By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday said he wants the U.S. telecommunications regulator to begin the process of imposing new restrictions on Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the agency should takes steps toward adding DJI, the world's largest dronemaker, to the so-called "Covered List" that would prohibit U.S. Universal Service Fund money from being used to purchase its equipment.
DJI, which accounts for more than 50% of U.S. drone sales, said its "drones are safe and secure for critical and sensitive operations... Our customers know that DJI drones remain the most capable and most affordable products for a wide variety of uses, including sensitive industrial and government work."
In March, the FCC designated five Chinese companies as posing a threat to national security under a 2019 law aimed at protecting U.S. communications networks.
The FCC named Huawei Technologies Co, ZTE Corp, Hytera Communications Corp <002583.SZ), Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.
Carr noted that the FCC has a separate ongoing effort to decide whether to continue approving equipment from entities on the Covered List for use in the United States.
"DJI drones and the surveillance technology on board these systems are collecting vast amounts of sensitive data-everything from high-resolution images of critical infrastructure to facial recognition technology and remote sensors that can measure an individual’s body temperature and heart rate," Carr said in a statement. "We do not need an airborne version of Huawei."
He said the FCC in consultation with national security agencies "should also consider whether there are additional entities that warrant closer scrutiny."
In December, DJI was added by the U.S. Commerce Department to the U.S. government’s economic blacklist.
In January 2020, the U.S. Interior Department said it was grounding its fleet of about 800 Chinese-made drones, and earlier halted additional Interior Department purchases of such drones.
In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned U.S. firms of the risks to company data from Chinese-made drones.
(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Bill Berkrot, William Maclean)