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Bipartisan U.S. Senate legislation would limit foreign-produced drones in U.S.

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The Stemming The Operation of Pernicious and Illicit (STOP Illicit) Drones Act imposes certain federal funding and operating prohibitions on drones produced in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.

The legislation was introduced last week by Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Mark Warner of Virginia to limit the presence of foreign-produced drones in the United States.

“While the New Axis of Evil is looking for every opportunity to take advantage of the United States, we cannot leave our critical technologies sector open to vulnerabilities,” Blackburn said. “Just as importantly, taxpayer dollars should never fund drones manufactured in regions that are hostile toward the U.S. The STOP Illicit Drones Act helps curb the importation of drones produced by our adversaries, keeping our nation safer and encouraging manufacturing here at home.”

Warner, who is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and formerly worked in the technology sector, said drones have the potential to transform industries and aspects of American society, such as agriculture, emergency services and deliveries.

“As the adoption of this technology grows, we need to make sure that we are not advancing the goals of our adversaries, who wish to saturate the market with drones that pose a threat to our national security,” Warner said. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to ensure that federal resources and dollars do not go towards products that defy U.S. interests.”

The STOP Illicit Drones Act:

  • Prohibits the FAA from providing federal funds to certain foreign drone companies. Any federal programs under control of the FAA — including the Aviation Research Grant Program, the Aviation Workforce Development Program, Community and Technical College Centers of Excellence in Small Unmanned Aircraft System Technology Training, or the Airport Improvement Project Program — would be unable to benefit companies domiciled in the countries listed above.
  • Prohibits the FAA from procuring or operating certain foreign drone companies. The bill would also prohibit the FAA or its contractors from procuring or operating drones produced in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. It allows for an exemption for detection or counter-UAS testing and warfare analysis and operations.

Finally, the STOP Illicit Drones Act:

  • Requires the FAA to replace any such foreign drones with a U.S. or allied drone within one year.
  • Requires the FAA to submit a report to Congress detailing how many FAA drones violate this section and the cost of replacing them. The report must also contain the changes the FAA has made to its procurement, operation, and contracting processes to ensure it does not violate this section going forward.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.