Police in 22 States Accept Drones from Company Allegedly Funneling Data to China


Police agencies in 22 states have accepted drones to help enforce social distancing rules from a Chinese company accused of sending information to China.

The Elizabeth Police Department in New Jersey is just one of the agencies using drones to help patrol the streets to enforce social distancing rules in places that are not easy to reach in a patrol car.

“We have been using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones) since 2018, however, the new models are equipped with voice capabilities,” the police department explained in a Facebook post.

“We were able to secure 5 DJI Mavic 2 UAV, on loan through DJI’s Public Safety Disaster Relief Program.”

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People who are caught congregating in groups by the drones can face a summons or $1,000 fine.

Authorities downplayed the use of surveillance by drones donated by a Chinese company, claiming that the machines are not taking pictures or videos but merely serving as a “high tech warning,” MSNBC reported.

“The drones, donated by DJI, a Chinese company, have gone to 43 agencies in 22 states, all to help enforce social distancing rules,” MSNBC’s Rehema Ellis said.

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However, the Department of Homeland Security accused Da Jing Innovations, a company based in Shenzhen, China, of sending sensitive information about American infrastructure to China in 2017.

“[Special Agent in Charge Intelligence Program] Los Angeles assesses with high confidence the critical infrastructure and law enforcement entities using DJI systems are collecting sensitive intelligence that the Chinese government could use to conduct physical or cyber attacks against the United States and its population,” the memo read.

D.J.I. denied the allegations and said the report was “based on clearly false and misleading statements,” The New York Times reported.

Despite that denial, the U.S. Army issued guidance for its forces to stop using the D.J.I. drones.

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Moreover, in 2019, the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned that the Chinese-made drones were a “potential risk to an organization’s information,” according to CNN.

Although it didn’t specifically name D.J.I., nearly 80 percent of the drones used in the United States come from the Chinese company, CNN said last year.

“The United States government has 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,” the alert said.

“Those concerns apply with equal force to certain Chinese-made (unmanned aircraft systems)-connected devices capable of collecting and transferring potentially revealing data about their operations and the individuals and entities operating them, as China imposes unusually stringent obligations on its citizens to support national intelligence activities.”

The Trump administration banned U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment from Chinese company Huawei in 2019 over similar national security concerns, CNN reported.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith