American lawmakers are once again attempting to ban DJI drones, and this time they may actually succeed. They claim, as they usually do, that it's in the interest of national security for the United States. But is that the actual reason? And if this bill actually passes, is it really that bad?
Now, I know most of you watching this are recreational or hobbyist drone pilots, and you're thinking, “Well, they're just trying to ban it for federal agencies or organizations that contract with federal agencies, so it doesn't really affect me, right?” Well, that's not exactly true; it's going to affect you more than you think. So let's talk about it.
Banning DJI Drones in the USA
Hi everyone, Welcome back to the channel, and if you happen to be here for the very first time, my name is Russ. Nice to have you here.
So, as I said, today we're going to discuss the latest efforts by the United States government to ban the purchase and use of drones manufactured in Countries that have been labeled as national security threats, such as China. There are other countries on that list, but they're really focusing on Chinese-made drones right now.
Now, here's a quote from Joe Courtney, the Democratic congressman from Connecticut. He's on this committee, he helped co-sponsor this bill, and I want you to tell me if you find this quote as amusing as I do, at least the last sentence.
American Drone Manufacturers Do Not Have The Ability To Fill This Need
So, he states: “The American Security Drone Act takes important action to reduce the United States government's reliance on foreign-manufactured Drone Technology. While there's a clear need for unmanned surveillance capabilities, we cannot subvert our national security imperatives for the sake of expediency, particularly when American manufacturers have the ability to fill this need.”
Really? American drone manufacturers have the ability to fill this need? I don't know about you, but I would really love to see some research on that.
So, his comment right there suggests that if we were to ground every DJI drone right now used by a federal agency, plus all the drones that are being used by state or local agencies that acquired those drones with federal dollars, then Skydio could replace them all with their one single commercial drone, the Skydio X2, which costs $15,000.
Is that what Congressman Courtney is saying? Can you imagine the impact, you guys? Now, it should be mentioned that if this bill passes, the agencies that fall under the new rule will have two years before they have to comply, so at least it wouldn't happen right away.
But does anyone honestly believe that a single American drone company would be able to replace all of those drones even within those two years?
DJI Drone Ban Affects Following State Departments
In my opinion, not a chance. Now, the bill does include a list of agencies that would be exempt, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the NTSB, the NOAA, and tribal agencies.
There are countless local and state agencies that purchase drones with federal grants, and many of them are for search and rescue and firefighting purposes.
You see, this bill not only prohibits federal agencies from purchasing or using DJI drones, but it also prevents any agency that receives federal dollars from purchasing or using them.
So, let's say that your local Police department received a federal grant to purchase a DJI Matrice 30T—one of the most popular commercial drones for fire and safety, and for police enforcement. The M30T is one of the best drones on the market right now.
A bad guy drives his car into a crowd of people at a parade or something like that and then takes off. Well, this bill would prevent that police department from using that drone because it was purchased with federal dollars. The bad guy gets away.
But if they had a Skydio X2 instead, then they could launch that and use it to follow and catch the bad guy. So tell me, how does that make sense? It makes no sense whatsoever.
On the other side, if there was a missing child that same day, they could launch the M30T and use it to look for that missing child in the woods. It's completely asinine, you guys.
And here's another thing that the bill calls for that I think is pretty controversial, and I think you will too. Within one year of the enactment of this bill, all agencies that own drones purchased with federal dollars must provide a detailed inventory to the federal government of all drones manufactured by a covered entity, i.e., DJI.
Finally, this is the most concerning section of this bill, and this is how it's going to affect just about every single one of you, even if you're a recreational drone pilot.
Section 10 states that there are no restrictions on state, local, or territorial agencies purchasing and using DJI drones without federal dollars. So, if you want to just go buy a DJI drone and you use your own money, sure, go right ahead, not a problem—unless you use federal dollars for any other purpose in your agency.
If you have a federal grant that you got years ago and you're still under contract with the federal government for those funds that you received from that grant, then you must apply for a waiver and get permission to purchase DJI drones.
So they say, “Oh yeah, sure, if you're not going to use federal money to purchase it, go ahead and buy it. Oh, but wait, remember that contract we gave you a couple of years ago, and we gave you a little bit of money to help you buy new uniforms for your police department? Well, I guess if you want DJI drones, here's this 10-page form, and we'll get back to you in a couple of months.”
So, what this tells me, you guys, is that if you're tied to the federal government in any way whatsoever, there's going to be a lengthy process if you want to use DJI drones for anything at all.
Although it states you can purchase DJI drones with your own money, they're going to make it as difficult as possible for you as a local agency, and you will need to keep them informed of all your activity with that drone.
This is going to greatly reduce the effectiveness of local law enforcement, sheriff's departments, and much more. And that's how it's going to affect you as a regular citizen.
It's just incredible, egregious oversight, and they will make it hard for you to purchase and use anything except for an American-made drone. And good luck getting one of those.
This Bill Might Actually Pass This Time
Now, why do I think this bill is actually going to pass this time? It's because this type of legislation has been introduced before, but it's failed every single time. The reason that it has legs this time is that it's been included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024.
Most of the people who are going to be voting on this bill will not even read the entire text of it, and if they do happen to skim over Subtitle H, which is this bill that's inserted, they will read the words “China” and “national security,” and they'll make up their minds without digging any deeper. They're not going to ask any questions at all.
Now, I'm assuming that DJI is going to have some lobbyists there to argue their case, but even then, our lawmakers won't consider how impactful this bill will be to local and state agencies that rely on the superiority of DJI technology.
I'm not denying that there may be some security issues when using DJI drones over sensitive areas or for the collection of data. I have no idea if it's happening, but neither do you nor does anyone else.
We can assume, like our legislators do, but have you actually seen any proof? DJI has, of course, continuously denied any data collection, but nobody really knows, and that's the problem—there's been no evidence of data collection or acquisition of national secrets.
If there was proof out there, if they had found that this information was being gathered, then why not show us? Why not announce to the public, “Hey, look what they're doing with these drones; they're collecting our data; we've got to do something”?
If they have that data, share it, and by all means, passing legislation like this would make sense. But every time legislation like this comes up, they just say, “Oh, national security, national security,” but no one has ever shown us that our national security is actually threatened—it's only conjecture and assumption.
Country-of-origin legislation puts handcuffs on the organizations that need those products to operate and save lives. DJI drones are the best in the world; nobody even comes close, and the things that are accomplished with them are too many to even measure.
What I would like to see is hard, empirical proof that our national security is being compromised, and then we could more easily justify legislation like this.
What Do You Think About Banning DJI Drones?
So, what are your thoughts? Do you think DJI drones should be banned at the federal level, or any level at all? What do you think about having to ask Mommy and Daddy if we can buy a drone to catch the bad guys?
Comment your thoughts, and let's have a discussion. Become a channel member for as little as $1.99 per month; that really helps support and build this channel, and it gives you the opportunity to see some bonus content that you wouldn't normally see here on the channel.
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