In a move to tighten national security measures, bipartisan leaders of a U.S. House committee focused on China have announced the introduction of a new bill titled the "American Security Drone Act." The legislation, set to be presented by committee chair Mike Gallagher (Republican) and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi (Democrat), aims to ban all federal purchases of Chinese-manufactured drones.
This proposed law would extend the prohibition of using American taxpayer dollars for the acquisition of such drones, not only at the federal level but also prevent state and local governments from using federal grants to procure these unmanned aircraft systems. Gallagher emphasized the urgency of passing this bipartisan bill to safeguard U.S. interests and the integrity of the national security supply chain.
Underlining the risks involved, Krishnamoorthi voiced concerns over the vulnerabilities arising from government agencies' dependence on foreign-made drone technology, advocating for the growth of the domestic drone manufacturing sector as a more secure alternative.
In a closely related development, the U.S. Senate has also taken a firm stand by unanimously passing an amendment that restricts the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from operating or funding drones produced not only in China but also in countries like Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba. This amendment was jointly put forward by Senators Marsha Blackburn (Republican) and Mark Warner (Democrat), reflecting a growing consensus on the issue across party lines.
The impetus for such legislative moves has been partly fueled by China's implementation of export controls on drones, citing national security concerns. Concurrently, notable Chinese drone manufacturer DJI was placed under U.S. export restrictions in 2020, following allegations of the company's involvement in human rights abuses against the Uyghur population and aiding the Chinese military.
In the civilian marketplace, DJI's dominance is evident, with the company accounting for over half of the drones sold in the United States, as cited by Republican lawmakers. The brand's popularity among public safety agencies underscores the depth of integration of Chinese drones into the U.S. operational landscape.
The bipartisan push against the use of Chinese-made drones began gaining traction in 2019 when Congress barred the Pentagon from procuring or utilizing drones and related components manufactured in China.
The introduction of the "American Security Drone Act" is the latest step in a series of measures aimed at decoupling U.S. security operations from Chinese technology, a trend that is steadily reshaping the strategic procurement policies of the United States government.
This unfolding legislative narrative continues a significant pivot towards fostering a self-reliant U.S drone industry, aiming to eliminate potential espionage and cybersecurity threats associated with non-allied made drones. As the bill makes its way through the legislative process, its implications could have wide-reaching effects on drone usage, manufacturing, and the broader geopolitical tech landscape.