After TikTok Bill Passage, The U.S. Government May Try to Ban DJI Next

DJI drone

Members of the U.S. Government may push forward with a bill that aims to ban DJI’s drones and prevent them from operating at all within the country.

According to a report from the New York Times, spotted by The Verge, a bill that has been advanced by the House of Energy and Commerce Committee would would see DJI’s aerial products made inoperable. The Countering CCP Drones Act, if passed, would add DJI’s drones to an FCC list that would block DJI drones from running on US networks, effectively grounding all of them nationwide. The Verge notes that Huawei and ZTE are already on this list.

The Countering CCP Drones Act was introduced in April 2023 by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) of the U.S. House of Representatives who both argued that Chinese law allows the government there to compel DJI to participate in and assist in its “espionage activities,” and as such the company should be added to the FCC’s list of banned communications equipment and services in the United States. Further, Stefanik says that government agencies have found that DJI provides information about “critical infrastructure” in the US to China’s government.

“DJI presents an unacceptable national security risk, and it is past time that drones made by Communist China are removed from America,” Stefanik has said. “DJI drones pose the national security threat of TikTok, but with wings. The possibility that DJI drones could be equipped to send live imagery of military installations, critical infrastructure, and the personal lives of American citizens to China poses too great a threat. Allowing this practice to continue in the U.S. is playing with fire. This Chinese-controlled company cannot be allowed to continue to operate in the U.S.”

Last March, DJI spoke out directly in response to that allegation, calling it inaccurate.

“DJI drones do not collect flight logs, photos, or videos — by default… DJI is not a military company. We remain one of few drone companies to clearly denounce and actively discourage use of our drones in combat… [and] DJI follows the rules and regulations in the markets it operates in,” the company wrote in a blog post on its website.

DJI is firmly against the proposed bill, which may have a higher chance of being passed now that the TikTok bill has already been signed by President Biden. The company may have sensed the impending threat against its US-based business as it has spent significant effort recently laying the groundwork to oppose it.

For example, DJI put one of its major US-based stakeholders in front of YouTube Billy Kyle to talk about the ramifications to multiple industries if DJI were to be banned — a clip of which it repurposed as an Instagram post.

DJI is already partially banned in the United States. It was added to the “Economic Blacklist” in 2020 and the Department of Defense labeled it a “Chinese military company” in 2022. FCC officials have also called for an outright ban of DJI in the past, but none so far have stuck. However, with the success of the TikTok ban bill, legislators may feel emboldened to push for a similar ban on DJI — and soon.

Image credits: Header photo by Ryan Mense for PetaPixel