Featured NewsTrending NewsChris FravelBackground and Lobbying Efforts Against DJI


21 February 2024

By Chris Fravel, The Droning Company

You may be having some difficulty wrapping your head around what is going on with DJI, Autel, and other Chinese drone and drone part manufacturers as H.R. 2864 threatens to ban their products in the United States.

The fact is—none of this is easy to navigate. 

DJI accounts for nearly 77 percent of the drone market across consumer, prosumer, and enterprise verticals. DJI is also responsible for setting the standard for what pilots and end-users expect from a drone—from its materials, to the way it performs, to the software designed to fly it.

Autel—widely regarded as a high-performance-level alternative to DJI—accounts for 15 percent of the drone market across those same verticals.

The remaining 8 percent is everyone else scrapping for crumbs.

While the numbers might seem like they only reflect sales and drone ownership, they actually tell us a much more meaningful story: DJI and Autel have set the bar for the rest of the market.

The two Chinese drone manufacturers deliver a consistent, quality experience that allows users to be as efficient and effective as possible when integrating UAV technology into their workflow. These drones save lives, collect data, and allow us to view the world around us through a lens that no one else can offer. They are the best in the game. 

Not that DJI's market share and excellence in quality, efficiency, manufacturing, and scaling have afforded the company much protection in the United States business and political arenas.

A Timeline of Anti-DJI Actions

Here are our own government’s attempts at metaphorically knee-capping Chinese drone technology in the name of national security.


United States Congress banned the purchase and use of Chinese drone technology and drone components by the Pentagon.


DJI formally included on the United States Department of Commerce’s Entity List, which essentially places export restrictions on foreign parties listed.


An executive order passed by the Trump Administration stated that foreign-made drones may allow sensitive data transferred out of the country. The order was followed by Federal lawmakers warning that Chinese drones are stealing American data.


The United States Department of Defense formally blacklists DJI and identifies the drone manufacturer as a “Chinese military company” that poses a significant risk to national security.


States such as Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee have banned Chinese drones for use in state and state-funded projects because of national security concerns.

Additionally, House Bill 2864 is brought to the congressional table for discussion and aims to ban the use of DJI drones in the United States outright—by both private interests and government entities. This would be accomplished by working through Federal Communications Commission (FCC) channels to ban the use of DJI communication systems on American soil.

The American Security Drone Act is also voted into law which bans the procurement and use of unmanned aircraft systems that are manufactured or assembled by certain foreign entities by Federal agencies and private interests working in conjunction with Federal agencies. 


The countdown begins for the enactment of the American Security Drone Act of 2023 and impacted agencies are put on notice to begin figuring out a plan for transitioning away from Chinese drones, which will become effectively bricked for them starting in 2026.

Meanwhile, the provisions of House Bill 2864 may threaten an outright ban of DJI systems blacklisted by the FCC—effectively bricking DJI drones for everyone on American soil.

Lobbying Efforts

Private interests lobbying for their benefit in U.S. politics is nothing new for average Americans to digest. But why would some companies lobby the United States government to remove the largest and most effective drone manufacturer from our markets? Who is influencing the government to make such a decision?

Here is a list of three major American UAV-oriented entities that are injecting money into lobbying efforts.

*All data on lobbying and PAC donations by above companies provided by OpenSecrets via the Senate Department of Public Record and/or the Federal Election Commission, respectively.

While we don't know precisely what the lobbying efforts of the above companies entail regarding DJI, Autel, and other Chinese drone makers, we can peek at their public business records. 

Skydio effectively tapped-out of the consumer and prosumer space. The company's Skydio 2 drone fell further and further behind DJI and Autel innovation, while DJI produced a competitive drone with a near-equivalent autonomous flight system and a 4/3 CMOS sensor that produced best-in-class camera performance. Even DJI’s entry-level drone—the Mini 4 Pro—s capable of producing imagery that, when paired with the right processing software, can generate maps and models nearly equivalent in quality to those delivered by Skydio 2.

AUVSI’s Exponential drone trade show denied participation from DJI in any official capacity, and the absence of the drone giant was the elephant in the showroom. (DJI counter-punched by co-sponsoring the booths of a handful of their partner companies, including Multicopter Warehouse, DSLR Pros, Drone Nerds, and others. 

BRINC Drones had largely been keeping its collective nose to the grindstone and working to perfect its LEMUR platform for use by emergency-response personnel around the world. BRINC entered the lobbyist circle in 2023, and according to Senate Office of Public Records data provided OpenSecrets, BRINC spent around $240,000 in government lobbying efforts last year. This happened the year after DJI released the Matrice 30T—a drone offering public-safety features that overlapped with those included on the original LEMUR.

Other Potential Actions Besides Bans and Lobbyists

In a perfect world, I would be elated to see American drone manufacturers kicking as much ass as Chinese drones. But we have to acknowledge we've lost the draw in the world of drones. But rather than ban Chinese drones, why not help bolster competitiveness from American and western-based drone manufacturers without taking the entire industry out at the knees?

For example...

• Create a subsidization fund for American drone manufacturers to support not only the development of UAV platforms and products, but to help assist in the scaling process to ensure steady and comfortable growth. This will hopefully empower American companies to establish a level of consistency in their product offerings, as well as their availability to consumers, corporations, and government agencies.

• Rather than trying to pass a resolution as to whether DJI, Autel, and other Chinese manufacturers should be allowed to sell drones in the United States, why not launch an investigation to seek out tangible evidence that Chinese drones are sharing sensitive data with the Chinese government? Such an investigation might put to bed the entire debate, as well as allow us to move forward with clarity when it comes to the involvement of Chinese technology in our domestic affairs.

• Establish a reverse-engineering program that allows DJI and Autel drones to be screened before being sold to American consumers, companies, and agencies. Such a program—while exposing Chinese IP to prying eyes—could bring peace-of-mind regarding national security. 

Summing Up

I won’t pretend that I know best. I’m just a guy who loves drones and has exerted the blood, sweat, and tears to make them his livelihood. However, the anti-Chinese sentiment in the world of drones has me absolutely disgusted—not only with the lack of foresight on the part of our industry leaders, but the blatant disregard being shown by politicians for one of the fastest growing economies in our country—UAV technology.

Don't like what you're hearing?

Click here to sign The Drone Advocacy Alliance petition to let your representative know how you feel.


The Droning Company has recognized the political threat brewing in the United States that is possibly going to disastrously effect over 90% of the drone pilots in the country unless it is stopped and it is based on misinformation, fear mongering, greed, ignorance, shady backroom deals, and outright lies.

It is for this reason that Jon McBride, Stuart Smith, and Chris Fravel from The Droning Company have joined forces with Greg Reverdiau of Pilot Institute, Vic Moss of the Drone Service Providers Alliance to bring you a series of articles within their respective disciplines to shine a light on the problem and to let you know what steps, you personally, can do to help avert it.

Join us in the coming days to see what each of these well-respected experts and leaders have to say about this issue.

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