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Saturday, June 25th, 2022

Republican senators target Chinese drone threats

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A group of lawmakers recently forwarded correspondence to Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials to address concerns over national security threats posed by Chinese drones.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) said the letters to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson imploring the agencies to ensure use of such drones is excluded from its programs and partnerships.

“We were dismayed to learn that on December 3, 2019, one of the ten lead participants of DOT and FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) announced its decision to partner with Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) Inc., a Chinese drone company, and use DJI drones for aircraft inspections, delivery of aircraft parts, airport perimeter security and various airport safety inspections,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to immediately restrict the use of this equipment and technology that has the potential to jeopardize the security of critical information and infrastructure gained through this and other FAA programs.

The legislators maintain taxpayer dollars should not fund state-controlled or state-owned firms that seek to undermine American national security and economic competitiveness.

“On August 9, 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released an unclassified bulletin which specifically warned against DJI for targeting critical infrastructure and law enforcement and providing U.S. data to the Chinese government,” the legislators concluded.

The correspondence also asked if the DOT and FAA conveyed concerns regarding data protection to relevant state, local, and tribal partners in the Integration Pilot Program (IPP) and any other program that may involve the use of drones, as well as have the agencies worked with state, local and tribal officials to ensure critical infrastructure data does not fall into the hands of the Chinese government.