New Drone Restrictions Coming - The National Defense Authorization Act of 2024

Dec 21, 2023

There is some potentially big news for drone users within the university systems that came out last week.  Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2024 on Thursday December 14th, which includes provisions restricting the use of Chinese drones in connection with almost all federal grant funding.  This bill will very likely be signed by the President later in the year, and while there could still be some adjustments, as the bill pertains to drones, any forthcoming changes are very unlikely at this point.

Specifically, Title 18, Subtitle B, Sections 1821-1833 will prohibit all Federal Agencies from purchasing any drone made in China, and will sunset all operations of Chinese drones in two (2) years. This will apply to all federal grants (Section 1825).  Beginning two years after the enactment of this Act, except as provided in subsection (b) pertaining to the one exception of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), no Federal funds awarded through a contract, grant, or cooperative agreement, or otherwise made available may be used to procure a covered unmanned aircraft system that is manufactured or assembled in China; or in connection with the operation of such a drone or unmanned aircraft system.

This legislation also requires the development of new federal wide policy on the purchase of drones (including grants/contracts). Likely this will be some version of the BlueSUAS list (vetted by DoD for security) that will be the new standard.  We will have to wait and see how this unfolds.

For now, assuming the current NDAA compliance requirements, we only have the following platform recommendations for multispectral/photogrammetry operations using federal funds.  However, hopefully new authorized technology will be forthcoming soon.

  • eBee X (~$13k) fixed-wing, Cat 3 OOP, but requires laptop in field
  • Wingtra Gen II (~$36k), VTOL with forward flight
  • Freefly Astro (~$32k mapping package), multi-rotor, 1.5kg payload capacity
  • Aurelia X6 Pro V2 (~$22k NDAA compliant package, no payload), 6kg payload capacity

For more information, please consider signing up for office hours with the UC ANR IGIS Statewide Program:

or refer to resources through UC Unmanned Aircraft System Safety site:



By Sean D Hogan
Author - IGIS Academic Coordinator II
By Brandon Stark