The United States Interior Department has revealed that it has grounded its entire aerial drone fleet over concerns of Chinese spying and drone-aided cyberattacks.
Many of the US drones were manufactured in China or have Chinese parts and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt gave the directive, stating that the drones will remain grounded until the department completes a review of the security risks that they may pose.
Melissa Brown, the spokesperson for the department, released a statement, saying:
Secretary Bernhardt is reviewing the Department of the Interior’s drone program. Until this review is completed, the Secretary has directed that drones manufactured in China or made from Chinese components be grounded unless they are currently being utilized for emergency purposes, such as fighting wildfires, search and rescue, and dealing with natural disasters that may threaten life or property.Melissa Brown – theverge.com
The drones currently being used by the department aid in fighting forest fires, monitoring floods and dams, inspection of land for property and environmental damage due to erosion, and endangered species.
Some of the concerns being raised borders on the possibility of the drones being used to transmit data (including photography and video) of sensitive US infrastructure that may be the subject of future cyberattacks.
The decision to ground the drones is the US government’s latest effort in exerting punishment on Chinese companies for years of alleged trade secret theft.