U.S. government moves restricting agencies access to the massive market of cheap and effective small drones made in China has made it more difficult to fight forest fires that have raged nationwide at unprecedented rates, among other important tasks.
The trend has also created a sharp divide among experts, officials and drone companies. Some feel the cost of such restrictions is too high, while others argue the measures remain justified nonetheless.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) first announced in October 2019 that it would pause the use of all drones either made in China or with parts originating from China over cybersecurity concerns. In January of last year, the DOI issued Secretariat Order 3379, which temporarily grounded the entirety of its fleet of 800 drones. Since then, new legislation and further restrictions put in place across the government have put the future availability of such systems in question.