In a letter to Congress this week, the Alliance for Drone Innovation (ADI) has raised concerns around the proposed ban on Chinese-made drones. The group said that such a ban would “hurt the drone industry” and would leave the federal government with fewer options.
Alliance for Drone Innovation raises concerns around proposed ban on Chinese-made drones
In a letter sent to the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees this week, profound concerns were raised by an advocacy group for drone manufacturers and developers about a clause in the proposed version of the annual defense spending bill that would ban foreign and especially Chinese-made drones.
A clause in the House-passed 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would prohibit federal procurement or operation of certain foreign-made drones, including those from China, due to national security concerns, reports The Hill.
In an effort to push back against the clause, the Alliance for Drone Innovation said:
“By imposing a ban on the procurement and operation of foreign-made drones in the final conference report, this provision would be detrimental to the U.S. drone industry,” the Alliance wrote to the lawmakers. “While it may seem counterintuitive, we believe a ban on drones and drone components from outside America would actually hurt the development of the U.S. drone industry.”
“Manufacturing a drone simply cannot be done today without parts and knowledge from all over the world, and a country-based ban would hurt the Americans who build drones as well as the Americans who use them for recreation, business, conservation, and even saving lives,” the Alliance argued.
The Trump administration and members of Congress have expressed concerns around foreign, and especially Chinese-made drones, and have made strong efforts to push hard against China. The potential of data transfers from DJI drones to the Chinese government has raised national security concerns.
From all the Chinese drone manufacturers, DJI has received the most intense scrutiny. Starting in 2017, the U.S. Army has banned the use of DJI drones over data security concerns. DJI has always denied that unauthorized data transfers took place and created the Local Data Mode and even special Government Edition drones to remove any data security concerns. Several security research companies have been hired by the world’s largest drone maker to prove that no data transfer without authorization took place. In June of this year consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton found no evidence of any unauthorized data transfers.
The Alliance for Drone Innovation argues that by banning Chinese-made drones, the federal government would be left with fewer, more expensive options.
“In order for U.S. companies to thrive and compete, and to enjoy access to the parts and components they need to build drones and their accessories, we respectfully ask that you forego inclusion of this section in the conference report to accompany the FY 2021 NDAA,” the group said in the letter “We share concerns about the safety and security of all Americans, but this amendment is not the answer.
The alliance added, “We welcome the opportunity to speak with you anytime about a solution that meets your goals, while preserving the global supply chain that is critical to the lifeblood of our companies.”
The Senate and the House are currently working on and negotiating what to include in the conferenced version of the 2021 NDAA after both chambers approved their bills in July.
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