Federal Restrictions & Prohibitions on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Federal concerns over unmanned aerial vehicles or systems (collectively referred to as “UAS”), commonly referred to as drones, manufactured outside of the United States have led some federal departments and agencies to restrict or prohibit the purchase and use UAS on federally funded projects.

While the restrictions and prohibitions can vary slightly from agency to agency, most commonly they apply to UAS and UAS components manufactured in China, but could also include those manufactured in Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Providing over 70% of the world’s UAS, Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), which is headquartered in China, is the manufacturer most directly impacted by these restrictions.

The list of restrictions and prohibitions currently includes the following:

  • Department of Agriculture – USU has been notified that the Department of Agriculture has modified their internal procedures to require agency preapproval of any UAS. Some of the common agencies within USDA from which USU receives funding include, but are not limited to, Agricultural Research Services (ARS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS), Forest Service, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
  • Department of Defense – Department of Defense funding, including grants and contracts, cannot be used to purchase drones from any Chinese companies with military ties. Because DJI is identified as one of the restricted companies, the purchase or use of DJI UAS on Department of Defense grants and contracts is prohibited.
  • Department of Interior – Department of Interior funding, including grants and contracts, cannot be used to acquire UAS or UAS components from an “Adversary Country” (currently identified as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia). Additionally, the use of UAS from an Adversary Country on Department of Interior lands is prohibited, even if the UAS was not purchased with Department of Interior or Federal funding. Some of the common agencies within the Department of Interior from which USU receives funding include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Park Service (NPS), and U.S. Fish & Wildlife.
  • Department of Justice – Department of Justice funding, including grants and contracts, cannot be used to acquire UAS or UAS components from any foreign entity “determined or designated within the Department of Justice, to be subject to or vulnerable to extrajudicial direction from a foreign government.” While the guidance does not mention any country by name, it has been understood that the prohibition applies to DJI manufactured UAS and components.

If you anticipate purchasing UAS as part of research or other activities funded by one of the entities listed above, USU is requesting that prior purchase approval be received from the agency via a Program Officer. If you need assistance contacting the agency to inquire about receiving approval to purchase UAS, please contact your USU Sponsored Programs representative.

While the entities above have restricted the purchase and use of many foreign manufactured UAS, the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit maintains a Blue UAS list, outlining drone makes and models that have been vetted and approved for purchase and use on federally funded projects. 

This page will be updated as restrictions and prohibitions are added, removed, or modified.