Ban on Foreign-Made Drones before the Connecticut Legislature

In Connecticut, Senate Bill 3, currently being reviewed in the Connecticut state Legislature, aims to prevent state agencies from acquiring drones manufactured by “Covered Foreign Entities,” namely China and Russia. The focus of the legislation primarily targets drones originating from China, particularly those produced by DJI, the leading global drone manufacturer.

The regulations on foreign-manufactured drones parallel those outlined in the federal American Security Drone Act, which became law last December as part of the omnibus National Defense Authorization Act. Several states, including Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, have enacted prohibitions specifically targeting drones made in China. Many other states are considering similar legislation.

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In Connecticut, SB 3 would bar any public entity in the state from purchasing “any small, unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) assembled or manufactured by a covered foreign entity.” Additionally, it would prohibit the use of any state funds “to purchase, operate, or repair” such systems.

The passing of this legislation would mandate that any public entity currently operating a drone system affected by the ban must submit a plan to discontinue its use by no later than October 1, 2024, and implement that plan by October 1, 2025. Lawmakers cited the American Security Drone Act and other federal government actions targeting DJI and other Chinese drone manufacturers.

State senators asserted that DJI products posed an inherent security threat by potentially accessing sensitive data and transferring it to the Chinese government. “It is the drone hardware itself that presents the security risk, as the security software updates for Chinese-made drones are controlled by Chinese entities that can introduce unknown data collection and transmission capabilities without the user’s awareness.” 

One respondent to public inquiry testified that the use of Chinese-made drone technology should have been banned in the U.S. five years ago. “Chinese drones utilize a proprietary algorithm for data collection that only the Chinese can decrypt.”

Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems Intl (@AUVSI) / Twitter

Michael Robbins, Chief Advocacy Officer of the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), called for the creation of a grant program for police agencies and firefighters to provide funds for the replacement of drones. This would be like the program that has already been passed and funded by the Florida legislature.

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