Federal law enforcement agencies in the Biden administration are reportedly purchasing numerous surveillance drones from a Chinese company that the Pentagon has cited as a potential national security risk.
According to procurement records shared with Axios, the troubled U.S. Secret Service bought eight drones on July 26 from Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), a Shenzhen-based company that “dominates the commercial drone market in the U.S. and abroad” and whose products “require the user to download proprietary DJI software, and to fly using mapping databases that have the potential to be monitored remotely.”
The scandal-ridden Federal Bureau of Investigation also made purchases from DJI, having bought 19 of the company’s drones a few days prior.
The July 26 purchase by the Secret Service came three days after the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) issued a statement warning that DJI systems “pose potential threats to national security.”
“Mitigating the threats posed by small [Unmanned Aircraft Systems], including DJI systems, remains a priority across the Department, and DOD continues to ensure existing policy remains current and appropriately implemented,” the statement read.
In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security released an intelligence bulletin on the company, warning that DJI was “providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.” The report also noted with “high confidence” that the company is “selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within these sectors to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.”
Concerns over DJI’s threat to national security also caused the Interior Department to ground all non-emergency-use drones in 2019, with U.S. officials sounding the alarm that continued usage of Chinese-based technology “might be putting critical infrastructure at risk” and “sending information back to the Chinese government or hackers elsewhere to use for cyberattacks or other offenses.”
The Chinese drone company was also placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List last year, which designates DJI as a national security concern and officially prohibits U.S.-based companies from exporting technology to the company.