With all the recent news about DJI drones being banned at the federal level in the United States, many people are wondering if these bans may extend to consumer drones like the DJI Mavic series or even the DJI Mini drones.
So, let's discuss this ban and talk about whether we need to be worried as recreational drone pilots. Welcome back, everyone. For those of you new here, my name is Russ. As I said, I'd like to offer some opinions on the recent banning of Chinese-made drones in America.
Should Recreational Pilots be worried about a possible DJI Drone Ban?
Now, very quickly, in case you aren't aware, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2024 is about to be signed by President Biden, and tucked into that is what is essentially the American Security Drone Act of 2023.
This is the bill that prohibits the purchase or use of any Chinese-made UAVs by the federal government, as well as any entities that receive federal funding.
So that means any company that gets federal grants or federal funding of any kind cannot use a drone that is made in China.
Senator Rick Scott from Florida is the primary architect of that bill, by the way. He's been working on this for quite a while, and what this means is basically DJI drones will be grounded from use by our nation's First Responders, our government contractors like construction firms, agricultural entities, infrastructure maintenance, and inspections.
The list goes on and on, and the economic impact of this ban will be astronomical, and people could actually potentially lose their lives because of this ban.
And I know that's hyperbole, but whether our lawmakers like it or not, DJI drones have been instrumental in so many first responder success stories.
Now, I should mention that I will be sharing my opinion a lot in this video. I've already shared some opinions, but just be aware, this is only one person's opinion, and I welcome your opinions in the comments as well, whether you share mine or not.
I know you're going to have some, but just let me know down in the comments because I really enjoy having these conversations.
Skydio's lobbying efforts
Now, I know that many have stated they believe that Skydio, which is currently America's largest drone manufacturer, albeit only in the commercial sector now because they dumped their consumer division, has a lot to do with this most recent ban of Chinese-made drones.
Some have said that they lobbied to ensure that there is less competition so they can take command of the commercial, industrial, and military market in America.
And it's actually pretty well known that Skydio has lobbied extensively for limiting the use of UAVs from Countries that are considered threats.
But DJI also has had some extensive lobbying efforts, and I would assume that a $4 billion per year company would have a pretty significant amount of influence, and they do. Over the past four years, they've invested about $5.5 million towards lobbying efforts.
And then Skydio, on the other hand, has spent about $1.4 million in the same amount of time. So it's not for lack of trying by DJI to hold their position as the leader in the United States market.
Why are lawmakers anti-Chinese-made drones?
So, even with all this investment over the past four years, why are lawmakers still so anti-Chinese when it comes to drones?
For one, I don't think a single lawmaker even really understands how a drone works. Like most of them probably haven't even flown a drone or even seen a drone in person.
Their decisions are based solely on what someone else tells them. Now on the surface, this looks like legislation by fear and speculation, which actually happens a lot in this country.
But you just have to assume that they have more facts available to them than we know, as the normal American person, right?
Like the supposed ties of DJI to the Chinese government. It's never been proven to us as the public, but it must happen, right?
And the alleged American data collection by DJI that occurs, also never proven, never announced to us, never shown any proof to us, but they say it's happening, so it must be happening, right?
They wouldn't risk the safety of Americans just by speculation, would they? Anyway, I digress.
The second reason that I think lobbying is not enough is the connections that our government has with the largest American drone company.
Now, I want you all to research someone when you're done watching this video. I've spoken of him before in the past, but many of you are new to the channel since the last time that I spoke about him.
But his name is Brendan Groves. He is the Vice President of Regulatory and Policy Affairs at Skydio, and this guy is a military hero. He's extremely smart, and he's a true American patriot. Actually, he's done a lot for our country.
But he's got an extensive resume working in our federal government, the Department of Justice, he was on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Executive Committee, and he was actually the leader of our current counter-UAS laws in the US.
So, not only has he been kind of the poster child for national Data Security, but he's also worked with drones extensively, and that's why Skydio brought him in quite a few years ago, actually.
Now, but you guys, this is the Vice President of Skydio. This person has tremendous connections to our federal government, and, I don't know, like you can read about him, form your own opinions.
There's a lot of information about him. It's all public. But my opinion, if it quacks like a duck, you guys, it's a duck.
So, what about this ban on Chinese-made drones and the possibility of us not being able to fly our consumer drones from DJI or even Autel anymore?
And yes, to be clear, very, very clear, Autel is a Chinese-made drone, you guys.
Every single time I make one of these videos, there are several comments saying, “Oh, so what if DJI gets banned? Just get yourself an Autel Evo, no problem, right?”
Well, guess what, Autel is a Chinese-made drone. Autel is included in this ban. Now, my opinion, and it's a pretty strong one, I don't think we're going to see a nationwide ban of DJI or Autel consumer drones in America.
And the number one reason that I believe this is because Skydio has dropped out of the consumer market. It's no longer competition for them, so they really aren't a threat anymore, you know.
They're just going to focus on the commercial, industrial side of things now. Even though I'm not concerned about a federal ban, I do have great concern for legislation at the state level.
Now, we're already seeing a number of states with anti-drone legislation in general, not just against Chinese-made drones but all sorts of drones.
Of course, most of these laws are poorly written, with an excessive lack of knowledge of federal preemption, and they are largely based on privacy concerns and nuisance laws. But they're still going to make it pretty difficult for people in some states to fly.
Call to Action
So, this is where you come in. You all need to be more proactive in letting your state representatives know your opinions and then sharing the facts with them so they can make informed laws.
There's so much misinformation out there, and unfortunately, state lawmakers are just normal people like you and me, and unless they're educated, they're going to make poor decisions. There are a lot of people that get
elected that probably should not have been elected, you know. They get into the system through influence, or power, or connections, or whatever, and they actually have no idea what's going on.
So, you know, those people need even more Education, and that's where we come in, you know, as advocates for the hobby.
Now, there's a gentleman at my gym that works for the Department of Homeland Security, a really nice guy. I've known him for a very long time. I was visiting with him the other day, and he was telling me about him and his team touring the new General Atomics drone hangar in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
It's a training center for military drone operations, and Homeland Security is involved with its operation, of course.
And as we were visiting, I asked him his opinion on the ban of Chinese-made drones at the federal level, and he stated it's a necessity.
He is 100% certain that data is being collected and shared. Now, why he believes that, I'm not sure. Maybe he's seen the proof, or maybe he's being told by his superiors. I don't know for sure.
But I also asked if he believes that we could see an all-out ban at all levels, not just at the federal level, maybe at the local or, you know, the recreational drone level, is what I'm trying to say.
And he said that he doesn't see a need for that ever because those drones aren't being used largely in sensitive areas, you know, critical infrastructure, places like that where we should be concerned about privacy and about protected information.
Fly your DJI Drone in Local Data Mode
And then we also discussed the fact that you can fly DJI drones in local data mode without ever having to connect to the internet.
There's absolutely no way for data to be compromised this way. Your drone in local data mode has the same likelihood of data sharing to China as your toaster at home does.
So, he's in agreement with me that we will not see a federal ban for the general public of Chinese-made drones.
Our government would be better off banning Chinese-made cell phones before drones, at least there's been some evidence that they are constantly gathering data from those.
51 Drones' Takeaway
So, what's my takeaway here, you guys? I really think this federal drone ban is going to hurt America as a whole. I know we have to be concerned about security, we have to be concerned about, you know, data getting into the wrong hands.
But I also think we need to be concerned about all of the things that DJI drones are doing for Americans right now. Like, they're saving lives, literally saving lives.
And when you're talking about saving lives and keeping your country safe, you want to use the best tools that are available. And there's nothing that even comes close to being the best tools, than DJI drones.
Like, DJI makes the greatest products ever when it comes to things like drones and many other things as well. But you know, it's really, really scary, and I think we're not going to realize how bad this is going to be until we start to see the economic impact.
When we start to see that people are unable to do their jobs because they can't use a DJI drone, uh, we're going to see people being lost in the woods and never be found again because we don't have the ability to find them.
We need the best product. We need the best technology. And I think that's the biggest thing here, you know, that's the biggest tragedy of this ban on Chinese-made drones.
Can DJI Fix This?
I just really think there has to be a way that DJI can fix this. There has to be something that they can do, like, you know, some people have mentioned maybe open a manufacturing facility in the United States and have it be overseen and have American employees work there and everything.
Or some people have even mentioned having DJI have open source, so it's open to everybody. Everybody can see the data, everybody can see what is being shared and where it's going, and everything like that. I don't know if that's possible.
This can't stop DJI. DJI is just too good, and it does so many good things that if there was a way that they could just ASSURE Americans and the American government that they are not taking our data.
Given that they have already undergone several audits—including by American businesses—and those businesses have not been able to find anything wrong, I believe they have done a pretty good job.
Nothing nefarious has been found during these audits. So, maybe there's a way that DJI can figure this out. I sure hope so.
Watch Adam Welsh Interview
This video is extremely informative; it's a really great conversation, and it's going to really get your blood boiling about this most recent legislation in the US. Now, you can watch that whole video if you want.
But if you want to get to the meat of it, I would start watching at about the 34-minute mark. I'm going to link the video right up here. It's going to pop out on the screen. Also, I'm going to put it in the video description.
Let me know your thoughts, you guys. Is the DJI ban legitimate? Are you afraid of your drone being banned? Let me know in the comments.
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Have a great day, everyone, and as always, fly safe and fly smart.
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