Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban some U.S. Federal agencies from purchasing drones and drone components manufactured in certain foreign countries. The “Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act,” would prevent all government agencies from purchasing drones based solely on their country of manufacture. A similar bill currently in the Senate, though not as far along as the House bill, would only prohibit such procurement by Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) agencies. The proposed bills prohibit the procurement of drones manufactured in any nation designated by the Department of Commerce, the Director of National Intelligence or the Secretary of Homeland Security as a national security threat. The main target is China, home of major manufacturers of drones and drone components alike.
The consequences of the bills could be far-reaching, as the ban may expand beyond the drone itself to include component parts in products and devices that support the drone system. The bills define a foreign manufactured drone broadly, including the flight controllers, radios, data transmission devices, cameras, gimbals, ground control systems, and operating software that make up or are mounted on the drone. These components are critical to drones used in commercial operations. Due to China’s dominance in manufacturing, these restrictions could be problematic for U.S. Government users and for drone manufacturers that install Chinese-made components on their drones.