State Rep. James Lomax, R-Huntsville, announced on Monday that he has introduced legislation that would ban all state agencies and governmental bodies in Alabama from purchasing Chinese-made drones and unmanned aircraft if the manufacturer appears on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List maintained by the federal Office of Foreign Assets Control, also known as OFAC.
House Bill 321 mirrors measures that have already been introduced in other states and the U.S. Congress, and Florida recently enacted a ban on Chinese-made drones after legislation was passed there in 2021.
“With the relationship between China and the U.S. becoming increasingly hostile, we must ensure that Chinese-made technology is not being inadvertently used to map and forward sensitive information,” Lomax said. “If the Madison County tax assessor used a drone to survey land near Redstone Arsenal, for example, technology embedded inside could easily forward that sensitive information to unfriendly governments without anyone being aware.”
Under the provisions of Lomax’s bill, state, city, or county agencies seeking to purchase drone technology must first consult the OFAC website and ensure that the manufacturer is not listed as being “owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of” certain authoritarian regimes and countries of concern.
China is currently the world’s number one manufacturer of drones and unmanned aircraft technology with the United States ranking a distant second. A Washington Post report in 2022 indicated that the global leader in drone production, DJI, received direct funding from Chinese state agencies in Beijing and was added to the US Treasury Department’s blacklist as a result.
Lomax’s bill has been referred to the House State Government Committee.