New Legislation Would Block U.S. Purchase of Chinese-Made Drones

Bill comes amid growing concerns about Beijing’s spy operations

Martha McSally / Getty Images
May 21, 2020

New legislation introduced in Congress on Thursday would block federal funds from being used to purchase Chinese-made drones amid growing concerns the technology could allow Beijing to engage in espionage operations, according to a copy of the measure obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Sen. Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, forwarded the legislation, called the Securing Our Skies Against Chinese Technology Act of 2020, which would "prohibit the use of funds to purchase drones manufactured in the People's Republic of China or by Chinese state-controlled entities."

Concerns have been mounting in Congress about U.S. reliance on Chinese technology that the Communist Party government can exploit for espionage purposes. Drones have become a vital part of the U.S. infrastructure and are used to monitor everything from wildfires to critical American facilities. The Department of the Interior grounded its entire fleet of 800 drones in January, citing concerns with their Chinese-manufactured parts.

McSally’s bill seeks to stop the proliferation of Chinese drones in the United States by specifically barring government funds from being used to purchase the equipment from any company tied to the Communist Party. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have outlined national security concerns with the drone technology, making McSally's bill an easy sell to China hawks in Congress.

The bill also would prohibit private, state, and local agencies that receive federal grants from spending the money on Chinese drone technology. Agencies would further have to certify that funds are not being spent on the drones.

Despite federal agencies banning or grounding Chinese drones, the technology continues to pose a national security threat. Da Jiang Innovations, a China-based company, has donated scores of drones to U.S. law enforcement agencies to aid the enforcement of social distancing orders set in place during the coronavirus outbreak. As with other goodwill gestures by Chinese government-tied companies, there is a threat that the information gathered by these drones will be sent back to Beijing and used for espionage purposes.

"We should not risk giving China the chance to spy on Americans amid our efforts to combat the coronavirus," McSally said in a statement. "This is just another part of China's ongoing effort to exploit the global pandemic and it is unacceptable."