04:29 GMT20 June 2021
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    In late 2019 the US Interior Department grounded its entire fleet of aerial drones, all of which are either made in China or have Chinese parts, citing increasing concerns about the national security risk from the manufacturers, pending a detailed review.

    A US Defence Department Pentagon audit is said to have cleared for government use two drone models by China's largest manufacturer, Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), according to The Hill.

    "No malicious code or intent" was discovered after an analysis of the drones, which have been "recommended for use by government entities and forces working with US services", the summary of the report, authored by second chief warrant officer with the US Army Special Operations Command Adam Prater, is cited as saying.

    The remainder of the audit, dated 6 May, is classified, says the outlet.

    Cited cybersecurity concerns forced the Interior Department to ground its entire fleet of around 800 aerial drones - one of the largest in the federal government – at the end of 2019.

    Used for purposes such as fighting forest fires, surveying erosion, and inspecting dams, all of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are either made in China or have Chinese parts, according to a source cited by The Wall Street Journal.

    Under an order from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the drones were grounded until the department completed a review of potential security risks, with exceptions made for emergency situations, including natural disasters.

    The move came as a group of Republican senators had voiced apprehensions regarding national security concerns in a letter sent to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in December, 2019.

    Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and John Cornyn (Texas) urged the two agencies to “immediately restrict the use of Chinese-made drones, particularly those made by Chinese company Da Jiang Innovation (DJI).

    They claimed the technology had the potential to “jeopardize the security of critical information and infrastructure”.

    “American taxpayer dollars should not fund state-controlled or state-owned firms that seek to undermine American national security and economic competitiveness,” underscored the senators.

    DJI, which develops a large percentage of the world's drones, was cited by The Hill as saying it was "extremely disappointed" with the Interior Department's decision at the time.

    The US is working hard on drones that will be able to breeze in windows, fly up the staircase and spot hostages
    © AP Photo / David Tulis
    A four-engined unmanned aerial vehicle

    The move was slammed by the firm as treating “inappropriately” a technology's country of origin as a “litmus test for its performance, security, and reliability".

    The company has continued to dismiss allegations that data is transferred from its products to the Chinese Communist Party, or the firm itself.

    Earlier in 2019 the US Department of Homeland Security warned in an alert that Chinese-made drones may be sending sensitive flight data to their manufacturers in China.

    The alert followed an executive order signed by then-President Donald Trump that prohibited US companies from using telecoms equipment made by firms deemed a national security threat – a ban that included Chinese giant Huawei Technologies and ZTE. 

    Huawei
    © Photo : Matti Blume
    Huawei

    The Asian tech giant Huawei had been in the crosshairs over similar national security concerns of government spying as the US and China became locked in a trade war that has frayed their relationship.

    DJI was added to the Commerce Department's "entity list" late last year that effectively blacklisted the company.

    While the fresh Pentagon report cited by the outlet pertained to only two of the DJI models, analysts believe it may buoy the Chinese firm’s resolve to restore government use of its drones.

    "This US government report is the strongest confirmation to date of what we, and independent security validations, have been saying for years - DJI drones are safe and secure for government and enterprise operations," a DJI spokesperson, Adam Lisberg, was quoted as saying.

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    Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Huawei, Huawei, Huawei, US Defense Department, US Defense Department, Pentagon, Pentagon, China
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