DJI in the US government's crosshairs again – but their drones aren't leaving US markets

The DJI Mini 2 drone on a blue background
(Image credit: DJI)

DJI is among eight Chinese companies officially sanctioned by the US Department of Treasury for their alleged support of China's tracking and surveillance of the country's Uyghur ethnic minority.

The Treasury Dept. on Thursday identified "SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd.,", along with Cloudwalk Technology Co., Ltd.; Dawning Information Industry Co., Ltd.; Leon Technology Company Limited; Megvii Technology Limited; Netposa Technologies Limited.; Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co., Ltd.; and Yitu Limited. as part of the "Chinese Military-Industrial Complex." 

In the announcement, the Treasury Dept. claims each of them provides a variety of surveillance technologies to the "PRC" (People's Republic of China) for the purposes of keeping track of the predominantly-Muslim Uyghur minority.

For DJI, this, the Treasury Dept. noted, includes DJI allegedly providing drones to China's Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, to surveil Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The sanctions do not apply to products made by DJI and sold in the US, but do prevent US citizens from investing in DJI and the seven other Chinese firms. 

"As a result of today’s actions, the purchase or sale by U.S. persons of any publicly traded securities, or any publicly traded securities that are derivative of such securities or are designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, of any person identified in today’s action pursuant to E.O. 13959, as amended, is prohibited," notes the Treasury Dept. in the release.

China's reported persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjing is now well-documented. Aiding those efforts in any way is clearly a serious charge.

DJI, which is currently the number one consumer drone brand in the world, would not comment on the new sanctions but pointed TechRadar to statements it made a year ago when the U.S. Commerce Dept. took similar actions:

“DJI has done nothing to justify being placed on the Entity List. We have always focused on building products that save lives and benefit society. DJI and its employees remain committed to providing our customers with the industry’s most innovative technology. We are evaluating options to ensure our customers, partners, and suppliers are treated fairly.”

Could this action harm DJI's US drone sales or your access to them? TechRadar has also reached out to retailers to find out if there are any plans to pull DJI drones, like the Mavic 3, from store shelves and online retailers. 

At least one major retailer is taking a wait-and-see approach. According to Amazon, which has a significant DJI drone (and other products) selection, the products appear to be widely available from other retailers. Since US regulators and lawmakers haven’t chosen to take action to prevent their commercial sale in the US,  Amazon is offering customers the choice of being able to purchase DJI products, but Amazon is monitoring US regulations.

[12-17-2021: Updated with Amazon's plans]

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.