US Targets Autel: Is National Security at Risk?

Autel Drones Under Scrutiny: US Lawmakers Raise Security Concerns

A bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers is raising alarms over Autel Robotics, a Chinese drone maker, citing significant national security concerns. This call for an investigation, as reported by Reuters, comes amidst heightened scrutiny of technology firms with potential ties to foreign governments.

The concern stems from ' alleged affiliation with 's People's Liberation Army (PLA). According to the lawmakers, the utilization of Autel drones by local law enforcement and state governments could lead to a compromise of sensitive data across the .

The letter, spearheaded by House China select committee chair Mike Gallagher, a Republican, and top Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, urges the Commerce, Defense, and Treasury departments to thoroughly investigate the operations of Autel Robotics.

As stated in the letter, “Autel Robotics is openly affiliated with China's PLA and poses a direct threat to U.S. national security.”

This initiative is not without precedent. In 2020, the Commerce Department imposed export restrictions on DJI, another China-based drone manufacturer, accusing it of aiding in the oppression of China's Uyghur minority and supporting military activities.

Given these parallels, lawmakers are questioning whether Autel should face similar restrictions.

The implications of such an investigation are vast. DJI, which dominates the public safety industry, manufactures more than 50% of all drones sold in the United States. The potential sanctions against Autel Robotics could significantly alter the landscape of in the U.S., impacting commercial operations and public safety protocols.

Us Targets Autel: Is National Security At Risk?

Representative Elise Stefanik, another signer of the letter, expressed a firm stance: “Autel drones made in Communist China present an unacceptable national security risk and should not be allowed to operate in America.” This statement underscores the growing concern over the use of foreign technology in sensitive areas.

The Pentagon has responded with a commitment to address these concerns, while the Commerce and Treasury departments have not yet commented. Autel Robotics, too, has remained silent on the matter.

In a broader context, this development is part of a continued effort by the to limit the use of Chinese-made drones. In 2019, Congress banned the Pentagon from purchasing or using drones manufactured in China. Additionally, the U.S. Interior Department grounded its fleet of about 800 Chinese-made drones in 2020, citing similar security fears.

As tensions rise between the U.S. and China over technology and security, the fate of Autel Robotics hangs in the balance. This investigation could mark a significant turn in how foreign technology is perceived and utilized in the United States. For more details, visit the original Reuters article here.

Photos courtesy of Autel.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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