In October, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr participated in a China Tech Threat panel where he announced the agency will commence a process to add Chinese dronemaker DJI to the agency’s “Covered List” of restricted equipment producers. Calling DJI a “Huawei on wings,” Carr cited the vast amounts of information collected by drones and how DJI controls about a 50 percent share of the U.S. drone market and 70 percent of the global consumer and enterprise drone market.
Since then, there has been even more action against DJI, including the U.S. Treasury adding it to the investment blacklist. Just this week, news reports revealed that DJI obscured its Chinese government funding and bicameral legislation was introduced that would require the FCC to add the company to its list of entities that pose an unacceptable risk to national security.
When the Treasury Department added DJI, along with several other Chinese companies, to the investment blacklist in December it cited DJI’s role in tracking and surveilling religious minorities in China, particularly the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
A new report by the Washington Post now reveals that DJI obscured its Chinese government funding while claiming that Beijing had not invested in the firm. The story follows the review of company reports and analysis by the IPVM research group. IPVM has recently been in the news for its record of published investigations on how Hikivision and Dahua technology are being used to support the surveillance and internment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, thus deeming them a national security risk by the FCC and subject to the revocation of FCC equipment authorizations. Charles Rollet, the IPVM analyst who uncovered the links between DJI and the Chinese government investments told the Washington Post, “DJI has been saying they have no Chinese government investments. This evidence directly contradicts that.”
The story added additional urgency to the need for action, which came with a new bill introduced this week by Senator Rick Scott and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, and cosponsored by Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton as well as Representatives Mike Gallagher and Claudia Tenney. The “Countering CCP Drones Act” would require the FCC to add DJI Technologies to the Commission’s list of entities that pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security.
Commissioner Carr applauded the legislation saying, “DJI drones and the surveillance technology onboard these systems are collecting vast amounts of sensitive data—everything from high-resolution images of critical U.S. infrastructure to facial recognition technology and remote sensors that can measure an individual’s body temperature and heart rate.”