Securing Our Skies Against Chinese Technology Act of 2020, the latest threat against Chinese-made drones

Here’s the latest push against Chinese-made drones from Arizona Sen. Martha McSally. Her proposal, titled “Securing Our Skies Against Chinese Technology Act of 2020,” would prevent state and local agencies from using federal money to buy or operate such technology.

Securing Our Skies Against Chinese Technology Act of 2020

It the bill passes, it would also prohibit state and local public safety organizations from receiving future funding unless they certify that they’re not using a “drone manufactured in the People’s Republic of China or by an entity owned or controlled by the Government of the People’s Republic of China.”

The “Securing Our Skies Against Chinese Technology Act of 2020” bill was introduced by Senator Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) last week. Government Technology reports that she said the proposed law is a “commonsense step toward exposing communist China’s real intentions and shoring up our national security.

“At a time when federal agencies are banning or grounding Chinese drones base[d] on cybersecurity concerns, China is now donating them to state and local law enforcement across the United States,” McSally said. “This is just another part of China’s ongoing effort to exploit the global pandemic and it is unacceptable. We should not risk giving China the chance to spy on Americans amid our efforts to combat the coronavirus.”

In her statement, McSally refers to the Chinese drone maker DJI, which recently made 100 drones available to local law enforcement agencies throughout the country as part of their US Disaster Relief Program.

Mark Aitken, DJI’s director of U.S. legislative affairs said in an email to Government Technology that:

“Senator McSally’s copycat bill tries to put a new face on the old and discredited idea of taking lifesaving technology away from America’s first responders, including firefighters and law enforcement officers across Arizona. The government experts who actually use drones agree that banning or restricting drone technology based on where it is made is fear-driven policy that would make America less safe, and that the U.S. businesses and government agencies that use DJI drones can secure and protect the data they collect.”

The Department of the Interior officially grounded its fleet of DJI drones earlier this year without specifying the reason for doing so. DJI responded to The Verge by saying that:

“We are aware the Department of Interior has decided to ground its entire drone program and are disappointed to learn of this development,” a DJI spokesperson told The Verge. “As the leader in commercial drone technology, we have worked with the Department of Interior to create a safe and secure drone solution that meets their rigorous requirements, which was developed over the course of 15 months with DOI officials, independent cybersecurity professionals, and experts at NASA. We will continue to support the Department of Interior and provide assistance as it reviews its drone fleet so the agency can quickly resume the use of drones to help federal workers conduct vital operations.”

The pressure from the U.S. Government on China and DJI seems to be relentless. In this interview, DJI’s Brendan Schulman wondered why the focus would be on drones specifically, and if drones, why stop at China. You can watch that one here.

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Photo: Wikipedia. McSally with an A-10 Thunderbolt II

About the author

Haye Kesteloo

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