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Stop the DJI Drones Ban H.R. 2864: A Big Misstep for American Agriculture

Updated: 2 days ago

During my visit to Capitol Hill to discuss transportation legislation, I was disheartened by how many lawmakers seem unaware of how their policies can hinder American businesses. H.R. 2864 (Stefanik), a bill seeking to ban DJI drones for all users, ignores drones' vital role in precision agriculture.

This short-sighted ban would directly harm American farmers and ranchers, stifle our global competitiveness in the sector, and do little to improve national security. The bill would block federal funding for DJI drones and revoke their FCC authorization. Crucially, there are no viable American-made alternatives at the scale agriculture needs.

What is the FCC Covered List?

The FCC Covered List identifies communications equipment deemed a national security risk (Federal Communications Commission). If DJI is added, the FCC will revoke DJI's authorization to transmit radio frequencies. This means no DJI drone, existing or new, could legally operate in the U.S. This ban would impact all DJI users, from hobbyists to those in non-critical fields.

Farmers Feel the Brunt of the DJI Drone Ban

American farmers have invested millions of dollars in DJI technology. A sudden ban would render their drones, software, and training worthless. Most troubling is the loss of productivity. DJI drones increase crop yields, streamline pesticide applications, and dramatically improve scouting. Farmers would be forced back to less efficient, more costly methods, cutting their bottom line. Since many farmers spearhead tech upgrades in rural communities, a ban has a ripple effect, harming progress for everyone.

The Flawed Logic of "Patriotism": Security or Scapegoating?

It's unwise to frame bans as a patriotic solution. True strength lies in supporting American companies to outperform competitors. While concerns about crop data security are valid, there are smarter solutions. An immediate ban only creates chaos and leaves farmers scrambling. It doesn't truly address how data is used or protected. Ultimately, we must ask ourselves: does a ban make us safer, or does it just benefit our global competitors with little security gain for the U.S.?

America Loses The Chance to Lead in Drone Technology

This ban cripples our future in agricultural technology. Instead of developing a skilled American drone workforce, we block innovation. Funding meant to build our domestic industry will go towards enforcing the ban.

America could be the global leader in agricultural drones, setting standards that protect both farmers and national security. However, this ban cedes that position, forcing us to play catch-up instead of leading the way.

Smarter Drone Solutions Exist

Rather than bans, we should implement strong data security standards for all agricultural drones, regardless of origin. We need focused tax breaks and government grants to support American drone manufacturers targeting the needs of our farmers. Lastly, America should lead in setting international security standards for agricultural drones, allowing us to influence the entire market and protect our security interests.

  • Data Protection is Key: Regulations should mandate high-level encryption for all agricultural drone data to ensure its protection.

  • Farmers in Control: Farmers must have clear visibility into what data is collected and the ability to control how it's used or shared.

  • Enforcement Through Audits: Regular third-party audits of drone manufacturers and software providers will guarantee compliance with these standards.

It's Not About Beating China, It's About Boosting America

Focusing on bans distracts from the real competitive threat: American agriculture's falling behind. By creating better relationships with each of our state departments of agriculture, thereby leading us to our state legislatures, we can educate how H.R. 2864 is defeating policies that put America's farmers first!

What Action Should Be Taken?

Actually nothing. It's currently only supported by six Congressmen. It's an election year, and with only six sponsors, it will not reach the floor for a vote. Follow the bill here (Link)

About the Author

Michelle Truman - Agricultural Drone Expert

Michelle Truman created the Farm-i-tude program, which eventually tested nearly 200 pilots and managed over 28,000 missions in agriculture spraying, operating in 38 states. Her team has also created the Farm-i-tude curriculum, which teaches the next generation of farmers precision agriculture through drones and is currently available in over 2,000 high schools nationwide. Michelle currently serves on the U.PASS Board.

 

Works Cited

Federal Communications Commission. "List of Equipment and Services Covered By Section 2 of The Secure Networks Act." Federal Communications Commission, Federal Communications Commission, 12 March 2021, https://www.fcc.gov/supplychain/coveredlist. Accessed 28 February 2024.

Stefanik, Elise M. "H.R.2864 Countering CCP Drones Act." Congress.Gov, Library of Congress, 28 4 2023, https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/2864?s=1&r=68. Accessed 28 February 2024.

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