The proliferation of digital technology and cheap electronics has led to the widespread usage of drones, both sophisticated and simple, in war, surveillance, and spycraft around the world. The use of drones for artillery spotting and kamikaze missions in the war between Russia and Ukraine has given war planners much to discuss and consider.
Outside the war zone, Chinese drones are being used both to spy on the country’s opponents and its own people. Politico reported last week that Chinese-made spy drones are buzzing restricted airspace over Washington, D.C. and that senators are alarmed. Politico’s Bryan Bender and Andrew Desiderio report:
Hundreds of Chinese-manufactured drones have been detected in restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., in recent months, a trend that national security agencies fear could become a new means for foreign espionage.
The recreational drones made by Chinese company DJI, which are designed with “geofencing” restrictions to keep them out of sensitive locations, are being manipulated by users with simple workarounds to fly over no-go zones around the nation’s capital.
Federal officials and drone industry experts have delivered classified briefings to the Senate Homeland Security, Commerce and Intelligence committees on the development, three people privy to the meetings said. A spokesperson for the Intelligence Committee — which has been kept closely apprised of the counterintelligence risks — declined to comment on the briefings. The other two committees did not respond.
This story is based on interviews with seven government officials, lawmakers, congressional staffers and contractors. They were granted anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about private and sometimes classified discussions involving government officials.
The officials say they do not believe the swarms are directed by the Chinese government. Yet the violations by users mark a new turn in the proliferation of relatively cheap but increasingly sophisticated drones that can be used for recreation and commerce. They also come as Congress debates extending current federal authorities and adopting new ones to track the aerial vehicles as potential security threats.
“This is part of a trend of commercial drones for potentially nefarious reasons,” said Rachel Stohl, vice president of research programs at the Stimson Center think tank who closely tracks the global drone market. “We’re seeing in conflict zones, in other theaters, the reliance and use of commercial drones.”
“These may be just innocent data collection — or really just looking around, seeing what’s happening — and not in a systemized way,” she added. “But the potential, of course, is that eventually they could be more dangerous.”
Back in China, the government is reportedly using police surveillance drones to quell recent uprisings
In China, police drones rule the skies, barking out commands for the Chinese to stay at home under threat of arrest. This is the COMMUNIST WAY. pic.twitter.com/IRIuj9Cdcs
— Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) November 29, 2022
— 天路漫游 (@tianlumanyou) November 30, 2022
Action Line: China is not the only government increasing surveillance of its own people. American citizens are living in a “virtual Panopticon” of their own. Click here to subscribe to my monthly RAGE Gauge alert, where I analyze the risks faced by Americans and the world.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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