Last Friday, China-based DJI was added to the US Entity List along with 76 other firms, most of them also Chinese. This is the same list that Huawei has been on since the middle of 2019.
It means that US companies cannot trade with Huawei, which effectively stops DJI from using any US tech in its products. That’s the same issue that Huawei still faces for its phones and laptops, though the reality of being on the list is much more complicated.
Rather than getting deep into the details, let’s deal with the big questions here surrounding what the decision means practically for those who already own DJI drones or are planning to buy one.
Can DJI still sell drones in the US?
Yes. Nothing has changed in this respect: you can still go and buy a Mini 2 or any other DJI product as normal.
It could be that US retailers and distributors swiftly buy up all the current stock that DJI holds, but since those models are specific to the US, it shouldn’t affect stock elsewhere in the world. In Europe, for example, the drones must conform to CE regulations, which restricts things like transmitter power, so DJI has to make its products slightly different for sale there.
The situation might be different once that stock runs out. Then again, DJI is likely to have contingency plans in place since it would have known the ban was a possibility for a long while now.
Can I still fly a DJI drone in the US?
Yes. Again, the commerce ban doesn’t affect any products already in use. You simply need to register your drone with the FAA and abide by the rules it sets for flying drones in the US.
The same goes for DJI's other products: its gimbals, action camera and more. Well, not the part about registering them, but you can certainly still use them.
What does DJI have to say about it?
So far the company hasn’t said a whole lot, but told Tech Advisor “DJI is disappointed in the U.S. Department of Commerce's decision. Customers in America can continue to buy and use DJI products normally. DJI remains committed to developing the industry's most innovative products that define our company and benefit the world.”
That’s the same statement it has given to other media, but the company posted a follow-up message on Twitter which appears to deny the allegations made against it that formed part of the reasoning behind its addition to the Entity List:
DroneAnalyst posted the following on Twitter “Potentially big change for the drone industry coming in the last stages of the Trump administration. DJI being added to the entity list will disrupt their supply chain and cause hardware supply issues across the market,” suggesting that DJI does, in fact, rely on US tech enough to cause problems with supply.
How will the US ban affect future DJI products?
It’s obviously too early to say, but companies do come off the list when the reasons for their being there no longer exist.
As we mentioned, the issue is a complex one, with allegations being made against DJI of human rights abuse including “abusive genetic collection”.
Aside from the implication in DJI’s tweet that it has done nothing of the sort, the fact is that it’s now on the list and will likely be there for quite some time.
How this will affect the next Mavic drone or Osmo Pocket is impossible to know. But, for now at least, you can still go and buy and use these products and use them. And DJI drones remain some of the best you can buy.
Drone makers in the US and Europe are already using the news as opportunities to promote their non-Chinese drones, and whether we’ll see them grab any market share from DJI remains to be seen.