Trump orders assessment of security risks of Chinese drones


FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, after visiting the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Harlingen, Texas, U.S., January 12, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order directing U.S agencies to assess any security risks from Chinese-made drones in American government fleets and to prioritize removing them.

Trump directed all U.S. agencies to outline the security risks posed to the existing government drone fleet from drones built by Chinese companies or by other countries deemed foreign adversaries, including Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Trump's order also directs agencies to outline "potential steps that could be taken to mitigate these risks, including, if warranted, discontinuing all federal use of covered (drones) and the expeditious removal of (drones) from federal service."

Last month, the U.S. Commerce Department added China's SZ DJI Technology Co, the world's largest drone maker, to the U.S. government’s economic blacklist, along with dozens of other Chinese companies. A DJI spokesman declined immediate comment on Monday.

In January 2020, the U.S. Interior Department grounded its fleet of about 800 Chinese-made drones but said it would allow their use for emergency situations.

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in October ordered a halt to additional purchases of Chinese-made drones by the department.

In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned U.S. firms of the risks to company data from Chinese-made drones. In a notice, DHS said U.S. officials have "strong concerns about any technology product that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian state that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access."

DJI said last month it was disappointed by the Commerce Department decision but noted that "customers in America can continue to buy and use DJI products normally."

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)

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