Tomorrow, May 12, 2021, the U.S. Congress will meet to discuss the American Security Drone Act. (See legal text at the link.) The American Security Drone Act is a bill banning the federal procurement of certain drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, and for other purposes, specifically prohibiting the federal procurement (with some exceptions) of drones that are covered by “a foreign entity ”including the People’s Republic of China. The bill formalizes the ongoing discussion in the US government about banning technology made in China.
Regardless of your political views and the US-China trade war, the Drone Service Providers Alliance (DSPA), a member association that advocates fair FAA regulations in the unmanned aerial vehicle (sUAS) industry, issued a statement in which Five reasons are listed A country of origin ban is not the best way to support US domestic manufacturing of drones and develop strong cybersecurity protections.
Not the best solution for drone operators or manufacturers
An outright ban based solely on country of origin, rather than specific standards, makes it harder for public safety authorities or others who may be using federal funds to find affordable aircraft that suit their needs, the DSPA explains – and it makes it for smaller ones Domestic very difficult manufacturers to survive. This restricts US manufacturing rather than encouraging it.
“First, the country’s ban on origin is a poor use of tax resources,” the DSPA statement said. “Agencies and contractors pay more for less powerful drones. We should encourage innovation by incentivizing domestic production rather than prohibiting sourcing or contracting based on the country of manufacture. “
Second, almost every single domestically made drone has components that are made in China. From batteries to circuit boards to electronic speed controllers, motors and cables, everything is manufactured overseas, ”the statement said. “It is almost impossible to find non-Chinese made components in this sector. In collaboration with a small manufacturer, we had to discuss whether it would be okay to have batteries for their drones made in China. We had to talk about whether it would be okay for them to ship circuit boards to China and have them assembled with lithium polymer cells made in that country. While the directive may seem simple, implementing it will be a nightmare for manufacturers. “
Cybersecurity is important to many drone applications – both commercial and government. However, when it comes to cybersecurity, there are better ways to achieve security in the industry. DSPA advises that cybersecurity should be a job for technology professionals, not politicians.
Third, cybersecurity can be managed through standards bodies and robust testing. US companies and standards bodies understand technology far better than the US government. The Aerospace Industries Association and the Consumer Technology Association are already working on safety standards. Relevant NIST standards may already be applicable. “
The impact on drone companies
Drone companies need to be able to use the best, most affordable tool for the job in order to stay competitive. “… drone deals will be affected. For example, if the United States Forest Service or National Parks wanted to sign a contract with a service provider to create a promotional video, they couldn’t use DJI drones, ”the DSPA statement said. “You’d have to buy Blue sUAS drones that still have Chinese-made components but have low-quality cameras that can’t compete with a system like the DJI Inspire 2 with X7. It’s hard to understand how beauty shots of our breathtaking landscape impact national security. We believe in using the best tool for the job. “
“Finally, any ban on the use of federal funds could affect small and medium-sized businesses that have received federal funds. Our interpretation is that this could affect companies that receive SBA grants or other grants that affect operations that do not have national security implications. We believe there are better ways to address security and national competitiveness concerns. “
According to DSPA, the solution is to tailor each restriction closely to specific operations that require a higher level of security. Drones that have been validated by a third party to meet an agency’s cybersecurity requirements should be exempted. Above all, requirements should be developed “in connection with industry standards that have the specific expertise”.
DSPA is an industry association for the drone industry that represents the interests of drone pilot companies and drone hobbyists under Part 107. Founded in Colorado as a nonprofit affiliate, DSPA has applied for a tax exemption under Section 501 (c) 6 of the Internal Revenue Code as an industry trade group. Kenji Sugahara and Vic Moss are both on the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (DAC). More information is available at dspalliance.org.
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Author of over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For advice or writing in the drone industry, email Miriam.
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