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Friday, September 24th, 2021

DoD updates guidance on procurement and operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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As of last week, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) updated guidance for the procurement and operation of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, incorporating new commercial technological advancements and emphasizing threats of small and foreign UAS.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks signed the new rules into effect on September 8, in support of the larger National Defense Strategy. The guidance applies department-wide and covers all UAS, regardless of size, weight or capability. According to its considerations, certain foreign-made commercial UAS continue to pose a clear and present threat to U.S. national security, but they aren’t the only ones.

Policy stresses that the dangers of small UAS continue to be a priority for all of DoD. Use of commercial off-the-shelf drones have been banned in their entirety for use by the DoD since 2018. This latest guidance also specifically called out Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) systems, though, which has been on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List since last year. Legislation from 2019 also banned the purchase and use of any drones or components manufactured in China. Despite this, DJI accounts for the bulk of the global consumer drone market.

The call out was due to the recent emergence of a report that said certain models of DJI systems had been approved for procurement and operations for U.S. government departments and agencies. DoD pushed back on that, stating that report to be inaccurate, uncoordinated and coincidentally under investigation for its unauthorized release. Existing DoD policy on the issue remains in force, and no DJI systems are currently in use by DoD, though it may purchase certain otherwise restricted systems for specific analyses or operations.