The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is trying to stop the sale of Chinese drones in the United States. The agency is specifically looking to crack down on SZ DJI Technology, a Chinese drone manufacturer that was placed on the Commerce Department’s government economic blacklist last December.
Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is looking to take further action against the company. He has asked the FCC to place DJI on a separate “Covered List” of companies that pose a potential threat to America’s national security and its communications infrastructure. In that regard, Carr warned that DJI’s drones could be loaded with surveillance technology that records sensitive data and then sends that information back to China.
“DJI drones and the surveillance technology on board these systems are collecting vast amounts of sensitive data-everything from high-resolution images of critical infrastructure to facial recognition technology and remote sensors that can measure an individual’s body temperature and heart rate,” Carr said. “We do not need an airborne version of Huawei.”
Carr’s statement will likely exacerbate the growing privacy concerns about drone technology, which can readily be used to monitor people in private residences. Drones can be used to speed up inspections in the agricultural and industrial sectors, though US Customs and Border Protection and police departments want to use them to supercharge their surveillance operations.
The FCC’s Covered List was first published in March, and already includes five major Chinese corporations. If DJI gets added, it will prevent anyone from using US Universal Service Fund money to purchase DJI equipment. DJI is the largest drone manufacturer in the world, and still accounts for more than half of all US drone sales despite its blacklist status. The other five companies on the Covered List are Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Zhejiang Dahua Technology, and Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology.