Action to restrict Chinese Dronemaker DJI are coming from all corners of the U.S. government. The latest move comes from a bipartisan group of U.S. senators who are calling on the Department of Transportation to prohibit taxpayer-funded grants from being used to fund drones manufactured by companies controlled by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Use of these compromised drones could give the PRC access to images of our nation’s critical infrastructure that they capture.
In a letter to Secretary Buttigieg, Senators Peters (D-MI), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Blackburn (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Murphy (D-CT), Rubio (R-FL), Scott (R-FL), Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kelly (D-AZ) call on DOT to prohibit any Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) grant funds to be used for drones manufactured by companies that are subject to the influence or control of governments, including the PRC, that present a security risk to the United States and our critical infrastructure.
The letter cites provisions in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that also prohibit the use of federal grant money to purchase drones made by Chinese entities and other manufacturers that present a security risk, and a Department of Defense statement concluding that DJI poses potential threats to national security.
During an October event hosted by China Tech Threat, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr announced that the agency will commence a process to add DJI to the agency’s “Covered List” of restricted equipment producers, calling DJI a “Huawei on wings.” Adding urgency to the announcement, the “Countering CCP Drones Act” was introduced in Congress in February to require the FCC to add DJI Technologies to the Commission’s list of entities that pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security.
The U.S. Treasury shortly after added the company to the investment blacklist citing its role in surveilling the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, and a January Washington Post report revealed that DJI obscured its Chinese government funding while claiming Beijing had not invested in the firm.