DJI’s US ban: drone maker fights back

From China comes news that Chinese drone maker DJI unsurprisingly not amused by the US federal government’s move to ban the company’s drones from operating on US soil.

Citing an unnamed source, the South China Morning Post reported that DJI the Countering CCP Drones bill that would ban sales of its products in the US as being driven by “baseless allegations and xenophobic fear”.

The source reiterated DJI’s commitment to user data security.

The company has even gone further to disable that allows US users to sync flight records and data on DJI’s serves.

“While flight records, images, and videos are not collected and synced with DJI by default across DJI’s consumer and enterprise drone products, drone operators have always had the option to opt-in and sync this data based on personal preference, and in cases where they need to send their drone to DJI for repair or after-sales service,” the company said recently.

“DJI continually evaluates its data policy in line with market demands and privacy expectations. As such, starting June 2024, DJI will no longer offer the option for consumer and enterprise drone operators in the United States to sync their flight records to DJI’s servers.

“Additionally, thumbnail previews will no longer be generated and shown on the DJI Fly app interface for consumer drones globally. Enterprise drone operators are not affected, as their drones did not feature thumbnails to begin with.”

The US House of Representatives passed the annual National Defence Authorisation Act on Friday, which included a section with the Countering CCP Drones Act, whose aim is to limit future sales of DJI drones in the country.

The bill will be heard in the Senate for amendments and final approval before it goes to the desk of US President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

“The proposed bill sets a dangerous precedent for allowing baseless allegations and xenophobic fears to drive public policy decisions that could negatively impact public safety and the US economy,” a DJI representative said in a statement on Tuesday.

The source added that DJI’s products have helped small businesses in industries ranging from real estate to agriculture, and that it is committed to making its technology accessible to American users.

In introducing the bill last year, its sponsor, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said DJI was a threat to national security, and the bill’s aim was to protect American users’ data and preserve America’s supply chain.

DJI has refuted the claims and reiterated its protection of user data.

“Since 2017, our data security practices have been validated by multiple US federal agencies as well as independent private sector firms,” the company said.

“DJI gives drone users total control over the data they collect and generate.”

The looming ban adds to the challenges DJI faces in one of its – and the world’s – biggest commercial drone markets, after the US Commerce Department imposed export restrictions on the company in 2020, accusing it of being complicit in the oppression of China’s Uygur minority and aiding the Chinese military.

In 2019, the US Congress also banned the Pentagon from buying or using drones and components manufactured in China.

China is the world’s leading supplier of drones. The country has about 15,000 companies in the industry, of which 1,300 are based in Shenzhen, with a combined annual output valued at $2.2 billion, according to data from the Shenzhen Drone Association.


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