In its broad mission to effectively manage over 500 million acres of land across the United States and its territories, the Department of the Interior has in recent years turned to drone technology to help get the job done. The DOI’s fleet of 810 civilian drones – only about 20 percent of which are DJI products – is the largest in the federal government and has become a trusted, invaluable resource for the agency. In 2018 alone, the DOI flew more than 10,000 drone missions to support everything from surveying migrating birds to fighting wildfires. It even used drones to support volcano monitoring and response efforts which were instrumental in the rescue of a Hawaii resident trapped by flowing lava.

That’s why we’re troubled by a new department policy that takes aim at drone technology. According to the policy, DOI employees can no longer fly drones made by foreign-owned companies or those made with foreign-manufactured components, with undefined cybersecurity concerns as the sole rationale. This policy has grounded the DOI’s entire drone program and all of the…

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