The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has played a major role in the way the U.S. military operates for more than 50 years. Every year, adjustments are made to the Act in efforts to maximize the safety of the warfighter. Starting 2020, Congress added new legislation regarding the procurement of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS or drones). The NDAA 2020 Section 848 now bars the DoD employees from procuring sUAS components, such as flight controllers, developed or manufactured in a covered foreign country, specifically China.
The provision prohibits the Department of Defense from using or renewing a contract for an UAS that:
- was manufactured in
- uses equipment, like cameras or flight controllers, manufactured in
- employs a ground control system developed in or
- utilizes a network or data storage administered by China or an entity domiciled in China.
Goldman Sachs predicts global militaries to spend $70 billion on drones in 2020 alone. As drone technology continues to aid missions by taking soldiers out of harm’s way, drone builders will need to be mindful of where they source their boards, radios and other parts from, especially with another piece of legislation on the way.
The Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act, which is currently making its way through the U.S. regulatory process, will also require that all drones used for security and defense applications by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) be made of components manufactured in the U.S.
The two government policies are established to encourage the use of drones built domestically as opposed to overseas, with hopes of creating a secure supply chain to ensure domestic availability and prevent foreign hacking of American drone technologies.
Government agencies are the first to make changes in the drone equipment procurement process, but this could mean changes commercially in the future. With this new legislation, companies that make unmanned aircraft systems must start to consider buying parts in America. This can also lead to benefits like easy accessibility to hands-on maintenance, quality control and legal compliance.
ModalAI designs and manufactures most of its printed circuit board assemblies in Southern California, making its products, including the newest VOXL Flight, compliant with both the current and upcoming federal acts. VOXL Flight is an outcome of ModalAI’s work with the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit to provide the armed forces with state-of-the-art technology for Group 1 Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in the field.
More advantages of American-made drone parts include:
- Procure parts more quickly. Build a reliable and consistent supply chain
- Expedited development timelines for custom technology. No more waiting for long periods of time to get a look at the next product revision
- Support the American economy and technology industry