6th June 2024 – (Washington) The United States Congress is on the verge of considering a significant piece of legislation that could have far-reaching implications for the drone industry and consumer choice. The “Countering CCP Drones Act” (HR 2684), which has already been included in the draft of the FY 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, aims to ban new DJI products from entering the US market.

If enacted, this legislation could potentially lead to the retroactive revocation of existing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approvals for DJI drones, effectively grounding drones that are currently being used for both commercial and recreational purposes, regardless of whether they pose any tangible security threat.

The driving force behind this proposed ban appears to be a combination of fear-mongering, misinformation, and a thinly veiled attempt to stifle competition in the market. The concerns raised regarding DJI’s security protocols and operational practices seem to be exacerbated by the prevailing geopolitical climate, rather than being based on substantive evidence.

In a sharp contrast to the accusations levelled against it, DJI has been a vocal advocate for cybersecurity standards based on actual security practices, rather than the country of manufacture. The company has emphasised that Congress should call upon experts to establish clear, technology-based performance standards that apply to all drone manufacturers, thereby raising the overall security bar.

DJI has invested heavily in security initiatives since 2017 and has continuously expanded the range of privacy controls available to both consumer and commercial drone operators. However, the current bill does not even offer compensation to drone users who may be adversely affected if it is passed, further underscoring the lack of consideration for the rights and interests of the broader drone community.

The potential consequences of such a ban are far-reaching and deeply concerning. It would not only jeopardise the rights of hundreds of millions of users and small businesses relying on the social media platform but also undermine the confidence of Chinese investors in conducting business in the United States.

Moreover, this legislative initiative serves as a clear indication of how certain U.S. politicians are willing to prioritize their personal political agendas at the expense of public welfare. Through the use of protectionist and pan-security rhetoric, these policymakers are actively perpetuating xenophobic narratives and impeding progress and innovation in the drone industry.

The importance of taking immediate action cannot be overstated. Drone users, businesses, and advocacy groups must raise their voices and make their concerns heard before 12th June, when the Senate Committee will be considering their version of the NDAA bill. By contacting their respective Senators and clearly explaining the potential impact of this bill on their lives, livelihoods, and communities, they can play a crucial role in influencing the outcome.

It is essential that the U.S. government recognises the vital role DJI drones play in various sectors, including search and rescue operations, construction, energy, agriculture, and even filmmaking. Banning these drones could disrupt countless businesses and organisations that rely on their capabilities, ultimately stifling innovation and limiting consumer choice.

Furthermore, the allegations of data security concerns remain largely unsubstantiated, and DJI has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to adhering to the rules and regulations in the markets it operates in. The company has also explicitly stated that it does not manufacture military-grade equipment and does not pursue business opportunities for combat use or operations.

In the face of such a blatant act of protectionism and overreach, it is imperative that the drone community, industry experts, and concerned citizens unite in opposition. By presenting a united front and advocating for fair and evidence-based policies, they can counter the narrative of fear and misinformation that threatens to undermine technological progress and consumer rights.

The “Countering CCP Drones Act” represents a cowardly move that is reminiscent of the recent congressional threat to ban TikTok, another living example of protectionism and pan-security rhetoric. It is time for the U.S. government to prioritise facts over fear, innovation over isolation, and the rights of its citizens over political grandstanding.