The U.S. Department of the Interior has grounded its fleet of non-emergency drones and halted the use of their associated equipment and software while it checks for cybersecurity issues.
The Chinese made drones, which number about 800 according to published reports, are being grounded not for any specific cybersecurity vulnerability, but to give the Interior Department time to assess any potential security threat.
“Secretary [David] Bernhardt issued a Secretary’s Order today, affirming the temporary cessation of non-emergency drones while we ensure that cybersecurity, technology and domestic production concerns are adequately addressed,” said DOI spokesperson Carol Danko.
The drones are made by DJI Technology, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, China.
Drone operations will be allowed to assist with specific situations such as wildfires, search and rescue and dealing with natural disasters.
The grounding was issued through DOI Order 3379 which noted that the drone’s components include hardware and software necessary for collecting, storing, and transmitting data or similar information. When active the drone’s handle a wide variety of surveillance and reconnaissance tasks that could be of interest to non-U.S. entities. This includes collecting research data, assisting law enforcement, assessing, collecting, and maintaining information that relates to the country’s energy, transportation and defense infrastructure.
Order 3379 was issued as a direct result of President Trump issuing Presidential Determination No. 2019-13 which is pursuant to the Defense Production Act. This requires that ensure that our minimum procurement needs account for such concerns, which include cybersecurity, technological considerations, and facilitating domestic production capability.