The drones – made by the Chinese company DJI – are built with ‘geofencing’ technology meant to prevent them from zipping through Washington D.C.’s many no-fly zones.
But the drones are being tampered with by users so they can buzz over restricted areas in the city, such as the White House and Capitol Hill.
The officials said they do not believe the drones are directed by the Chinese government but fear it’s an example of how the aerial technology can be used.
In July 2021, the Pentagon said that systems made by DJI Technology ‘pose potential threats to national security.’
In October, the Department of Defense added DJI to a blacklist of firms with alleged links to the Chinese military, paving the way for sanctions to be imposed.
A spokesperson for DJI told Politico that though the firm makes an effort to ensure customers follow regulations ‘we can’t control the end users’ behavior.’
‘Unfortunately, while DJI puts everything in place to identify and notify our customers about areas in which they can’t fly, we can’t control the end users’ behavior,’ said Arianne Burrell, communications manager for DJI Technology, Inc.
‘But we do everything from our end to ensure that they do follow the regulations that are set out by their localities,’ she added.
All commercial drones, which use GPS for navigation, are designed so that they cannot operate within D.C.’s restricted airspace.
But there are several videos on the internet showing how to manipulate the drone so it can fly where it’s not allowed.
Lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security, Commerce, and Intelligence committees have received classified briefings from federal agencies on the matter.
‘Any technological product with origins in China or Chinese companies holds a real risk and potential of vulnerability that can be exploited both now and in a time of conflict,’ Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, told Politico.