U.S. Drone Manufacturers to Benefit from New Government Curbs on Foreign Drones

Federal Legislation Boosts Domestic Drone Industry

The U.S. small drone manufacturing sector is gearing up for a significant sales increase following the passage of the annual defense policy bill last month. This legislation introduces restrictions on federal government purchases of foreign-made drones, a move that domestic drone makers anticipate will quadruple their market potential.

READ: UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF THE 2023 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT ON THE UAS INDUSTRY

The American Security Drone Act

A key component of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2024 is the American Security Drone Act. This act bars the federal government from using funds to buy drones made in or certain other from December 2025 through December 2028. Additionally, it prohibits federal agencies from operating Chinese drones during this period, unless an exemption is granted.

State-Level Precedents

This federal move mirrors earlier state-level actions, such as in , where legislation against state agencies using foreign-made drones was implemented last year. Small drones have become increasingly vital for government operations in various fields, such as firefighting, dam repairs, surveys, and border patrols, due to their cost-effectiveness and operational safety compared to traditional methods.

Industry Reactions and Concerns

While U.S. drone makers are optimistic, the blanket ban on China-made drones has sparked controversy within the industry. Critics argue that the prohibitions leave agencies without affordable drone options.

However, Jeff Thompson, CEO of -based Red Cat, believes that the two-year notice before the ban takes effect provides sufficient time for a transition to U.S.-made drones.

“They're giving them two years, which is plenty of warning,” Thompson was reported saying. “I don't think a lot of people will wait that long to convert to made-in-U.S. drones.”

The Bigger Picture

The restrictions are part of broader efforts to manage the use of drones, which, while popular as consumer toys, are also potent tools for aerial surveillance and require careful regulation.

Concerns about China's dominance in the global consumer drone market, particularly the market share of Shenzhen-based DJI, have been growing. The U.S. Army banned the use of DJI drones by service members in 2017, and DJI was added to the Commerce Department's export control list in 2020.

Drones in Modern Warfare

The successful use of inexpensive drone swarms by Ukrainian soldiers, rigged with bombs, has highlighted the evolving role of small drones in warfare. Recognizing this, the Pentagon launched the “Replicator” program to produce thousands of low-cost drones in the .

The new federal legislation marks a pivotal moment for the U.S. , offering a substantial opportunity for growth while aligning with national security interests and technological advancements in modern warfare.

Photo courtesy of Brinc Drones.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, 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 @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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