Why in the heck is everyone jumping on my DJI narrative? Can’t you people get your own thing going? DJI (aka the Chinese toy company, or #1 Global Happy Good luck Quad Copter Company) has done everything in their power to shoot themselves in their global footprint, and it is supposedly my fault.

The US bigwigs like to tell folks the data collection, aka-spying thing, is just my narrative. They also like to tell people that no one listens to me or that the industry passed me by. Golly, for a guy that no one listens to, I sure have gotten a lot of traction. Many estimate that with the money DJI spent on independent reports and lobbying to get their name taken out of the NDAA would have been enough to buy the sUAS News two or three times over.


That wise move could have saved the drone giant a boatload of heartburn and face. So we have to ask ourselves collectively, are multiple branches of the US DoD, DHS, and ICE rightly leery of a company with PRC support, or is it just good old-fashioned xenophobia?


Do you suppose folks aren’t buying the tired old we don’t want your data even though data is what the drone thing is all about line? Whatever the case, the data security issues continue to dog the DJI. Even after rolling out the safe as Fort Knox, like Government edition of the software and independent third party company paid for red herring security reports, the “alleged” data collection hangs around their necks like a proverbial gilded albatross. When all the money spent fails to cover the smell, they trot out the xenophobia.

Maybe it is more palatable even if it is a less than plausible alibi than we’ve got nothing but paid for reports and gratis product induced testimonials. I guess it all paid off in the end, as it appears that President Trump is going to veto the NDAA.


After the stories broke about the various documents, DJI employees demanded I give them contact information for folks at the DoD and ICE, etc., so they could verify and dispute the claims for themselves. I find it hard to believe that anyone at the DoD or ICE would knowingly divulge sensitive information to employees of a company partially funded by a Class A adversary of the United States of America.

Never say never as one employee said he read the classified DoD docs. Yes, I reported it as I had a Top Secret security clearance at the time.


Even after DJI fired the full battery of parlor tricks, the US PR team went full frontal on the Trump administration, calling some of the people insane. That notion is obtuse as the investigations into the “alleged” spying started under the PRC friendly Obama administration. This debacle should serve as an educational case study in marketing and business classes for how to ensure your company gets written into legislation to be banned in a foreign country. This saga reads like a how-to get egg all over the face while making an ass out of yourself for RMB.

The US policy guy had to step in and spread around some of that money to Bondo, the dinged up clown car. I don’t know how much, but enough to get DJI and even Chinese drones taken out of the latest NDAA, but that didn’t come easy or cheap. DJI had to lobby hard to get the brand written out. After the ball started to roll, they went for the whole China enchilada. That included offering free drone equipment to LE and first responders who would make public endorsements or write statements implying that the US of A would be less safe without Chinese drones.

Furthermore, Congressional offices reached out to Drones As A Servicio providers and asked them what a ban would mean to their businesses. Many (at least 75% or more) had no choice but to say that it would adversely affect their business. I find it hard to believe anyone had the idea on their own to search out and call random companies to ask opinions, but the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. While accurate, this situation was by, in large avoidable if the FAA didn’t put an arbitrary, almost decades-long prohibition on domestic drone manufacturers and end-users.

The solutions part –

I would have handled things a little differently. I would have employed the Silicon Valley sunshine model and admitted we were collecting data just like every other tech business. It was an attempt at crowdsourcing information and data to build better hardware, apps, and AI. Opt-out if you like, or be part of building the world’s smartest drone, oh wait, that company already went out of business. Okay, but something along those lines to help improve what is missing in drones, software that lightens the load or takes the expert’s place needing to analyze copious amounts of data.

You’d think that some enterprising drone policy expert worth his 250 grams of salt should be able to parlay those PRC Maojamines into a lobbying gig somewhere? Ex-Huawei company execs are being on-boarded, and they appear to be purging the plucky American types anyway. Is it a coincidence, or does it plays right into the Made in China 2025 plan? What does made in China 2025 have to do with DJI?

Drones are one of the Chinese technology bright spots. The Chinese are, without a doubt, number one in civilian drone technology. Shortly they will point to this and other technologies as examples of Chinese quality products and homegrown IP.

@TheDroneDealer on the Twitter

By Patrick Egan

Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).