US Capitol Police Stop Using China-Made Drones

WASHINGTON — United States Capitol police say they have stopped using drones made by a Chinese company, which had come to the attention of Congress.

The confirmation came as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., seemingly unaware of the Capitol Police’s recent decision, called on the agency Friday to stop using the drones in a statement.

The agency’s public information office told NBC News on Friday that it got rid of the drones — made by Autel Robotics, a Chinese drone maker whose parent company is Autel Intelligent Technology — in May.

Earlier Friday, Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote in a letter to Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger: “As you may know, Chinese drones, including those of Autel Robotics, pose a serious threat to the national security of the United States, and as long as this threat persists, Congress will continue to address the issue in a bipartisan manner.”

The GOP senator, who warned of the threat posed by China, also warned that by using Autel Robotics’ drones, Capitol Police are “actively undermining ongoing bipartisan federal efforts to combat the widespread use of Chinese drones in other areas of American life. ”

Asked by NBC News for a response to the Capitol Police’s decision to get rid of the drones, a spokesperson for Rubio said, “This is an important step. Senator Rubio looks forward to working with his colleagues to ensure that the USCP or any other government agency is not allowed to purchase Chinese drones in the future.

Prior to dropping the drones last month, the department had registered four $2,000 drones after other law enforcement agencies had experience with them in the Washington area, according to a statement from Capitol Police.

They were used “for training away from Capitol Hill and outside of Washington, DC,” the statement said. The drones, which were not connected to the Capitol Police network, ran on “a standalone system” that did not connect to the Chinese company’s server.

It is unclear for what types of training activities the drones were used.

Forbes was the first to report on Capitol Police drone use, which it found in state government drone registration records with the Federal Aviation Administration.

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