Skydio CEO Denies Lobbying to Get DJI Drones Banned in the US

A soldier in camouflage uniform and wearing tactical gear operates a small white drone which hovers above their open hand. The background shows a clear sky and rocky terrain.

DJI is under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers and is facing a potential ban in the United States. Some drone enthusiasts are casting a suspicious eye toward DJI’s competitors, including American drone maker, Skydio.

As Digital Camera World reports, Skydio’s co-founder and CEO, Adam Bry, recently testified before the congressional China Select Committee in a hearing concerning “Chips, Ships, and Drones.” The committee is focused on the potential national security threats posed by China and Chinese companies, and there is particular concern about surrounding drones.

Skydio is also an active lobbyist, with the company spending more than half a million dollars annually in 2022 and 2023, per OpenSecrets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to following how money is spent in politics. In the first quarter of this year, Skydio spent $170,000 on lobbying, its greatest first-quarter lobbying expenditure on record.

Beyond lobbying efforts, which aren’t particularly unusual for a company that markets its products to the public sector, a lot has led many to question Skydio’s motives for participating in congressional hearings.

Last August, Skydio announced that it was exiting the consumer drone market to focus on its commercial and public sector business. Skydio isn’t the first American drone maker to bow out in the face of the DJI-sized behemoth following 3D Robotics’ 2016 departure.

Skydio’s desire to sell drones to the public sector is happening against a tumultuous legal backdrop for DJI. The polarizing Countering CCP Drones Act narrowly passed through the House of Representatives, and is now headed through additional legal processes before it can officially become law.

A gray quadcopter drone with a camera mounted on the front. The drone has four rotors with black and blue-tipped blades and is shown against a white background. The body of the drone is sleek with visible sensors and intricate mechanical parts.
Skydio’s X10D drone was added to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Blue sUAS Cleared List in May 2024. “The DIU’s Blue UAS Cleared List underscores products that align with the U.S. government’s stringent security and performance standards, ensuring that U.S. armed forces have access to the best technology without compromising operational security. The inclusion of X10D on this list validates DoD’s trust in Skydio’s technology and gives agencies the Authority to Operate (ATO) the product,” Skydio wrote in a press release at the time.

In response, DJI has resorted to pleading with its customers to tell their congresspeople not to support the law. And yes, DJI is also very active with its lobbying efforts in the U.S., having spent more than $1.5 million last year.

Add in that Skydio’s CEO has been testifying before lawmakers about the risks posed by Chinese drones, and it’s easy to see why some people think Skydio is trying to squash competition under the guise of national security.

Bry has taken to LinkedIn to address what he describes as “a pretty extreme level of hate” aimed at Skydio.

“As the leading US company, a few folks have aimed a pretty extreme level of hate at Skydio, claiming that we are ‘responsible for restrictions on Chinese drones because we’re focusing all of our energy on trying to lobby our competitors out of the market.’ I’m writing to address this head-on,” Bry writes.

He continues, saying that increasing restrictions on Chinese drones are not “protectionist measures” while admitting that Skydio believes that relying on Chinese drones for things like “national defense, critical infrastructure inspection, and public safety” is “generally a bad idea.” He adds that Skydio advocates for a “strong US drone industry” and that the company’s efforts sometimes involve speaking to policymakers about the risks of Chinese drones.

Two soldiers dressed in camouflage uniforms and tactical gear are operating a drone. One soldier is extending his arm to launch or land the drone, while the other is standing with a weapon, facing away, and appears to be inspecting the area. They are near a concrete wall.

It is worth framing Bry’s words within the context that Skydio is very focused on efforts to sell its drones to the very entities concerned with “national defense, critical infrastructure inspection, and public safety.” This doesn’t mean Bry or Skydio at large don’t sincerely believe that DJI or other Chinese drones should not be used for these applications, independent of their business interests, but it is essential to consider all possible motives here.

Bry also addresses Skydio’s lobbying efforts, describing the company’s “government relations work” as a “fraction of a percent” of the company’s overall budget and his focus as CEO. He adds, “We had nothing to do with [the Countering CCP Drone Act] and have not lobbied in favor of it.”

“You can disagree with the US government actions at large, across multiple sectors, but to blame Skydio for all of this is nuts,” Bry writes, encouraging people to view his testimony for themselves.

Respondents to Bry’s LinkedIn post aren’t universally picking up what he puts down.

“Adam Bry, you and your company have had an enormous NEGATIVE effect on this industry. The efforts you have paid lobbyists to push for [endangering] American lives. You may have your company based in the US, but you are not representing America, our ideals, or values. The greater drone industry will benefit from your exit from it,” writes Kyle Nordfors on Bry’s LinkedIn post. Nordfors is the UAS Chairman of the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA).

“Compete. Create a better product. Innovate. Be better. These are American values. Using legislation for market share is COWARDLY!” he continues.

Bry responded directly to Nordfors’ comment, saying, among other things, that he believes that “… Regardless of what policy makers do or don’t do, the best way to ensure that we can scale up the impact drones are having within public safety is by having a strong US drone industry.”

A futuristic drone with blue LED lights hovers in the air. The drone has a sleek design with four propellers and a camera in the front. The background features the structure of a bridge and a clear blue sky.

Bry also says, “I hope you’ll at least consider how unstable it has now become to have such critical tools coming from our number one geopolitical competitor and adversary.”

“Your lobbying doesn’t just threaten public safety — it endangers thousands of small businesses that rely on this technology to survive,” adds Luis Figueiredo, a veteran law enforcement agent specializing in unmanned aerial systems.

Not all comments are negative, but many are. Given the breadth and passion of the conversation surrounding Bry’s testimony, Skydio’s lobbying efforts, and the Countering CCP Drones Act, it is undoubtedly a hugely important situation for many, including DJI.

“I am not surprised or bothered that DJI’s talking points on the issue focus on Skydio. They are desperately trying to misdirect. I’m also not surprised that their network of resellers and other folks with an economic dependence on DJI repeat these talking points,” Bry writes. “The only thing that bums me out is to see a few folks within the communities of drone users we serve attack Skydio — especially public safety — for whom we have so much respect, and are so motivated to support.”

Image credits: Skydio