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Federal government will require purchase of ‘Made in America’ drones

A drone (Dreamstime/TNS)

For as long as drones have been in the news, there have been warnings about the proliferation of “Made in China” drones having a dominance in the United States market, including those being used by first responders and emergency managers.

See the article below on how “change is coming” to the marketplace.

And, for an example of a “Made in the USA” drone company, see BRINC Drones. This company has some very unique drone capabilities.

From the Washington Post’s “The Technology 202”

“U.S. small drone makers are optimistic about their sales prospects after the annual defense policy bill, which passed last month, included curbs on the federal government purchasing foreign drones.

“‘We think the total addressable market now for us after last week has gone up at least four times,’ Jeff Thompson, founder and CEO of the Utah-based drone maker Red Cat, told Tech 202.

“The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2024 includes the American Security Drone Act, which prohibits the government from using federal funds to purchase drones made in China or certain other countries starting in December 2025, with the measure in force through December 2028. It also prohibits federal agencies from operating Chinese drones for that duration, unless they have an exemption.

“It follows similar legislation in Florida against state agencies using foreign-made drones, which took effect last year.

“Small drones are useful to government agencies in cases when it would be expensive or dangerous to send in workers on foot or by helicopter. These include firefighting, dam repairs, wildlife surveys and border patrols.

“The laws have stirred some controversy, with some industry voices saying blanket prohibitions against China-made drones are overkill and leave government agencies and others without budget-friendly options.

“But broadly speaking, U.S. drone makers say they expect to see a sales bump this year even though the new ban on federal purchases is not yet in effect.

“‘They’re giving them two years, which is plenty of warning,’ Thompson said. ‘I don’t think a lot of people will wait that long to convert to made-in-U.S. drones.'”

The fresh curbs are the latest measures. While these small flying robots are used as toys by average consumers, their ability to be used for aerial surveillance means officials consider them a technology that must be carefully managed.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have been worried by China’s overwhelming dominance of the global consumer drone market. Shenzhen-based DJI, the world’s biggest drone maker, now holds a 70 percent market share.

The U.S. Army prohibited service members from using DJI drones back in 2017. In December 2020, the Commerce Department put DJI on its export control list, preventing U.S. companies from selling components to it without approval.

More recently, Ukrainian soldiers have been using swarms of small, cheap drones rigged with bombs. U.S. military officials say the successful experiment in Ukraine means small drones are likely to become an established part of warfare.

The Pentagon announced a “Replicator” program last year aimed at building thousands of low-cost drones in the United States within a year and a half.


(c) 2024 Government Technology

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.