verge. This is in response to concerns that the drones could be used to transmit data of sensitive U.S. infrastructure that may be the subject of future cyberattacks.
In September, legislators introduced a bill that would bar the federal agencies from purchasing drones manufactured or assembled in China, Iran, and other nations identified as a threat to national security. The American Security Drone Act of 2019 has picked up bipartisan support in the House and Senate and would affect at least 14 federal agencies that already have drones in their fleet.
DJI, one of the major players in the drone market, announced in June that it would assemble its Mavic 2 Enterprise Duel drones in California, which it anticipated would make easier for government agencies to buy the drones, Reuters reported at the time.
At the time, the company also introduced the DJI Government Edition, a high-security drone solution created specifically for government applications. The Government Edition does not transmit data over the internet to third parties or to DJI, firmware updates can be reviewed by the agency before they are applied, and drones and remote controllers are only compatible with each other, not with other DJI products.
In 2017, the U.S. Army announced plans to discontinue the use of DJI drones while the military investigated cybersecurity risks.