The American Drone Alliance, a group comprised of U.S.-based drone manufacturers and Blue sUAS providers Skydio and Teal with European-based open software platform Auterion, have published a response to the Financial Times article releasing a DOI memo critical of Blue sUAS solutions.
The DOI memo complained that Blue sUAS solutions did not meet their department’s needs, claiming that they were “less capable and more expensive” than the commercial drones previously used, and still contained Chinese parts, including circuit boards. The American Drone Alliance responded to the article, saying that the piece “mischaracterizes the current domestic drone marketplace,” and downplays the national security threat posed by China-made drone technology.
The Financial Times article can be found here (behind paywall.) The unedited American Drone Alliance statement is published below.
STATEMENT BY THE AMERICAN DRONE ALLIANCE
“Yesterday’s Financial Times piece on Chinese drones mischaracterizes the current domestic drone marketplace and fails to acknowledge the widely-recognized national security threats posed by Chinese drones.
While you cannot put a price tag on national security, the reality is that the American-made drones selected by the Department of Defense are in fact cost competitive with Chinese alternatives. More importantly, they have been subjected to demanding cybersecurity reviews and deemed safe for use by government agencies. They are rugged and ready, capable of operating in the most demanding environments.
It is impossible to talk about the price of Chinese drones without talking about the Chinese Communist Party. For years, the Chinese government has apparently supported Chinese drone manufacturers by engaging in predatory pricing. As former DOD Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord made clear in 2019, ‘DJI dumped so many low-priced quadcopters on the market and we then became dependent on them both from the defense point of view and the commercial point of view.’
There is no question that Chinese-made drones are a serious national security risk. The threat from DJI, Autel, and other China-based drones stems from their obligation to comply with any and all Chinese Communist Party (CCP) requests for information under Chinese national security law. DJI’s close relationship with the CCP is broadly known, and their role in supporting abhorrent human rights violations against the Uighur people earned them a place on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List late last year. Against that backdrop, it would be unconscionable for government agencies to use drones that provide the Chinese government a pathway to infiltrate U.S. networks, steal confidential information, and place our national security at risk.
In addition, China’s recent hack of Microsoft Exchange—formally condemned by the Biden Administration earlier today—is the latest in a series of unsettling developments that demonstrate the Chinese government will stop at nothing in their quest to spy on American businesses and government agencies at all levels.”
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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