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Police forces across the UK use Chinese-made drones amid US government security concerns 

A DJI Inspire 1 drone
A DJI Inspire 1 drone Credit: AP

Ten UK police forces are using Chinese-made drones even as the US government warns the devices could send sensitive information to China's servers.

Police forces including the Greater Manchester Police, West Midlands Police and Lincolnshire Police have used drones manufactured by Chinese business DJI for investigations and police work since 2017.

One police force admitted there remained a “possibility data is being captured without our knowledge”.

The US Department of Homeland Security warned on Monday Chinese drones are a “potential risk to an organisation's information". 

Chinese-made drones “contain components that can compromise your data and share your information on a server accessed beyond the company itself,” the US government warned.

The advisory notice did not specifically name DJI, but the company is the world’s dominant drone company, with a 70pc share of the global market for commercial and consumer drones.

A spokesman for the Alliance Drone Unit for Devon and Cornwall and Dorset police said it only operated drones in offline mode to ensure that data was not sent to DJI's servers. “We believe this helps reduce the risks to an acceptable level,” the spokesman said.

However, the force added: “There is a possibility that data is being captured without our knowledge, but within our unit, DJI drones are only used within areas of policing that are considered non-sensitive.”

Drone experts consulted by The Daily Telegraph urged organisations to take steps to ensure sensitive data was not being transmitted. Tony Reeves, a former RAF squadron leader and drone security expert, said DJI servers could have access to encrypted data including flight paths, altitude, and images captured during the flight.

“If you're an organisation that's sensitive about where you operate and there's a risk that your flight data is being transmitted back to a location that you're not happy with, then clearly that would be of concern,” he said.

The warning by the US government comes as Donald Trump considers further sanctions against Chinese technology businesses following an export ban on smartphone giant Huawei.

A spokesman for DJI said: “The security of our technology has been independently verified by the US government and leading US businesses. We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored and transmitted.”