Trump orders federal departments to decide by deadline to stop using drones made in hostile countries

Drones made by China’s DJI have been restricted by the U.S. federal government

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a new executive order requiring federal government departments to evaluate and prepare to stop using drones made in “hostile countries. The order comes after the Commerce Department placed China’s DJI Innovation Technology, the world’s largest drone maker, on a U.S. trade blacklist that restricts the company from purchasing key U.S. products and technology.

The executive order, issued by outgoing Trump on Monday (Jan. 18, 2021), says the U.S. federal government’s operations using drones may involve evaluating, collecting and maintaining sensitive data, and that using drones and critical accessories manufactured and developed by hostile countries could give those countries access to that data or allow the data in question to be transmitted to those countries. In addition, giving U.S. domestic manufacturers the ability to produce drones and critical accessories is critical to maintaining national defense security and the strength of the military industrial complex.

The Executive Order requires the heads of federal government departments to immediately assess the specific circumstances of the Department, decide to cease procurement of drones manufactured and developed by hostile nations, and report within 60 days to the Director of National Intelligence, Office of Science and Technology Policy, on relevant drone information currently in the Department’s possession or used through contractors. Within 180 days, the Director of National Intelligence, along with the Secretaries of Defense and Justice and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and other relevant agency heads, submit a report to the President assessing the risk to national security posed by the federal government’s existing drones and proposing potential remedial measures, including decommissioning and expeditious removal of those drones.

This executive order defines hostile nations as North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, and any country, region, and foreign nongovernmental entity that the Secretary of Commerce determines is a long-term or serious danger to the national or economic security of the United States.

The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 already prohibits federal government departments from using or procuring Chinese-made UAS.

The Chinese Communist regime has previously expressed “firm opposition” to U.S. restrictions on U.S. funding and procurement of key technologies by Chinese military-linked companies, saying it would protect the legitimate rights of Chinese companies.

Shenzhen, China-based DJI currently leads the civilian drone industry, with a market share of more than 70 percent in the United States. DJI’s drones are still believed to be used in large numbers by many U.S. states and local governments, as well as by the power and transportation sectors and businesses.