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US Public Safety Agencies Disagree With Security Concerns Around DJI’s Drones

As the Countering CCP Drones Act introduced in March and the Drones for First Responders (DFR) Act that was tabled in May to ban DJI and hike tariffs on Chinese drones in general in the US progresses, not everyone agrees with its allegations – including those who these bills is supposed to represent.

In defiance to Washington, police officers, firefighters and rescue workers across the country are embracing Chinese drones.

Nikkei Asia has reported how many public safety agencies are already barred from using federal grants to buy Chinese drones, but several of them including in Kentucky, New Jersey and Connecticut, have made purchases using their own budgets.

The DFR would place an escalating tax (starting at 30 per cent) on drones manufactured in China and ban drones made with Chinese parts from import to the US.

One of the strongest voices in opposition to this bill is DJI which, by varying estimates, controls around 70 per cent of the global commercial drone market and about 80 per cent of the US market (and more than 90 per cent of the first responder market.)

DJI has not disclosed how much revenue it generates in the US, but said the country is still one of its largest markets outside China.

It has gone on to call the DFR bill as xenophobic. “The DFR Act’s proposal to increase taxes and eventually ban drones manufactured in China is xenophobia wrapped inside a national security cover,” said DJI in a blogpost. “The DFR Act does not factor in the negative impact increasing taxes would have on the hundreds of thousands of U.S. businesses who use DJI drones for work and countless more who fly them for fun.”

One of the key contentions of the bill is that DJI and other Chinese drone manufacturers are being unfairly subsidized by the Chinese government. It has said companies around the world “benefit from friendly macroeconomic practices in their home countries,” including in the US which offers tax credits for small businesses, hiring, research and development, and manufacturing. Many states and municipalities also offer separate incentives to local businesses in their area. Under the definition, DJI notes, “virtually any company could be considered ‘subsidized.’ “

But while DJI is waging a battle against the legislation by making its viewpoints abundantly clear, it is already taking measures to protect itself should the bills pass. DJI now is already partnering with US-based company Anzu Robotics to licence its technology for sale in the American market.

As some contend, the bills aim to give American drone manufacturers, who are lagging behind their Chinese counterparts, an chance to catch-up. DJI maintains that it can still continue operating within the US and support local business. “We have supported the local commercial drone industry for years, in particular US drone software start-ups and service providers. We also believe that competition breeds innovation, and kicking DJI out of the US market on baseless allegations does not benefit anyone – especially not the first responders who need reliable, safe and robust drone platforms the most,” noted DJI.

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