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Get The Facts: DJI in the United States

There is increasing concern that the recent passing of the TikTok bill in Congress will act as a precedent for other pending legislation against Chinese companies in the U.S. This could include the Countering CCP Drones Act (also known as HR 2864) which directly targets DJI, and a new bill called the Drones for First Responders Act (DFR Act)

If the Countering CCP Drones Act is enacted, American drone operators would lose access to new DJI drones and may also lose the ability to fly their existing fleet, if DJI’s FCC authorizations are revoked. This would apply to all drone operators regardless of recreational, commercial or government use. 

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Pending Legislation Overview

Countering CCP Drones Act (HR 2864) 

  • If enacted, American drone operators would lose access to new DJI drones, and may also lose the ability to fly their existing fleet, if DJI’s FCC authorizations are revoked.
  • Affects all drone operators regardless of recreational, commercial or government use. 
  • The bill was first introduced in April 2023 and then passed unanimously at a Committee vote in March 2024. The next step is possible consideration by the whole House of Representatives. The time frame is not yet clear.

Drones for First Responders Act (DFR Act)

  • If enacted, drones made in China will be subject to incremental tariffs starting at 30%. By 2030, drones imported into the U.S. could not contain critical components from China.
  • The bill was introduced on May 15, 2024. 

We asked Adam Welsh, DJI’s Head of Global Policy, to shed some light on these recent developments and help answer questions we have seen raised by the drone community online. 

There is increasing concern that the passing of the TikTok bill will act as a precedent for pending legislation against DJI in the U.S. What are the implications of this development on DJI’s operations in the U.S., in light of reports that HR 2864 is gaining momentum in its wake? 

I would not draw parallels between DJI and TikTok as these are two different companies with different technologies and user profiles. For starters, DJI is not a social media company and does not need to access user data. That is why we only take flight logs or images if users opt-in to share with us.  But there is certainly a strong base of support in Congress for legislation targeting Chinese companies and there are serious efforts to ban DJI that would not just impact government users, but all users - including private businesses and hobbyists. 

But the political discourse and threat of DJI being banned in the U.S. has been going on for years. Is this time really different?

I can understand why people may feel fatigued or desensitized to it by now. When the Countering CCP Drones Act was first introduced, it was an escalation as it targeted one company - DJI - directly and went well beyond limiting the use of a few government departments. Let’s be clear, this would prevent consumers, hobbyists, real estate photographers, any user group you can imagine from getting new DJI products in the US. The implications of the proposed legislation was so drastic not just to DJI but also to the American drone community that some groups brushed it off as a bill that would not gain the momentum it needed. 

But then we saw the mechanism that was used to push the TikTok bill across the finish line.  A source in a recent New York Times article has referenced an upcoming “China Week” in May, so Congress may have a similar opportunity for the Countering CCP Drones Act sooner than we think. To add, there is another bill that could impact the use of DJI drones and it is the Drones for First Responders (or DFR) Act which relates to first responder use of Chinese-made drones. 

In short, the tone in D.C. has shifted significantly and we should take any pending anti-DJI legislation more seriously than ever before. I would also highlight that this is an election year so things can move even more quickly.

But the Countering CCP Drones Act only affects enterprise and government users, right? Recreational users have nothing to worry about.

If DJI’s FCC authorizations get revoked, all operators who use DJI drones will be affected regardless of whether they use it for recreational or commercial use. To be clear, this would stop US customers getting the latest new products from DJI. And it would lead to an absurd situation where the most advanced country in the world was using old DJI equipment, while customers in Europe, Asia and the rest of the world benefit from new and innovative DJI products. That's bad for US drone users and bad for the industry as a whole. A drone service providers association surveyed members and two-thirds said they would go out of business without access to Chinese drones.

What can drone pilots do about this, and is there still time? Where can operators learn more information? 

Get involved. If you fly a drone, these new legislative efforts impact you. Even if you like products other than DJI, this still impacts you. No industry has improved by getting rid of competition.  

This issue is increasingly covered by the media so there is a wealth of information available publicly, but I would also encourage operators to visit the resources available on the Drone Advocacy Alliance (DAA) website. DJI supports the DAA which is an independent group of drone advocates that are working to ensure operators across the country can weigh in on the policies that will affect them. Operators can start there. You really can make a difference. But you have to engage. Be courteous, be patient and be ready to answer questions about why you think DJI needs to remain in the market. But make your voice heard. 

In terms of time, yes. There is still an opportunity for operators to speak to their representatives. We will continue to engage U.S. policymakers as best we can, but operators should feel empowered to make their voices heard and they shouldn’t wait - if they do, it might be too late.

If there is one thing you want the drone community to take away, what would it be? 

I am amazed by the innovation and ingenuity that drone operators in the U.S. demonstrate with their DJI drones. We don’t want to see that come to an end. While we as a community of drone users are aware of these incredible and impactful use cases, there remain millions of people who are not as familiar with drone technology just yet - including members of Congress. I encourage our customers, the drone operators, to engage with the Drone Advocacy Alliance’s resources and make their voices heard, while there is still time. 

Further Reading

Note: The article has been updated to reflect the latest status of the DFR Act. It was a legislative proposal at the time of writing but has now been introduced as an official bill. 

Topics: Get The Facts

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