The Potential Impact of a DJI Drone Ban on Commercial Real Estate

Interested in Learning More About PropTech?

Contact us today and we will be happy to chat with you.

Contact us

The Potential Impact of a DJI Drone Ban on Commercial Real Estate

June 28, 2024
Read Time:

In recent years, drones have revolutionized the commercial real estate sector, transforming how properties are marketed and managed. Originally linked to military and recreational uses, unmanned aerial vehicles now provide a suite of benefits that traditional methods can't match. High-resolution aerial views capture properties and their surroundings in stunning detail, offering potential buyers a comprehensive perspective.

Pending legislation in the U.S. Congress could disrupt this progress. Following the recent passing of the TikTok ban, new bills targeting Chinese firms are gaining traction. One such bill is the Countering CCP Drones Act (HR 2864), which aims directly at DJI, the world’s leading drone manufacturer. If enacted, American drone operators would lose access to new DJI drones and might even be barred from using existing fleets if DJI’s FCC authorizations are revoked. This would impact all drone operators, whether recreational, commercial, or governmental, including those in commercial real estate.

The bill is advancing through Congress, having passed the House by a narrow margin of 217-199. It now moves to the Senate for debate and possible amendments. If the Senate passes the bill, any changes must be reconciled between both chambers before it can reach President Biden's desk for a final signature. Proponents of the bill argue that DJI poses a grave national security threat, citing Chinese laws that could compel DJI to engage in espionage.

“DJI presents an unacceptable national security risk, and it is past time that drones made by Communist China are removed from America,” Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) has said. “DJI drones pose the national security threat of TikTok, but with wings. The possibility that DJI drones could be equipped to send live imagery of military installations, critical infrastructure, and the personal lives of American citizens to China poses too great a threat. Allowing this practice to continue in the U.S. is playing with fire. This Chinese-controlled company cannot be allowed to continue to operate in the U.S.”

While some believe DJI’s security threat is debatable, the impact of a DJI ban on the American market is clear. DJI controls over 70 percent of the global drone market, with significant investment from Chinese state-owned businesses. Lawmakers are concerned about national security, but there's also an economic angle: supporting DJI means boosting the Chinese economy instead of supporting American-based drone companies.

Supporters of DJI say that banning the company would remove some of the best drone equipment from the U.S. market. DJI drones consistently top lists of the best drones. Beyond drones, DJI’s range of camera-centric products, such as action cams and gimbals, could also be banned.

The bill's current version wouldn’t prohibit the use of existing DJI drones in the U.S., only the sale of future products, accessories, and software. However, there’s a fear that existing FCC authorizations for DJI products might be revoked if the bill passes. Should the ban clear the Senate, there could still be a three- or more-year transition period, allowing for adjustments before the ban takes full effect. This period might also allow DJI to sell part of its business to a non-Chinese company.

The Biden administration has yet to take a clear stance on the bill. However, given the swift action on the TikTok ban, DJI’s future in the U.S. seems precarious. The TikTok ban and this current effort to ban DJI drones show that the U.S. government is exceptionally serious about addressing Chinese companies operating in the country that may pose a security threat. 

Amid the rising America-China tensions, DJI has been caught in the crossfire like TikTok. However, if DJI truly poses a security threat, the government has the full authority to address it. The real estate industry will continue to deploy drones with or without DJI. But it looks like they may have to soon plan for a future where Chinese-made DJI drones aren’t an option.