A bill prohibiting state agencies from using certain Chinese aerial drones has been filed in the Alabama House of Representatives.

House Bill 321 (HB321), sponsored by State Rep. James Lomax (R-Huntsville), would prohibit 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 (OFAC).

Florida passed a similar ban in 2021.

In Alabama, aerial drones are used by several state and local agencies, ranging from federal and state law enforcement to the Alabama Department of Transportation.

While many in the state have expressed privacy concerns with the state's use of drones in general, that concern is amplified when agencies use drones in countries in opposition to the United States.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission banned the import of specific Chinese-made cameras and security systems in the United States due to security risks.

HB321 would require state, city or county agencies seeking to purchase drone technology to 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" specific authoritarian regimes and countries of concern.

"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."

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