FCC commissioner Brendan Carr calls for further restrictions against Chinese drone maker DJI
This week FCC commission Brendan Carr calls on the FCC to add drone maker DJI to the “covered list,” adding new restrictions. Adding DJI to the FCC’s covered list would inhibit US Service Fund money from being used to purchase DJI equipment. The increased scrutiny against DJI might not be a surprise to many drone pilots. DJI has become the recent target of US regulators starting in 2019. The pressure against DJI started under the Trump administration, but hasn’t let up under the Biden administration.
Even as recently as last December, DJI was added to the US Commerce’s entity list, a form of an economic blacklist. More recently in September, two members of the US House of Representatives asked the Commerce Department to keep DJI on the entity list.
While the DJI bans seemingly continue, it is important to note that the FCC commission made a major admission. An admission that every experienced drone pilot knows very well. Carr stated, “Our customers know that DJI drones remain the most capable and most affordable products for a wide variety of uses, including sensitive industrial and government work.”
Currently there are no domestic manufacturers who can provide drones that even come close to DJI. Skydio continues to market that they are the Apple to DJI’s “nokia.” Yet in a recent exit interview with Brendan Schulman at Drone DJ, Schulman dropped the bomb we have all been wanting the FAA to address. Schulman stated
“The industry has become highly politicized, in part a reflection of geopolitics between the US and China that are obviously far larger than our fledgling industry, but also exacerbated by drone companies recently looking for any possible new competitive angle in an industry that already matured a few years ago.”
But heres the real issue that needs to be addressed, ” A company that asserts questionable marketing claims about where its product is “made” or to what extent its commercial drone can fully “fly itself without a pilot” (which is not legal), is probably just engaged in the type of puffery found in other industries and not too surprising. ”
While DJI might be under extreme scrutiny, at least Federal regulators understand the dire position America is currently in. Our current domestic drones and offerings cannot compete with DJI. Albeit this may soon change as DJI’s prices are set to rise significantly with the release of the Mavic 3.
The troubling issue is this, it seems like many regulators are ignoring a very simple fact. Solving the data security problem with DJI is a simple fix. It is an extremely simple fix, no conduit (internet) and no issues. DJI even offers a “government” edition software, which was reviewed and approved for government use. The government even has a backup program to control DJI drones that is used at the highest levels of government agencies and independently removes the security issue. So why would the FCC call to add new restrictions against DJI?
FCC commission Brandon Carr seems deeply concerned with DJI, and may not understand “the science.” Stating, “DJI drones and the surveillance technology on board these systems are collecting vast amounts of sensitive data-everything from high-resolution images of critical infrastructure to facial recognition technology and remote sensors that can measure an individual’s body temperature and heart rate,” adding “We do not need an airborne version of Huawei.”
At least the FCC understands the overarching issue that America is not in a position to compete with DJI…Yet. Skydio, Freefly Systems and Sony are quickly developing competitive packages, but have yet to hit store shelves. DJI continues to take heat from the US government, even as more government agencies continue to buy DJI equipment. Will the USA wait to hit DJI until drone pilots truly competitive offerings? We hope so, as drone pilots could be left holding the bag. Hopefully new restrictions from the FCC won’t hurt our hero’s, (fire departments and public safety) who rely on DJI to save lives.
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