Last week, the U.S. Interior Department (the Department) grounded its fleet of over 800 DJI Mavic Pro drones, citing potential cybersecurity risks and the desire to support U.S. drone production. This suggests that the Department is at least in part concerned with the manufacture of the DJI drones in China. While Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed the order grounding these drones just this week, the pause was first initiated almost three months ago. Interior Department spokesperson, Carol Danko, said, “We’ve had only 12 drone flights since that time for emergency operations related to fires and floods.”

In Bernhardt’s order, there is no specific mention of whether the Department has determined if the drones are susceptible to being hacked, but it does state that the data collected during the drone flights could be “valuable to foreign entities, organizations and governments.”

The order to ground the drone fleet is open-ended, i.e., it will remain in effect until it is revoked, and does not include an expiration date. However, Danko said, “Drone operations will continue to be allowed in approved situations for emergency purposes, such as fighting wildfires, search and rescue, and dealing with natural disasters that may threaten life or property.”