News and Commentary Your Home Committee on Homeland Security has reported on the Drone Origin Security Act— H.R. 4753– and recommended passage without modification. What that would imply for emergency services and federal government drone users, nevertheless, is uncertain– and stakeholders must evaluate the Act thoroughly.
H.R. 4753, the Drone Origin Security Act, would prohibit the secretary of Homeland Security from authorizing the purchase of any drones made in “covered countries”– or any drones with parts produced in covered countries, consisting of gimbals or electronic cameras. Realistically, the expense has one of the most impact on DJI, the world’s largest drone producer, which is based in China. But what many drone operators might not recognize is that it would likewise hit U.S. business, consisting of hot new drone company Skydio, using a competitive product at a competitive price– and many or most other affordable drones made in the U.S. or other non “covered” nations. That’s since of the costs’s phrasing. The bill states:
( a) Restriction On Agency Operation Or Procurement— The Secretary of Homeland Security might not run, offer financial support for, or enter into or renew a contract for the procurement of–
( A) is manufactured in a covered foreign nation or by a corporation domiciled in a covered foreign country;-LRB- ***********).
( B) utilizes flight controllers, radios, information transmission devices, cameras, or gimbals made in a covered foreign country or by a corporation domiciled in a covered foreign country;-LRB- ***********).
( C) utilizes a ground control system or running software established in a covered foreign nation or by a corporation domiciled in a covered foreign country; or
( D) utilizes network connectivity or information storage located in or administered by a corporation domiciled in a covered foreign country; or
( 2) a system produced in a covered foreign nation or by a corporation domiciled in a covered foreign country for the detection or recognition of covered unmanned aircraft systems.
While there is a waiver arrangement in the bill, it will be challenging for public safety companies to utilize the federal financing that numerous depend on to buy low-cost drones for cops and fire applications: provided China’s dominance in manufacturing, even Skydio acknowledges that their drones utilize some Chinese manufactured parts, as do most drones on the marketplace at a similar rate point.
This is not a problem distinct to DJI, or to the drone industry. Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce added another 8 Chinese innovation companies to the Federal Register’s “Entity List” or “blacklist.” Those tech business, which mainly focused on AI and artificial intelligence, represent a step in the U.S. federal government’s efforts to move away from Chinese technology in important facilities.
While arguments pro- and con- are plentiful, the expense is troublesome for the drone market no matter the politics or the accuracy of security concerns. Introducing the restriction without modifications and without plainly defined requirements of security that the government would find acceptable, before companies have the chance to change manufacturing policies or adjust their offerings, could quickly disrupt drone programs developed to secure first responders and communities in cities and towns throughout the nation.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, an expert drone services market, and an interested observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for brand-new innovations.
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