U.S. Department of Interior Grounds DJI Drones

The US Department of the Interior announced on Wednesday that it will shut down its fleet of DJI drones. The decision is based on increasing pressure from Congress against the backdrop of the ongoing dispute over the use of Chinese technology.

A DJI Phantom on the ground. Photo by Asael Peña on Unsplash.

Currently, two two pieces of legislation are proposed which prohibit the purchase and use of drones manufactured in countries that are considered “non-cooperative” by US government authorities. The two proposals are relatively similar, with the Senate version preventing all government agencies from purchasing Chinese drone technology, while the House version refers only to the Department of Homeland Security.

What is the implication?

The Ministry of the Interior’s decision to ground all its DJI drones means that around 800 drones need to be replaced on short notice. The Ministry of the Interior is using the drones to help monitor land and deal with firefighting efforts, flood management, dam inspections, and tracking of endangered species.

Wednesday, DOI spokesperson Melissa Brown delivered the following statement to The Verge: “Secretary Bernhardt is reviewing the Department of the Interior’s drone program. Until this review is completed, the Secretary has directed that drones manufactured in China or made from Chinese components be grounded unless they are currently being utilized for emergency purposes, such as fighting wildfires, search and rescue, and dealing with natural disasters that may threaten life or property.”

What caused this decision to happen now?

The US trade war with China has intensified further in recent weeks. Various members of Congress, including Senator Rick Scott, have spoken out in favor of a ban of Chinese products. The legislation have not yet been passed, but the concerns have been heard already. Obviously, the heads of the state drone programs do not want to risk to be accused that they ignored the possible risks and waited too long for a legal ban.

Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on unsplash

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