Japanese government to stop buying Chinese drones

Japanese government to stop buying Chinese drones

Cybersecurity requirements aim to protect data for defense and infrastructure

TOKYO — Japan will adopt stronger security requirements for drones used in defense and infrastructure surveillance next fiscal year, a move that will essentially shut out Chinese-made devices from government procurement. 

Starting in April, all Japanese agencies will have their drone purchases screened in advance by the Cabinet Secretariat. The requirement also will apply to some independent governmental bodies like the Japan Pension Service. The agencies also agreed to enact measures to protect data aboard the drones.

Tokyo is not naming countries or manufacturers it plans to exclude from drone fleets. But Chinese-made units likely no longer will be approved for government use.

Because drones connect to outside networks while in the air, their flight information and any data they collect could be vulnerable without security precautions. Tokyo looks to prevent outside actors from taking control of government drones or extracting data from them.

Specifically, Japan aims to bolster cybersecurity for drones in three types of operations: aiding national defense or criminal investigations — activities such as land or sea patrols — inspecting critical infrastructure and conducting search and rescue missions.

These drones carry especially sensitive data that could endanger national and public security. Information from patrol or anti-crime drones could provide insight into ongoing defense or police operations. Leaked data on dams, ports, power plants and other infrastructure could aid terrorist attacks. An unsecured drone could stop functioning during a life-or-death rescue mission or other emergency.