In May of last year, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about consumer drones made in China that shook the world of automated aviation – your drone might be sending your data back to China.

The concern was founded upon two key factors:

1. Over 80% of consumer drones on the market are made in China.

2. The Chinese government is authoritarian, and thus retains the right to comb through any Chinese company’s data.

The prospect is certainly Orwellian, but the 2019 report’s bias was questioned due to the US government’s engagement in a trade war with China. However, another US governing body has joined the fray, and it’s beginning to look more serious than trade war brinkmanship.

This time, the warning comes from the US Department of the Interior. In a press release issued by the DOI, without naming China specifically, the department stated that it will be grounding its entire drone fleet (barring emergency uses) until, “cybersecurity, technology and domestic production concerns are adequately addressed.”

That means a drone fleet of over 800 drones won’t be flying any government operations until the Department of the Interior can ensure no mission-critical data will fall into Chinese hands. However, some interior workers are already issuing complaints that this call has lessened their ability to do their jobs.

In the past two years alone, the DOI has logged 10,000+ drone flights. Their uses span the gap of surveying environmental concerns such as river erosion to inspecting structures like dams with the drones that save them thousands of dollars and hours of time.

Thankfully emergency drone services are still up and running at the DOI, as the time saved with drone services can be the difference between life and death, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when structural inspections will be up and running again with the power of aerial technology.

Nevertheless, businesses are still free to use drones as their own means to save time and money as the DOI decides when drone use for the US government will be up and running once more. 

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