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The Transportation Department should prevent federal infrastructure funding from going to drones made by certain foreign companies, a bipartisan group of senators said Thursday.
The infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58) created a new program that provides competitive grants for transportation technologies, such as drones that examine infrastructure or monitor traffic. Transportation officials should block funding to drones made by companies subject to government control, including from China, senators wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“The Department should prevent funding from being used on drones manufactured by companies that pose a security risk,” the senators said in the letter, which was led by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “This is essential to advancing our national security objectives and protecting our country’s infrastructure.”
Critics have warned that Chinese companies such as Shenzhen-based SZ DJI Technology Co., the world’s top producer of unmanned aerial vehicles, may be transferring sensitive data, including on critical infrastructure, to Chinese intelligence agencies. The U.S. has already blacklisted DJI, but the company still controls more than half the U.S. drone market.
“The risks associated with drones made by companies subject to the laws of the PRC, for example, are clear,” the senators wrote, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Other legislation has specifically prohibited funding Chinese drones. The Department of Defense was prohibited from purchasing or operating drones made in China by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (Public Law 116-92). The Senate-passed competition bill (S. 1260) included provisions that would extend that ban to all federal agencies.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at email@example.com