Connecticut lawmakers consider bill that would ban use of drones made by some foreign countries

Connecticut Senate Bill 3, "An Act Concerning Consumer Protection," would ban a public entity, such as municipality government, police or fire departments, from purchasing Chinese- or and Russian-made drones starting in October.

Tom Krosnowski and Rose Shannon

Apr 12, 2024, 12:05 PM

Updated 36 days ago

Share:

Connecticut municipalities may soon be unable to operate drones made by certain foreign countries.
The move is part of proposed bill that has made it's way onto the state Senate calendar.
Connecticut Senate Bill 3, "An Act Concerning Consumer Protection," would ban a public entity, such as municipality government, police or fire departments, from purchasing Chinese- or and Russian-made drones starting in October. By next year, even their use could be banned.
The bill also includes policies on broadband internet, voice recognition software and price disclosures.
Co-sponsors of the bill say the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies have warned that Chinese- and Russian-made drones are sending proprietary information back to those countries.
Darien police have been using drones made by the Chinese company DJI since 2022. DJI is one of the most widely available drone companies for consumers.
"It has enhanced our operations, especially during accident investigation and through the use of mapping intersections and entire accident scenes. It's also given us the capability now to look for people through heat signatures and infrared cameras at night where we wouldn't otherwise be able to see them," says Chief Jeremiah Marron.
Darien's first selectman tells News 12 there is always a risk that the information collected by a drone could fall into the wrong hands.
"Those same drones are going to be over a power plant or an electrical infrastructure of some sort, or water treatment or just a bridge. And every time something like that is photographed, that provides information for somebody to look at and say, 'How can we use this against the country?'" says First Selectman Jon Zagrodzky (R-Darien).
But the balance between security and safety remains up in the air.
"Drones collect a lot of data, just like your phone does. And the management of that data is really important," says Mark Strauss, the CEO of WaveAerospace, a drone manufacturer based in Stratford.
Strauss says a potential solution for first responders is to remove potential access through interfaces like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
"Even though those components are made in the USA, we remove them because they are open gateways to the data that we collect. And then we leave just the channels of information that we have control of directly. We're seeing so many drones coming in from overseas. The value is not in the selling of the drone, it's actually in the collection and selling the data, " says Strauss.
Earlier this year, Congress passed a bipartisan bill banning the federal purchase of Chinese made drones.
"The reality is this is a bipartisan concern at the national, state and municipal level. Everybody's concerned about this. I don't think anyone's rejecting it. They're saying, 'How can we help?'" says Zagrodzky.


More from News 12