WASHINGTON — U.S. Capitol Police said they have stopped using drones manufactured by a Chinese company, which had garnered some attention in Congress.
The confirmation came as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., apparently unaware of the Capitol Police's recent decision, on Friday called on the agency to stop using the drones in a statement.
The agency's public information office told NBC News on Friday that it had gotten rid of the drones — made by Autel Robotics, a Chinese drone manufacturer 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 from Autel Robotics, pose a serious national security threat to the United States, and while this threat persists, Congress continues to approach the issue in a bipartisan manner."
The GOP senator, who has warned about the threat posed by China, also cautioned that by using the drones from Autel Robotics, Capitol Police was “actively undercutting ongoing bipartisan federal efforts to combat the widespread use of Chinese drones in other sectors of American life.”
Asked by NBC News for a response to the Capitol Police's decision to get rid of the drones, a Rubio spokesperson said: “It is an important step. Senator Rubio looks forward to working with his colleagues to ensure the USCP or any other government agency is not allowed to purchase Chinese drones in the future.”
Before ditching the drones last month, the department had registered four $2,000 drones after other law enforcement agencies had experience with them in the Washington region, according to a statement from Capitol Police.
They were being used "for training away from Capitol Hill and outside of Washington, D.C.," the statement said. The drones, which were not connected to Capitol Police's network, operated on "a self-contained system" that didn't connect to the server of the Chinese company.
It's unclear exactly what types of training activities the drones were being used for.
Forbes was the first to report about the use of the drones by Capitol Police, which it found from records of state government drone registrations at the Federal Aviation Administration.