DJI says products will remain on sale after being added to US ‘entity list’

Brian Heater
·2-min read
Firefighter and remote drone pilot, Derrick Ward, inspects a drone during a media demonstration by the Los Angeles Fire Department in Los Angeles, California on December 14, 2017. The LAFD deployed DJIs Phantom 4 Pro and Matrice 100 drones for the first time during the Skirball wildfire.(Photo by: Ronen Tivony) (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Commerce included DJI among the 77 new entries on its "entity list." Precisely what this means for the company’s future in the States remains uncertain, but it has since responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment.

“DJI is disappointed in the U.S. Department of Commerce's decision,” a spokesperson for the drone giant tells TechCrunch. “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.”

As the prior example of Huawei demonstrated, repercussions for inclusion on the list can evolve over time, depending on -- among other things -- the strength of relations between the U.S. and China. The smartphone giant was dealt a major blow after being cut off from access to key U.S.-originated technology, including Google’s Android.

The reason for DJI’s inclusion is part of a broad focus on “wide-scale human rights abuse” -- likely more specifically focused on the subset of “high-technology surveillance." Here's the entry:

The ERC determined to add the entities AGCU Scientech; China National Scientific Instruments and Materials (CNSIM); DJI; and Kuang-Chi Group for activities contrary to U.S. foreign policy interests. Specifically, these four entities have enabled wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance, and/or facilitated the export of items by China that aid repressive regimes around the world, contrary to U.S. foreign policy interests.

Among the many larger factors at play in DJI’s position in the U.S. is the shape of relations with China under the incoming Biden administration. The decision could have an even more immediate impact on the many state and federal agencies that currently utilize the drone-maker's products.