DOI grounds their entire fleet of drones

More than 800 drones will be parked except when used on fires

Matrisse Drone Springs Fire aerial ignition
Technicians attend to a Matrisse 600 drone which in August, 2019 was being used for aerial ignition on the Springs Fire on the Inyo National Forest in California. Photo: incident management team.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) has grounded its entire fleet of more than 800 drones due to concerns about Chinese spying and cyber security. All of the drones have some components manufactured in China and 121 were made by the Chinese company DJI, one of the largest drone companies in the world.

Drones used for firefighting and other emergency services may continue to be used by the DOI.

This was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Below are excerpts from an article at CNET:

…The fleet will remain grounded until a full review is completed by Secretary David Bernhardt, the department said Thursday. However, drones being used for emergency rescues and disasters will remain in flight.

The move, earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal, highlights US-Chinese trade tensions, which have escalated since the blacklisting of Chinese tech giant Huawei by the US government in May. The DOI’s decision also follows a May warning from the Department of Homeland Security about data security issues involving the use of Chinese-made drones, particularly those made by DJI. DHS said it was concerned about drones’ capacity to observe and transmit prohibited infrastructure surveillance and conduct cyberattacks…

In the last few years small drones have been increasingly common in the skies over fires led by an aggressive adoption of the concept by the DOI. Incident Commanders have used them for enhancing situational awareness, looking for spot fires, mapping perimeters, search and rescue, and as an aerial ignition platform for conducting burnouts and prescribed fires.

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One thought on “DOI grounds their entire fleet of drones”

  1. Making a Chinese company the primary provider for agency drones was always going to be questionable at best. I wonder if this will open up opportunities for US made platforms?

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