Chinese-Made Drones Used for Social Distancing Raises Concerns About Spying

Breitbart reports, “an MSNBC report from late last week raised concerns after it uncovered a program that some municipalities across the U.S. are partaking in, using Chinese-made drones to enforce social distancing among Americans.”

“The drones make it easier for police to see into certain areas where access by patrol cars is more difficult,” MSNBC reported. “That includes tight spaces between buildings, behind schools, and in backyards. Failure to comply could lead to a summons or a thousand dollar fine.”

“If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information that the drones are sending,” said Democrat Mayor J. Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

According to the network, Chinese company Da Jiang Innovations, the world’s largest maker of drones, donated drones to 43 law enforcement agencies operating in 22 U.S. states to enforce social distancing rules. Breitbart reports, “Local officials say the drones are not collecting evidence or taking pictures of people, and say the drones are just a high-tech way to enforce a warning against catching a deadly virus.”

Elizabeth Democrat Mayor J. Christian Bollwage says, “If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information that the drones are sending.” The mayor told MSNBC that cities need to get creative, and defended the intrusive tactic as potentially saving lives.

“The drones make it easier for police to see into certain areas where access by patrol cars is more difficult,” MSNBC reported. “That includes tight spaces between buildings, behind schools, and in backyards. Failure to comply could lead to a summons or a thousand dollar fine.”

But federal officials had knowledge that these drones were collecting information and sending it to the Chinese government.

The New York Times reported in 2017 that officials said they had “moderate confidence” that DJI’s drones were “providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.”

The Chinese company, however, denied the allegations, according to the Times.

In January, the Times reported that the Interior Department, which was using drones from DJI, was ordered to stop using “its entire fleet of drones out of concerns that Chinese parts in them might be used for spying.”

Defense One also reported that the U.S. Army was ordered to stop using the consumer version of the DJI drones over concerns of Chinese spying.

“Cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow on direction,” reads the memo from Lt. Gen. Joseph H. Anderson, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for plans and operations.

The Chinese drones were being deployed in the following states, according to a map from DJI:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Virginia
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • California
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • Michigan
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • South Carolina
  • Maryland

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met, and married an American journalist and moved to D.C from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A in Graphic, Media and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: Getty Images

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