Autel Blacklist: Lawmakers Issue Statement

According to a statement published by lawmakers on June 21, the US Government Department of Commerce has announced the addition of drone manufacturer Autel Robotics to its “blacklist.”  The “entity list” is a compilation of foreign individuals, companies, and organizations deemed a national security concern. This designation subjects Autel Robotics to export restrictions and specific licensing requirements for certain technologies and goods.

Statement from Lawmakers Moolenaar and Stefanik

In November 2023, Chairman John Moolenaar (R-MI) of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) called for the Biden administration to scrutinize Autel’s activities. In a press release published June 21, they released a joint statement:

Chairman John Moolenaar (R-MI) of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) released the below statement following news last week that the Department of Commerce placed Chinese drone maker, Autel, on its blacklist which prohibits American companies from doing business with the company. The Department’s decision came after bipartisan demands last year for the Biden administration to investigate Autel. In the November 2023 request, Moolenaar and Stefanik unveiled Autel’s deep connections to the Chinese military.

“Following our advocacy, the Commerce Department added malign Chinese controlled drone maker, Autel, to its government blacklist. No American should support companies like DJI and Autel that are arming Communist China and have the ability to spy on American soil. While this is a strong first step, the Senate must now take up and pass the House-passed Countering CCP Drones Act and ban the introduction of new CCP-linked drones from American skies.”

This development underscores the heightened scrutiny and regulatory measures being directed at Chinese technology firms over national security concerns.

Understanding the Entity List

The Entity List, maintained by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) under the US Department of Commerce, identifies foreign persons—including businesses, research institutions, government and private organizations, and individuals—subject to specific licensing requirements for the export, reexport, and transfer (in-country) of specified items. Found in Supplement No. 4 to Part 744 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), the Entity List imposes additional licensing requirements and policies on these entities, beyond those stipulated elsewhere in the EAR.

The addition of Autel Robotics to the Entity List means the company will now face hurdles in obtaining the necessary licenses for the export, reexport, or transfer of certain items.

Autel Robotics’ Response

Autel Robotics, a leading provider of digital solutions for the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry, has responded to this development by reiterating its commitment to ethical practices and compliance with international regulations. In a statement published in December of last year, following pressure from lawmakers to add Autel to the entity list, the company emphasized its dedication to civilian applications of drone technology and its strict adherence to control requirements related to the sale, transfer, export, re-export, and disposal of hardware, software, and technology.

“Autel Robotics is firmly against the use of drone products for military purposes or any activities that infringe upon human rights,” the company stated. “We strictly adhere to all applicable control requirements related to the sale, transfer, export, re-export, and disposal of hardware, software, and technology. This commitment is not only aimed at earning the trust of our partners and the public but also at mitigating corporate operating risks and fulfilling our corporate responsibility as a member of the international market.”

Autel also addressed concerns about the misuse of its technology, calling such concerns “unfounded and speculative.” The company clarified that its drones are explicitly designed for civilian use and are not intended for military purposes. Autel conducts rigorous blacklist scans of customers, freight forwarders, and employees and performs thorough due diligence on potential partners to ensure compliance and mitigate risks.

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Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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