Drones over D.C.: Senators alarmed over potential Chinese spy threat

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.”

It’s unclear what, if anything, Congress is likely to do to address the threat. Several pieces of legislation have been introduced, but most have not made it past the committee level. In addition, what limited authority exists for non-defense federal agencies to use counter-drone technology will soon expire unless lawmakers move to extend it. It’s currently carried on the continuing resolution that funds the federal government expiring Dec. 16.

And while officials believe Beijing is not overseeing the swarms, DJI has secured funding from investment entities owned by the Chinese government — a fact that DJI reportedly sought to conceal. And the ease with which recreational users can evade the flight restrictions means that their high-definition cameras or other sensors could also be hacked into for intelligence-gathering.

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