DJI creates US drone lobby alliance

The world leading drone manufacturer is literally fighting for its life on the US market.

DJI – whose Chinese roots are threatening to render its already precarious existence in the USA extinct – has created a lobby group in the escalation of its fight against bans and market restrictions that seem to be fast spreading across the US.

Previously, it was only federal government entities that were banned from using DJI or any unmanned aircraft system with a Chinese component on it. Effected in 2020, this resulted in federal bodies like the Department of Interior being forced to ground their fleet of more than 800 DJI which were in the employ of several sections that fall under the department.

However, individual states seem to be following in the footsteps of the federal government, as Florida and Arkansas have also instituted bans on Chinese drones from state deployment.

And even that is not all.

Like some Chinese tech manufacturers that include ZTE, Huawei, and Autel, DJI has watched helplessly as it has been placed on lists restricting its products from the US market. Ostensibly, the American government is doing this because it accuses DJI of receiving funding from the Chinese government, which in the view of the USA, makes DJI amenable to the whims of the Chinese government.

Such whims could include Beijing asking for the data that DJI drones gathers on US soil and use it for espionage purposes. Washington alleges that this is already being done in China itself where DJI drones have allegedly been used to spy on the Uighur population.

DJI, of course strenuously denies this.

And with the new Drone Advocacy Alliance – which DJI sponsors and of which the Drone Service Providers Alliance, and companies Blue Nose Aerial Imaging, Dronelink, DroneSense, and the Pilot Institute are also members – DJI is taking its fight against American protectionism to the lobby group phase.

“The Drone Advocacy Alliance is a non-partisan, drone-agnostic grassroots advocacy coalition,” the alliance says about itself.

“Formed at a time when proposed drone market access restrictions at the state and federal level could upend the burgeoning drone ecosystem, the Alliance works to ensure that drone users are able to weigh in on policies that could impact their ability to use and choose the best drones for their operational needs.”

What DJI is likely most scared of is the proposed Countering CCP Drones Act – a bill first gazetted last April that seeks to amend a 2019 law by adding the drone company to the “Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Covered List, meaning that DJI technologies would be prohibited from operating on US communications infrastructure.”

If passed, the resulting law would effectively gag DJI drones to into literally useless glorified camera on rotors, as they cannot legally be used by anyone – whether commercially or otherwise – if they use it to access any network during the process.

“The Drone Advocacy Alliance’s mission is to work with industry stakeholders and legislators to create an open, safe and honest U.S. drone marketplace that will enable end-users to pick the right tools for their operational needs and help bolster the U.S. industry. We believe that drones provide incalculable benefits to society and that users should be able to select the best options for their unique needs.”

In this vein, the advocacy alliance would, among other things:

  • Inform end-users about policies that could impact their ability to choose and use drones, while supporting policies that spur innovation and competition within the U.S. drone industry without restricting access to the market based on country of origin.
  • Streamline the process so end-users can quickly and easily share their opposition to legislation that seeks to create market access restrictions based on country of origin, and their support for legislation that builds the industry for long-term success. The Alliance is committed to supporting advocacy that is consistent with our goals and mission and reserves the right to suspend any message or participant for content that is inappropriate, vulgar, or otherwise inconsistent with our mission.
  • Enable end-users to make their voices heard by policymakers across the country.
  • Educate policymakers on the positive impacts that drones have for American first responders, small businesses, environmental research and more.

We understand the US has the largest drone market in the world, but it remains to be seen what DJI stands to gain by doubling down on the current trade dispute. Perhaps they have tried all other less confrontational channels and now, realising that they have nothing to lose, are taking the fight to the streets.

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