This week the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)–the leading police policy and research organization–and the U.S. Department of Justice released an important new report, “Roadmap to Implementing an Effective Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program.” Developed by senior law enforcement officials from leading state and local drone programs, the report provides guidance to state and local law enforcement agencies. It also addresses, in no uncertain terms, the growing threat posed by foreign-made drones.
“This report illustrates the clear and growing consensus on the threat represented by foreign-made drones. That threat centers on drones made by Chinese company DJI, which the military, DHS, and independent cybersecurity researchers have found to present serious cybersecurity risks. As discussed in the report, China’s tactics include donating drones to state and local agencies, providing a potential ‘backdoor’ into critical public networks. This report adds weight to bipartisan proposals in the Congress designed to address the threat and protect critical information.
The time to act is now,” said Brendan Groves, Head of Regulatory and Policy Affairs at Skydio, a member of the American Drone Alliance.
There’s no question “that China poses the greatest cybersecurity threat to the United States,” as Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) affirmed this month in an extraordinary joint statement from the Chairman and Ranking members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In their words, “The Chinese Communist Party will stop at nothing to exert its global dominance. Beijing’s infiltration of U.S. society has been deliberate and insidious as they use every instrument of influence available to accelerate their rise at America’s expense.”
The overwhelmingly bipartisan support of the American Security Drone Act is proof positive that Republicans and Democrats understand this clear and present danger and want to protect Americans from the risks associated with their drones. Now is time for lawmakers in DC to prioritize America’s national security and enact this critical legislation.
Highlights of the DOJ/PERF report recommendations include:
- “Strongly consider procuring drones made domestically or by trusted allies, although each purchase decision will depend on the specific use case, mission requirements, and assessed risks.”
- “Public safety agencies must also recognize that legislatures and executives at the federal and state levels are moving to limit public agencies’ purchase and deployment of certain foreign-made UAS in light of the risks they present.”
- “Be aware of the security risks (including the potential exposure of private or sensitive data) when operating drones that were designed or manufactured in a foreign country or where the data is stored, transferred to, or accessible by servers in a foreign country.”
- “Public safety agencies must understand the cybersecurity and supply chain risks associated with certain foreign-made technology, as well as the relevant restrictions based on the sources of funding they receive.
- “[F]oreign governments may require companies to disclose far more information than the U.S. government without significant legal protection for customers….For UAS designed, manufactured, or supplied abroad, company internet servers may be located in the United States or in foreign countries (or both).”