Don’t Panic! A Look at What the Countering CCP Drones Act Really Means – DJI Ban – sUAS News – The Business of Drones

I’ve been glued to my computer this week, watching all of the mudslinging, arguing, public lobbying and name calling going on around the issue of Chinese drones.

I’ve seen people making borderline threatening remarks about Rep. Stefanik; I’ve seen people blaming Skydio and BRINC for all of this, and I’ve seen people prognosticating the end of the drone industry.

I, for one, think the reports about our industry’s death are greatly exaggerated.

Here’s what we know – YES, the Countering CCP Drones Act is making its way through congress, and is included in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that just passed today.

The Senate version of NDAA has not been passed, and therefore, it could get stripped out or heavily whittled down in the Senate; and in conference between the two houses. That won’t happen until likely December of this year.

But even if it does pass and get included in the final NDAA bill, it doesn’t ban current DJI products.

It does however, prevent DJI from getting FCC licenses for future models that aren’t already licensed.

So what does that mean? It means that if you want to continue to use DJI products, you’ll be relegated to using the current M350, M30 and Mavic models; which are all pretty great. It means there won’t be an M400, an M40 or a Mavic 5, but I’m willing to live with that.

Could the FCC pull DJI’s current licenses? Sure, though they could do that today without the Countering CCP act, and they have indicated that they have no plans to do that in either case. It would also be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to police that with millions of those drones already in peoples’ hands.

Now, onto the Drones for First Responders Act.

It is a BAN on Chinese products — in 6 years. But If our American drone companies can’t field equally great or cost effective products in a 6 year time period, it’s our fault for not demanding that.
What it does in the interim is add tariffs to existing Chinese drones, and reinvests that money into a grant program for first responders, critical infrastructure operators and farmers.

That does three things — it allows you to keep buying Chinese drones if you want to, but you’re going to pay a little more. It takes that “little more” and helps support people who can’t or won’t buy Chinese products; and it helps bring price parity between US and Chinese products.

Now — on to security concerns.
Many people say “where is the smoking gun?” There are many, including the FBI/CISA memo that should have raised many eyebrows; but even in that report, there are no explicit examples of how data is being leaked or could be leaked. That information is classified, but many of us are pushing with whatever influence we have to make some of it declassified; and in the meantime, there are plenty of security researchers online willing to share explicit examples of how data is at risk of being compromised.

What I know to be true is that classified briefings are getting more widely distributed to members of congress, and whatever’s in them is enough to make a very partisan congress agree that something needs to be done – across parties and across houses.

How about allegations that Skydio, BRINC and AUVSI are using all of their lobbying might to force this issue?

Do Skydio, BRINC and AUVSI lobby congress and state governments? Absolutely. So does DJI, both directly and indirectly through legions of devoted followers. In fact, DJI is out-lobbying Skydio 3-to-1. (Source:

Did Skydio, BRINC or AUVSI cause this problem though, to force congress into banning their competition?

First of all, congress isn’t banning their competition, so if they are doing that, they failed at it.

Second of all, Skydio in particular doesn’t make a consumer drone – they’re focused largely on DOD and critical infrastructure aircraft, and most of those agencies already can’t use DJI or other Chinese products.

They’ve already gotten what they wanted, so what incentive do they have to keep pushing for DJI bans?

I can’t speak for BRINC’s lobbying efforts, but what I’ve been told by several members of congress and their staffers is that neither of these companies has pumped the kind of money into lobbying around this cause that would be needed to make an impact; and their actual concerns were born LONG before Skydio or BRINC had enough juice to press the issue. (The FBI/CISA memo was released in 2017, and the Army banned DJI aircraft in 2016 – Skydio’s first major fund raise was in 2017).

I can speak to some of AUVSI’s lobbying efforts because I’m part of them. They are a lobbying organization — that’s their entire job. They have taken a very proactive stance on the Chinese drone issue, yes, because they believe that there are legitimate security and trade concerns; and they want to support their member organizations’ interests.

Having spent an entire day on Capitol Hill last week in advocacy meetings with members of Congress and AUVSI, I can tell you that the things they (we) are lobbying for are MUCH more focused on building the drone industry rather than destroying it. Things like BVLOS, holding the FAA to the timelines in the FAA Reauthorization Act and fostering the future of urban air mobility.

How about claims that these acts will immediately and permanently halt the drone industry? Or that “taking these drones away from public safety will lead to people dying?”

There is nothing in these measures that will prevent you from flying drones you already have, or even buying more of them, as long as they’re current models.

There’s also nothing in these provisions that calls for an immediate grounding of anything — something several states have done on their own accord, such as Florida, with disastrous results — a fact that many on The Hill see as a cautionary tale of what NOT to do.

Or that no American or allied countries make drones that are even close in capability to Chinese drones?
While that may have been true a year ago, it just isn’t true anymore. Quality is coming up, prices are coming down; and if anybody is to blame for it taking so long, it’s all of us. The demand signal just hasn’t been there in a way that allows any company to make money, improve products, or bring down pricing with manufacturing at scale.

Should our federal government invest in the American drone manufacturing base, and help subsidize some of this in ways the Chinese government has done for years? Absolutely!

So if you’re going to call your congressman or senator to tell them something, tell them that.
In the meantime, consider the possibility that in the not-so-distant future, most experts believe we are headed for some type of conflict with China. It could be a cold war, it could be a hot conflict, it could even be a proxy war between China and Taiwan – much like we’re seeing in the proxy battle we are waging against Russia via Ukraine.

But if and when that happens, we already know that companies and the governments that regulate them have the ability to remotely access, throttle or even brick our technologies. (Notice your iPhone getting slower as new iPhone season comes around?)

So who’s to say that our fleet of Chinese aircraft wouldn’t just stop working one day, and then what? We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand anymore and pretend like this issue isn’t happening.

So call your congressman and senators, tell them you want them to support American and allied drone companies to make better and less expensive aircraft.

Tell them you want more grant programs like FEMA’s AFG grant to cover things like drones, so our first responders can do their jobs more effectively and save lives.

Call them and tell them that outright bans of technology are bad for the drone industry.

One thing I can be absolutely sure about is that the current plan to publicly spread hyperbolic claims and insults on both sides isn’t going to get us anywhere, so let’s focus on changing things that will actually move the industry forward.

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