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Who'll Replace the Chinese IoT Drones?


By: Mary Jander

Enterprise use of drones in Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications is gaining traction, but market forces may delay some progress.

The use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in enterprise apps such as construction planning and inspection, rescue and police operations, insurance evaluations, crop spraying on farms, and surveying or mapping represented a market worth $13.44 billion in 2020, according to Grandview Research. And the firm says that figure is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 57.5% from 2021 to 2028.

At the same time, the leading maker of commercial drones has just been blacklisted by the U.S. government. On December 16, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) prohibited U.S. investors from transactions involving Shenzhen-based SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd., or DJI for short, the world market leader in drone technology, which owns about 54% of the world market, according to research firm DroneAnalyst. The move follows a similar blacklisting of artificial intelligence (AI)-based machine vision company SenseTime Group Ltd. earlier this month. (Notably, SenseTime has continued with its Hong Kong listing after a brief postponement after the U.S. announcement.)

OFAC has cited both SenseTime and DJI as actively supporting “the biometric surveillance and tracking of ethnic and religious minorities in China, particularly the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.” OFAC says that DJI “has provided drones to the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, which are used to surveil Uyghurs in Xinjiang.” The Xinjiang Public Security Bureau has been involved in “serious human rights abuse,” OFAC said.

DJI Drones Under Suspicion

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