Drones are being deployed by local governments across the US to enforce the coronavirus lockdown. They are being used in areas where officers cannot reach, to fly over private spaces and check on citizens who may be violating social distancing orders. These drones were donated by Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), a company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party, raising concerns whether China has used the pandemic to keep a constant watch over its Western rival.
China-made drones are invading local US communities, posing the risk that Americans may have their information collected and stored by the communist nation without their consent. New Jersey, to give one example, now has DJI-manufactured drones openly spying on citizens where patrol cars cannot go.
“It's about China's long-term goal, not Covid,” drone flyer and Virginia resident Barry Bryer told Fox News. “People will give away their right to privacy because of the coronavirus, but do they know what they are signing up for?”
The ubiquity of China-made drones flying within the US is nothing new, as two-thirds of the commercial drone market has been saturated with those manufactured by DJI.
The New York Times reported in 2017 that federal law enforcement officials said that they had “moderate confidence” that DJI drones and software were “providing US critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.”
The US sat on this information until January of this year, when the Times reported that the Interior Department had grounded “its entire fleet of drones out of concerns that Chinese parts in them might be used for spying.” The Interior Department had been using drones from DJI.
The US Army ordered soldiers to discontinue using the consumer version of the drones, according to Defense One. “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.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said that there would be some exceptions for the use of drones, such as search-and-rescue operations and those involving emergencies where human lives were in danger. He urged US officials to favor domestically made drones, concerned that data collected by aerial drones could be “valuable to foreign entities, organizations and governments.”
“Should people be concerned? Yes. Everyone should always be concerned,” Brett Velicovich, former Army intelligence worker and author of Drone Warrior, told Fox News. “You can never trust China.”
Velicovich told Fox News that the intelligence community knows the seriousness of the situation, and that any warnings coming out of intelligence needs to be heeded.
“I can tell you that U.S. intelligence knows the impact of their reports and if they are saying that this is going back to the Chinese, then there is something there,” he said. “They do not have a political bias, they are not Republican or Democrat. They are straight down the middle and do not have an agenda.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) took to Twitter after listening to the MSNBC segment: “Think about this for a second. This virus originated in Communist China and the Chinese Communist Party’s lies helped it spread around the world. Now we’re using drones made by a Chinese company and backed by the CCP to enforce social distancing. This is crazy!”
A map provided by DJI claimed that the drones were active in different state and local entities in the following states: Oregon, Washington, California, Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.