Chinese drone giant DJI — the biggest drone maker in the world — remains defiant in the face of a comprehensive US ban announced Friday.
The company said people in the US will still be able to buy and use its drones and other products despite being named to the Commerce Department’s Entity List, The Verge reported.
DJI was named to the blacklist for “enabl[ing] wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance” — most likely a reference to how DJI provided drones and other technology to the Chinese government to be used in its Uyghur Muslim detention camps in Xinjiang province.
This is likely a reference to DJI’s involvement in providing drones to the Chinese government to surveill detention camps in the Xinjiang provice, as detailed in a Bloomberg Businessweek report.
“DJI is disappointed in the US Department of Commerce’s decision. Customers in America can continue to buy and use DJI products normally,” the company said in a statement to The Verge.
“DJI remains committed to developing the industry’s most innovative products that define our company and benefit the world.”
The ban was put in place through the same mechanism as the US government’s ongoing ban on Huawei products, and is primarily focused on blocking the export of US technology to the drone-maker, The Verge reported.
As such, the ban will make it difficult for US businesses to provide parts or components for DJI to use in its drones, which is likely to disrupt the company’s supply chain.
It may also make it difficult for US stores to directly sell DJI products or transact with the company, particularly if China responds to the action with further restrictions, The Verge reported.
DJI not only sells products to consumers, but since it is far and away the market leader, its technology is used by all sorts of companies that need drones or handheld cameras.
The new additions to the entity list came alongside a more specific action against China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, or SMIC, which was listed in response to purported ties between the company and the Chinese military, The Verge reported.
But the US government has also cited several concerns in the past over security issues with the drones, which are largely made in China and contain Chinese parts. However, no poof has ever been provided to that end.
Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior has announced plans to ground its drone fleet as it reviews whether there are any major security concerns of Chinese spying or cyberattacks, The Verge reported.
And the Department of Justice banned buying foreign-made drones — which includes DJI’s products — using agency funds back in October, citing similar security concerns.
The Department of Defense has certified several other drones from competitors like Parrot and Skydio for governmental use instead, after several years of review, The Verge reported.
According to Drone Analyst, US competitors like Skydio, will likely “move at light speed” to take advantage of the possible disruption to DJI.
It appears to be a significant escalation in President Trump’s ongoing efforts to block Chinese tech companies from operating in the US.
Trump placed Huawei on the entity list by executive order in May 2019, citing national security concerns, The Verge reported.
Europe and the UK have largely declined to follow suit and continue to use Huawei hardware in their telecommunications networks.
Trump took similar measures to block TikTok and WeChat from being hosted in US app stores, although the efforts were held up by court challenges and both apps remain widely available.