Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
    New Chinese Drone Manufacturer Poses National Security Risk

    A new Chinese drone manufacturer, Autel Robotics, is quickly rising in the ranks alongside industry leader DJI. Autel currently holds a 15% market share in the United States, with the company benefiting from government funding and preferential tax rates similar to DJI. However, Autel drones pose a significant national security risk due to their Chinese origin.

    Under Chinese law, all companies in China are required to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party government’s foreign espionage efforts. This means that Chinese-made drones, including those from Autel, could be used to gather sensitive data and potentially enable foreign espionage activities. In addition, some Chinese-made drones have weak flight systems and unsecured communication links, making them vulnerable to data interception and cyberattacks.

    The Biden administration must take action to address this growing national security threat. First, there should be a grounding of all PRC-made drones used by federal agencies, and organizations should be prohibited from using federal funds to purchase adversarial drone technology. This approach would raise public awareness of the PRC drone threat and signal a commitment to protecting American interests.

    Secondly, the departments of Commerce and Defense should conduct investigations into Autel and other Chinese-made drone companies to assess their national security threats and their connections to the Chinese military and government. These investigations should result in the addition of PRC drone companies, including Autel, to the entity list, and the Defense Department’s restriction of Chinese drones should be expanded to include Autel.

    Congress should also play a role in addressing this issue by expanding statutory restrictions on Defense Department contractors that use Chinese drones and supporting a broader federal ban on Chinese drone technology. Additionally, Congress should investigate the lobbying practices of Chinese drone companies at all levels of government.

    International cooperation is also crucial in addressing the threat posed by Chinese drones. The U.S. government must work closely with international partners and allies to share information about the security risks associated with Autel and other Chinese drone companies.

    It is essential that policymakers in Washington recognize the growing Chinese drone threat and take proactive measures to protect U.S. critical infrastructure and national security. The suggested actions, including executive orders, investigations, and international partnerships, are ambitious but necessary to address the evolving challenges posed by Chinese drone manufacturers.


    Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International

    American Enterprise Institute