The US Department of Interior (DOI) has ordered the temporary grounding of non-emergency unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) fleet operations.

Order 3379 was signed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and intends to ensure better cybersecurity and protect the supply of American UAS technology acquired to support the department mission.

The order also aims to protect America’s national treasures and critical resources.

The order is applicable to all bureaus/offices, and UAS includes unmanned aerial systems and drones.

It is also applicable to other similar technology, including components that are remotely controlled and subject to US Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

DOI spokesperson Carol Danko said: “Drones are important to critical Department of the Interior missions, such as combating wildfires and conducting life-saving search and rescue operations; however, we must ensure that the technology used for these operations is such that it will not compromise our national security interests.

“Drone use for non-emergency operations will remain grounded while the Department of the Interior reviews the possibility of threats and ensures a secure, reliable and consistent drone policy that advances our mission while keeping America safe.”

Following the order, drones will be allowed to operate in approved situations such as fighting wildfires, search-and-rescue, and dealing with natural disasters that may threaten life or property.

The Assistant Secretary – Policy, Management and Budget (AS – PMB) has been given the responsibility to issue implementation guidance within the next 30 days.

The order will come into effect immediately and will remain effective ‘until its provisions are converted to the Departmental Manual or are amended, superseded, or revoked’.