The United States Interior Department recently decided to ground civilian drones due to fears of China using them for spying, and the decision might not be revoked anytime soon.
The relationship between the US and China has been worsening for months now. The fear of China using various techniques and resources in order to spy on the country has recently led the US to ground all civilian drones. According to Financial Times sources, the decision might not be revoked anytime soon.
So far, this is not an official decision, nor a final policy. However, fears of China using civilian drones for spying has led the department to consider plans to permanently end the use of nearly 1,000 drones. According to unnamed sources, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt would limit the use of such drones for emergency situations only, such as firefighting.
Alternative uses may include some less urgent situations as well, such as tracking various resources, mapping terrain, and alike.
However, the decision has already found its opposers, including Chinese drone-maker, DJI, which created over 120 of the drones that were grounded by the decision. In fact, the DJI said that it plans to do a detailed review of the drone program, and point out that the fear of China using drones for spying lacks any credible evidence.
The US’ fear of drones being used for spying and other similar purposes is not new, either. The US Army stopped using DJI drones three years ago, in 2017. Meanwhile, Homeland Security even argued that the DJI was sending data regarding law enforcement and critical infrastructure to China.
None of the evidence supporting these accusations — if there is any — has been made public as of yet, however. And, as mentioned, the department’s decision is still not final. Many understand that a lot of drone activity can be, and is, genuinely helpful. Fear of disrupting such activity has prevented many of the department’s staff from supporting the new program.
If the use of drones does get banned, the Interior Department will have to either find US-made drones or start to rely on much riskier and more expensive alternatives to achieve the same results as drones do.