Trump ban on Chinese-made drone parts increases risk wildfires

According to an internal memo, the U.S. Department of the Interior's decision not to buy more drones with Chinese parts has made it more difficult to fight wildfires. The memo exposes one consequence of the Trump administration's crackdown on Chinese tech, which includes Chinese-made drone parts.

Trump ban on Chinese-made drone parts increases risk wildfires

The memo, which was written by the department's Office of Aviation Service, states that the department will have carried out only a quarter of the controlled burning to control and prevent wildfires that it otherwise would have done if there was no ban on drones that have Chinese-made drone parts, the Financial Times reports.

Due to the hot weather and shortage of , the U.S. is currently experiencing one of the worst years for outbreaks. The ban on the use and purchase of any drone containing Chinese-made parts increases the risk of wildfires.

The internal memo warns that “[The department's current fleet] must expand to meet the demand of preventative measures mandated for the reduction of wildfire via vegetation reduction.”

The FT reports having seen the memo that was written earlier this year. The document concludes that by the end of 2020 the U.S. Department of the Interior will have performed only 28% of all the controlled burning it would have completed if the department would have been allowed to purchase the 17 new drone-based firefighting systems as planned.

The ban on the use of and purchase of drones containing Chinese-made parts was announced last year by David Bernhardt, the interior secretary, amid national security concerns of flying drones over federal lands.

The Department of the Interior has the largest drone fleet in the federal government. The fleet consists of more than 800 drones, including many DJI aircraft. The drones are used for monitoring and for firefighting. The fleet has been mostly grounded since Mr. Bernhardt decided that all departmental unmanned aircraft should be reviewed for the security risk they may pose as the devices contain parts that have been made in .

The use of drones by the department was allowed for emergency situations and for carrying out controlled burning of federal lands to control and prevent wildfires. However, the FT reports that all new drone purchases can only take place with the approval of Susan Combs, one of Mr. Bernhardt's assistant secretaries, which she has not since given.

As a result of Mr. Bernhardt's decision, the purchase of 17 new Ignis systems to start controlled fires has not taken place. Instead, the department has either used manned aircraft to start controlled fires or has not carried out the controlled burning at all, the internal memo says.

The memo says: “Denying the acquisition of UAS [drone] aerial ignition devices directly transfers risk to firefighters who must use manned aircraft to complete these missions rather than a safer option utilizing UAS.”

The document recommends going ahead with the planned drone purchases, although that has not happened yet.

Secretary Bernhardt is committed to deploying all resources necessary to protect human health and safety. The secretary's order grounding the department's drones achieves these important objectives while addressing serious national security concerns that were raised in classified briefings late last year,” said the Department of the Interior.

DroneXL's take

The Trump ban on drones that contain Chinese-made parts does not make a lot of sense when you consider that other tech products that are used by the federal government, such as smartphones, computers, printers, and cameras contain Chinese-made parts as well, but are not banned.

Furthermore, many of the drone flights performed by the Department of the Interior are over sparsely populated forest areas to monitor wildlife or fight wildfires. Hardly the sensitive areas that would provide a reason to be concerned about issues. Lastly, DJI worked together with the Department of the Interior to develop a ‘Government Edition‘ of certain DJI drones that would eliminate any data security concerns. I would also recommend listening to this podcast in which Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy and Affairs at DJI, talks about DJI drones and data security concerns.

Stay in touch!

If you'd like to stay up to date with all the latest drone news, scoops, rumors, and reviews, then follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or…

Subscribe to our Daily Drone News email.*

Submit tips If you have information or tips that you would like to share with us, feel free to submit them hereSupport You can support by using these links when you make your next drone purchase: Adorama, Amazon, B&H, BestBuy, eBay, DJI, Parrot, and Yuneec. We make a small commission when you do so at no additional expense to you. Thank you for helping DroneXL grow! FTC: uses affiliate links that generate income.

* We do not sell, share, rent out or spam your email, ever. Our email goes out on weekdays around 5:30 p.m.

Photo: Associated Press

Discover more from DroneXL

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Proposed legislation threatens your ability to use drones for fun, work, and safety. The Drone Advocacy Alliance is fighting to ensure your voice is heard in these critical policy discussions.Join us and tell your elected officials to protect your right to fly.

Drone Advocacy Alliance
Follow us on Google News!

Get your Part 107 Certificate

Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.

pilot institute dronexl

Copyright © 2024. All rights reserved. The content, images, and intellectual property on this website are protected by copyright law. Reproduction or distribution of any material without prior written permission from is strictly prohibited. For permissions and inquiries, please contact us first.

FTC: is an Amazon Associate and uses affiliate links that can generate income from qualifying purchases. We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email.

Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

Articles: 3635

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.