In an interesting twist, Maryland law enforcement uses drones produced by Chinese drone maker DJI, which is not just on a U.S. investment blacklist but has also been barred in four states. As frequent readers of DroneXL will undoubtedly know, DJI is the global leader in the drone market, despite the U.S. Treasury Department's decision to place it on the list in December 2021.
DJI was blacklisted due to alleged sales of drones to Xinjiang Police in China. US officials believe these DJI drones were used to monitor Uyghur residents, a group that has suffered significant persecution under the Chinese government. Such actions sparked international outrage, culminating in a United Nations report that the Chinese government's mistreatment of Uyghurs could amount to crimes against humanity.
Apart from human rights violations, there's an ongoing political worry about data privacy related to DJI drones. Consequently, four states and several US agencies have prohibited their use. Arkansas, which enforced the ban earlier this year, is the latest to join this list.
Despite these concerns, DJI's head of global policy, Adam Welsh, assured WBAL TV that the company hasn't handed over any US data to the Chinese government. In support of DJI, Maryland officials pointed out that no other supplier matches the quality of DJI drones.
Senior Deputy Michael Wilsinski stated, “There are drones that are made here in the United States, but they do not come up, in our opinion, to the level that the DJI drones that we are using come to.”
This highlights the difficult balance between ensuring data privacy and procuring the best technology.
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