Chinese drones banned by tech supplier to US police

A supplier of drone technology to dozens of state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies, located in the U.S. and a handful of other countries, will stop working with Chinese drone manufacturers, citing security concerns.

Cape, a Redwood City, California-based startup, plans to inform customers that it will stop selling software compatible with Chinese drones to its clients, most of whom use the tools to remotely dispatch and operate the small aerial vehicles to surveil possible incidents or crime scenes. It’s a blow to China’s DJI, the world’s top maker of drones that has spent years trying to calm fears that its products could be used for espionage.

The ban is the latest illustration of how technology companies are in the crossfire of the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China. American companies relying on global supply chains have seen their costs increase, while Chinese technology companies are increasingly viewed with suspicion in the U.S.

Michael Oldenburg, a spokesman for DJI, wrote in an email: “We are disappointed to learn about Cape’s decision, which is based on false speculation, and remain committed to continuously working with all of our customers—including more than 520 public safety agencies who trust our products to conduct critical missions.”

DJI’s situation has echoes of Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese telecommunications equipment company that the Trump administration has targeted as a national security threat for months, using these concerns to restrict its access to the U.S. market.

DJI’s domination of U.S. drone sales has long raised its own suspicions. The U.S. Army expressed cybersecurity concerns with its drones in 2017, and Homeland Security issued an alert last month saying it was worried about sensitive video footage being sent to China. MDT/Bloomberg

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