US Interior Ministry nails Chinese drones

The minister did not give the reason for this decision, which concerns over 800 aircraft. The Trump administration has often cited national security for similar decisions.

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The US Interior Ministry has banned theft of its Chinese drones, devices suspected by Washington of posing a risk. Minister David Bernhardt "Review the drone program" Ministry and "Ordered that drones manufactured in China or with Chinese components be grounded"a spokesman said in a statement Thursday, October 31, without specifying the reason for the review.

The Directive does not concern appliances "Currently used for emergencies, such as firefighting, relief operations and natural disasters, which could threaten lives and property"said the spokesman.

The ministry owns 810 drones, 786 made in China and 24 in the United States with Chinese parts. The Chinese company Da Jiang Innovation (DJI) is by far the number one in this sector, with 70% of the world market. Founded in 2006 in Shenzhen by a young model enthusiast, the company has no major competitor on the American side, after the withdrawal of California firm GoPro from this market. "We are very disappointed," told Agence France-Presse (AFP) a spokesman for the Chinese manufacturer, refusing any other comment.

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Risks to national security

In the name of national security, the Trump administration has already banned US companies from selling advanced equipment to Huawei, suspected of spying for Beijing. Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese army engineer, has repeatedly rejected the charges.

In September, senators introduced into Congress a bill that would prohibit the purchase by US government agencies of drones manufactured in countries posing risks to national security, including China.

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In May, the US Department of Homeland Security issued a warning note against the potential risk posed by Chinese drones. The US administration is "Very concerned about technological products that introduce US data into the territory of an authoritarian state and allow its intelligence services to freely access or otherwise abuse this data", said the note, quoted by the media. In 2017, the US military had already banned the use of DJI drones for security reasons.

Washington and Beijing have been engaged for eighteen months in a trade war, in a context of technological rivalry between the two powers.


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