Today turns out to be quite the drone news day, and I don’t mean that in a good way, unfortunately. Earlier today a long-established aviation news publication reported that the United States is nearing legislation that would ban all Chinese-made drones, including DJI drones for government use.
U.S. nears law banning Chinese-made drones including DJI for government use
The United States is nearing legislation banning Chinese made drones, which would include any drones from Chinese dronemaker, DJI for government use.
AIN Online, whose mission is ‘to provide timely, accurate and balanced aviation and aerospace news, analysis and data around the world,’ just reported that an amendment to ban U.S. government use of Chinese drones appears almost certain to become law within weeks.
The amendment is contained within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and prohibits the purchase of commercial drones made by a ‘covered foreign entity’ including China, by any U.S. government agency.
The ban not only covers purchases of new drones but also flights with drones that are already in the fleets of government departments and agencies.
The ban also extends beyond complete drones and includes drone components such as drivetrains, cameras, and circuit boards. AIN Online also reports that orders for components already contracted for could be completed up to one year following enacted.
Chinese drone banning amendment likely to be signed into law soon
So far the amendment has survived both the House- and Senate-passed versions and it seems certain that it will be in the final legislation that will be presented to President Trump to be signed into law.
According to the author of the amendment, U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), the measure was needed for national security.
“Drones manufactured by foreign adversaries should be nowhere near the federal government. This equipment from countries like China uses taxpayer dollars to support the Chinese Communist Party’s near-monopoly on this critical market, while also posing a serious national security threat. It is imperative that Congress pass this bipartisan bill to protect U.S. interests, our communities, and our national security supply-chain.”
The amendment was originally offered as stand-alone legislation last year, entitled ‘The American Security Drone Act.’ Once passed into law, the amendment prohibits the purchase of drones and components from countries deemed national security threats. The ban extends to the use of federal grants and contracts for the purchase of these items by state and local governments.
The ban on Chinese-made drones is mainly focussed on Chinese drone-maker DJI, which controls at least 70 percent of the U.S. drone market. DJI has repeatedly said their drones do not collect data from their users to be passed on to the Chinese Government.
DJI maintains that operators have full control over their data
Eventhough DJI pointed out repeatedly that operators of their drones maintain full control over their data the data security concerns keep coming up in the media. Most recently, French security researcher Synacktiv, a company that has worked with competitors of DJI, possibly even French dronemaker Parrot, claimed that several DJI apps on Google’s Android platform had potential vulnerabilities. DJI has called these claims false and misleading. The drone maker also said that ‘there is no evidence that any of the hypothetical vulnerabilities reported by Synacktiv have ever been exploited.’
We will follow the preparation of this amendment banning Chinese-made drones, including DJI drones closely, and will report any news here on DroneXl.co.
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