FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is calling for a review of Chinese drone maker DJI, saying it is potentially “Huawei on wings.”
Huawei is one of several Chinese firms banned by the US over national security concerns. The US has pressured allies to do the same, with many following suit. Commissioner Carr is concerned DJI may represent a similar threat.
“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,” Commissioner Carr stated. “Security researchers have also found that DJI’s software applications collect large quantities of personal information from the operator’s smartphone that could be exploited by Beijing. Indeed, one former Pentagon official stated that ‘we know that a lot of the information is sent back to China from’ DJI drones.”
Carr also expressed concern over DJI helping Beijing surveil the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, a group the Chinese government has been persecuting with forced labor, forced sterilizations and genocide.
“DJI’s collection of vast troves of sensitive data is especially troubling given that China’s National Intelligence Law grants the Chinese government the power to compel DJI to assist it in espionage activities. In fact, the Commerce Department placed DJI on its Entity List last year, citing DJI’s role in Communist China’s surveillance and abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Add to this information the widespread use of DJI drones by various state and local public safety and law enforcement agencies as well as news reports that the U.S. Secret Service and FBI recently bought DJI drones, and the need for quick action on the potential national security threat is clear.
Carr concluded by saying the FCC should add DJI to the Covered List.
“After all, the evidence against DJI has been mounting for years, and various components of the U.S. government have taken a range of independent actions—including grounding fleets of DJI drones based on security concerns. Yet a consistent and comprehensive approach to addressing DJI’s potential threats is not in place. That is why the FCC should take the necessary steps to consider adding DJI to our Covered List. We do not need an airborne version of Huawei. As part of the FCC’s review—and in consultation with national security agencies—we should also consider whether there are additional entities that warrant closer scrutiny by the FCC.”