DJI responds to the Countering CCP Drones Act

DJI has published a robust response to the Countering CCP Drones Act which was introduced to the House of Representatives last year. The company set out its position on its official blog, ViewPoints.

What is the Countering CCP Drones Act?

In April 2023, two Republican members of the House of Congress introduced the Countering CCP Drones Act. The Act sets out to amend the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019. If it’s passed, the Act will result in DJI being added to a list maintained by the FCC of companies that pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security. This means that DJI won’t be able to sell any products in the U.S. In addition, the company’s existing FCC authorizations could be revoked. This means that U.S. operators could be banned from using their DJI drones.

What has DJI said?

DJI’s post on its ViewPoints blog site responds to all the allegations against the company in detail. It also claims that the Act will negatively on the operators, businesses and public safety agencies that rely on DJI technologies. In addition, the company raises concerns about “unsubstantiated allegations regarding DJI’s operations,” and “amplified xenophobic narratives.” DJI alleges that some of the motivation for the Act is to support local drone manufacturers and eliminate market competition. However, the company says that it supports the development of U.S. drone manufacturing and that the competition drives innovation.

Collection of sensitive data

The first allegation that DJI responds to is that the company collects sensitive information, including images of U.S. infrastructure, facial recognition and even body temperature and heart rate data. DJI said, “DJI drones do not collect flight logs, photos, or videos — by default. Operators have to opt-in to share this data with us, and those who want to take extra precautions can easily choose to activate Local Data Mode (and even switch on their mobile’s ‘airplane mode’) for added peace of mind.” The company also said that the collection of body temperature and heart rate data collection was explored during the COVID—9 pandemic. However, the tests involved a different drone manufacturer, not DJI.

Spying for foreign governments

DJI states that it follows the laws in all the countries where it operates. It also said that as a result it may be required to share data at times. For example, DJI may need to disclose information in response to a local court order, a subpoena or a warrant. However, the company says that it reviews any requests to ensure they meet the legal requirements for disclosure. Importantly, DJI says, “the disclosure would only include data that has been shared with DJI within the national jurisdiction of the government agency requesting it.” This means that the Chinese government could only request data collected by DJI in China. In addition, DJI reiterated it doesn’t collect data by default and without operator consent.

DJI is a Chinese military company

Back in 2022, the U.S. Department of Defense classified DJI as a Chinese military company. It also added the company to its blacklist prohibiting the purchase or use of its drone by the Department. DJI said, “This is false. DJI is not a military company. We remain one of few drone companies to clearly denounce and actively discourage use of our drones in combat. DJI does not manufacture military-grade equipment, nor does it pursue business opportunities for combat use or operations. In fact, our distributors, resellers, and other business partners have committed to following this policy when they sell and use our products. They understand that we will terminate our business relationship with them if they cannot adhere to this commitment.”

Human rights abuses

Concerning allegations about possible human rights abuses, DJI was equally robust. The company said, “This is also false. DJI has not engaged in any activities that violate or abuse human rights. Just like other manufacturers, we do not have control over how our products are used as they are available off-the-shelf. However, we have demonstrated — through years of investments in product safety and security initiatives — that our products are developed for peaceful and civilian use only.”

What we think

The Countering CCP Drones Act is not law yet. However, in February, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who introduced the Act, posted that it had advanced through committee following a legislative hearing. This means that the Act is one step closer to a formal vote which would bring it into force. Clearly, DJI is concerned about the possibility of a ban on the sale of its products and the financial impact this would have. However, it’s also a concern for DJI owners in the U.S. who could face the prospect of their drones being illegal to fly. As a result, DJI has set up the Drone Advocacy Alliance to give a voice to drone users. For now, the future of DJI in the U.S. is in the balance, but we will keep you updated on any developments.

Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.

Related Content