Chinese company Da Jiang Innovations, the world’s largest maker of drones, has donated drones to 43 law enforcement agencies operating in 22 U.S. states to enforce social distancing rules.
Police in Elizabeth, N.J., for example, are using the drones to surveil residents in places where patrol cars can’t easily reach, such as spaces between buildings and back yards.
“If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information that the drones are sending,” Elizabeth mayor Chris Bollwage told MSNBC.
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned in a memo that DJI was “selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within these sectors to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.”
The Interior Department in 2019 grounded its entire fleet of DJI-manufactured drones, which had been used to surveil U.S. land, due to concerns that China was using the drones to gather data on critical U.S. infrastructure. DJI has asserted that concerns about its drones are groundless.
“There are people who don’t like China but they are trying to score ideological points by trying to dicourage the use of equipment and important tools that save lives,” DJI spokesman Alex Lisberg told Fox News in response to allegations of spying.
Chinese authorities have deployed drones to police citizens breaking lockdown rules during the coronavirus pandemic. Footage gathered from police UAV’s shows the drones, operated by police on the ground, warning residents by loudspeaker to return to their homes. Residents of China have faced sweeping lockdowns in response to the coronavirus, with reports of authorities locking some citizens in their homes for quarantine.