The Pentagon-developed camera drones are more expensive and less capable than the Chinese-made ones that they were supposed to replace, according to an internal US government memorandum seen by the Financial Times.

The memorandum from officials from the Department of the Interior, which runs the largest fleet of unmanned civilian craft in the US government, warns that so-called “blue drones” are not good enough to carry out vital conservation work.

The Pentagon spent more than $ 13 million developing drones that government agencies could use instead of those made or assembled in China. But the complaint about its cost and effectiveness illustrates the difficulties the United States has faced in trying to divest itself of Chinese technology without obvious American alternatives.

The memo, drafted by staff in January for the incoming Biden administration, reads:

“By having only the ‘blue UAS [unmanned aerial systems]’approved, reduces DoI sensor capabilities by 95 percent. . . Airplanes are designed for a very specific DoD. [Department of Defense] mission set and will only meet about 20 percent of the DoI mission requirements. “

He goes on to warn that at an average cost of $ 2,100, drones cost between eight and 14 times more than the plane the department could previously buy.

In 2019, the Trump administration grounded each of the department’s 810 drones because they all contained Chinese parts.

The move was part of a broader push to limit U.S. exposure to sensitive technology, including 5G equipment made by Chinese company Huawei, out of fear that Beijing could use such hardware to spy.

Since the 2019 order, departmental officials have been able to resume drone flights to conduct controlled burns to prevent forest fires, but have not been able to purchase any new aircraft or launch flights for other tasks such as wildlife tracking.

Meanwhile, members of Congress are debating measures that would prevent federal money from being used to buy drones made or assembled in China.

The Pentagon has spent several years and millions of dollars working with private companies to develop five drones that it says can be safely used by government agencies.

But according to a Defense Department Report last year, at least four of them still contain a significant number of Chinese parts, including circuit boards.

A government official said the Biden administration is conducting a review of its entire civilian drone fleet to determine which planes are safe to fly, but has so far not rescinded the Trump-era grounding order.

The interior department declined to comment.

Andrew Musto, deputy director of the Defense Innovation Unit, the arm of the Pentagon that helped develop the drones, said:

“These systems. . . they have inherited some Defense Department-centric capabilities that have associated cost implications. DIU recognizes that these five systems are only a first step toward the rapid adoption of commercial UAS technology in government. “

He added that the Defense Department was trying to cut costs and improve the capabilities of the drones it had helped develop to meet the needs of other departments.

As officials debate the safety of flying existing government drones, the internal DoI memo cautioned that legally mandated conservation work is not being carried out.

“The current situation makes it almost impossible for the department to comply with laws like the John D Dingell Jr Conservation, Management and Recreation Act,”

he says. Among other things, this law mandates the mapping and conservation of large tracts of public lands.

Source: Insider Voice

UAV DACH: Beitrag im Original auf, mit freundlicher Genehmigung von UAS Vision automatisch importiert. Der Beitrag gibt nicht unbedingt die Meinung oder Position des UAV DACH e.V. wieder. Das Original ist in englischer Sprache. Für die Inhalte ist der UAV DACH e.V. nicht verantwortlich.