American drone companies

Drones made in the USA: the American drone companies you need to know

There are plenty of reasons to buy products made in the USA — supporting your local economy, potentially better customer service (ie. you can talk to someone in your own time zone and get it shipped faster), adhering to a general ‘buy American‘ sentiment and more. But in the drone community, there’s a bigger reason to buy from American drone companies.

In fact, if you’re operating drones for many federal branches of government (and sometimes even some private corporations), it’s not a choice.

Many private organizations and government organizations have banned drones made in China, and some have banned all drones made outside the USA (more on what “made in the USA” actually means down below).

The U.S. Army in August 2017 temporarily banned its teams from using DJI drones because of cyber-security concerns. The Department of the Interior in October 2019 said it would stop using any drones made in China or made with Chinese parts (they are using drones for uses cases wildlife conservation and monitoring infrastructure). Other private organizations or other government arms have suggested or implemented bans on drones made from anything other that American drone companies.

In early 2020, the Trump administration prepared an executive order to ban all federal departments and agencies from buying or using foreign-made drones, citing a risk to national security. 

And while specific to just DJI, this is concerning for the entire drone industry: dozens of Chinese companies, including DJI, were put on a restricted trade list in December 2020 over concern’s about DJI’s ties to the Chinese government.

Here’s the problem: the drones used by government agencies are overwhelmingly made in China. Of those, most are made by DJI.

“Through the purchase of  billions of dollars of drones from China, we’re subsidizing the companies that would eventually become China’s prime contractor.”

Spencer Gore, CEO of Impossible Aerospace

The Shenzhen, China-based drone maker reportedly has a market share exceeding 70%. For example, here’s the breakdown of most popular drones used by public safety agencies, according to the 2019 Fall Public Safety UAS Survey from Droneresponders (respondents could answer multiple times if their departments had multiple drones):

In another example, an order signed in January 2020 by secretary of the interior David Bernhardt stated that the Department of the Interior’s current fleet of 810 drones would remain grounded. The DOI uses drones from five manufacturers — 121 of which are made by DJI. The other drones (made by 3D Robotics, Parrot, Autel and Birdseyeview Aerobotics) are either Chinese companies or contain components from China, which is why they’re all grounded.

Spencer Gore, the Founder and CEO of California-based drone maker Impossible Aerospace, said the continued reliance on buying Chinese made products poses a threat.

DJI rose to fame in 2014 and 2015 during a time that Gore calls “the drone revolution,” when consumer-focused camera drones like the DJI Phantom and Parrot Bebop exploded in popularity.

“The very predictable thing happened in the market for toys, in that these Chinese companies were backed with massive state funding,” Gore said.

(Editor’s note: DJI is not state-owned or funded. It is financially backed in part by American investors including Kleiner Perkins, Accel Partners, and Sequoia Capital.)

Gore said he believes Chinese-funded companies is what puts companies in a tough financial spot.

“That put the other companies out of business, and allowed state-funded companies like DJI to establish a monopoly. This is China’s playbook. It’s brilliant. DJI products work. They’re subsidized. And they’re selling at a loss to crush American competition.”

(Editor’s note: DJI does not disclose revenue numbers, and Drone Girl is not able to verify claims that DJI drones are subsidized or sold at a loss).

Though, a spokesperson for DJI said the company’s products are neither subsidized, nor selling at a loss.

Still, with revenue incoming from average (primarily American) drone pilots, DJI has been able to continue building better drones.

“All of a sudden, what used to be a toy is rivaling the military’s best drones,” Gore said. “Through the purchase of  billions of dollars of drones from China, we’re subsidizing the companies that would eventually become China’s prime contractor.”

But Gore isn’t so concerned about the regular, hobby pilots buying DJI drones. In a way, it is what it is. DJI drones mesh perfectly with a consumer drone budget and deliver a product that would be tough to convince your average consumer buying a drone for their beach vacation to buy. (The new Skydio 2 is great, but it’s still not as consumer-friendly as anything made by DJI, like the new Mavic Air 2).

Gore is more concerned about the U.S. government agencies that are buying drones made in China.

“With federal governments buying this, we’re building up China’s military technology, while starving American companies of business,” he said. “We  should stop spending U.S. taxpayer dollars on foreign military technology.”

But even the government has limits on what it will spend.

A Department of Interior Mission Functionality and Data Management Assurance Assessment from July 2019 seeking out “inexpensive and highly capable aircraft” found that any drones “available from U.S. based companies were up to 10x less capable for the same price, or up to 10x more costly than similarly capable DJI aircraft.”

What does “made in the USA?” mean when it comes to drones?

Made in the USA” itself is somewhat of a fluid term — and what it “actually” means depends on whom you ask.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Made in USA” means that “all or virtually all” of the product was made in America. That means — in the eyes of the government — all “significant parts, processing and labor that go into the product must be of U.S. origin.”

Legally, slapping the “Made in USA” moniker on your product comes with Customs and Border Patrol responsibilities, as well as FTC requirements.

“There is not a drone in the world that is actually ‘made in the USA,'” Gore said. “In order to use the words, ‘made in the USA,’ there cannot be a single, important piece of content that was not made in the U.S.”

If the battery came from India, and the camera came from Mexico, then it’s not “made in the U.S.A.”

That said, there are certainly grey areas, and it can get confusing. With clothing, an item can be “Made in USA” if it was cut and sewn in the US, even if the fiber originated from another country or the yarn was spun elsewhere. And in the eyes of the FTC, “assembled”; means something different than “built.” That forced Detroit-based company Shinola to clarify their “built in America” claim by adding “from imported parts” to describe of some of its products. Shipping Chinese-made parts to the USA and putting them together domestically does not qualify as “Made in USA.”

But in the context of the current conversation around buying drones made in the U.S., Gore says people mean a slightly different version of the term “made in the USA.”

“Ask yourself, ‘was the intellectual property developed in America? Was it assembled here?'” he said.

For example, Sony sensors, which you’ll find on many drones are manufactured in Japan. Nvidia, which provides sensors increasingly found on drones, especially with obstacle avoidance, largely relies on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to manufacture the graphics chips it designs.

For drone companies using those products, and others like them, that doesn’t make them “made in the USA.” But if they use those products but the drones are assembled in the U.S., it often does allow them to fit into standards requiring products from American drone companies.

american drone companies GoPro Karma Nick Woodman made in USA
GoPro CEO Nick Woodman holds the Karma drone.

A history of American drone companies

The history of American drone companies is pretty bleak. Sadly for those seeking to buy American, most U.S. drone companies (especially hardware companies), have failed at what they initially set up to do.

3D Robotics

In the consumer and camera drone realm, former media darling 3D Robotics, in 2014 promised a drone called the Iris. It launched to largely negative reviews. PC Mag called it intimidating, awkward and compared it to a “large, mechanical insect.” Their review gave it 2.5 stars out of 5.

A year later, the Iris was largely forgotten and replaced with another drone, the Solo. That drone suffered from missed product deadlines and buggy components

Eventually, 3D Robotics — which is headquartered in Berkeley, Calif. — burned through $100 million in funding before shutting down their manufacturing operations and pivoting to drones as a service. The company is much smaller now.

They no longer make their own drones. Instead, they sell a re-packaged and re-assembled Yuneec Typhoon drone (Yuneec is a Chinese drone company, and probably the closest any consumer drone company can get to calling itself a competitor to DJI). The version of the Typhoon sold by 3DR is called the 3DR H520-G.

3D Robotics complies with federal guidelines around using products from American drone companies because it is assembled in the USA under TAA guidelines. In fact, 3D Robotics touts that as one of its most prominent features on its site.

American drone companies 3DR H520-G made in USA

The 3DR version of the Yuneec Typhoon is also compatible with Site Scan, an aerial analytics platform built by 3DR.


GoPro’s drone division experienced a fate similar to 3D Robotics. The company known for its action cameras promised a consumer drone that could compete with DJI.

Dubbed the “Karma,” GoPro’s drone was first announced in December 2015 and was set to debut in early 2016. But in early 2016, it was announced that it would be delayed until late 2016.

But GoPro’s Karma had a number of issues, including a major recall because Karma drones were falling from the sky.  In January 2018, GoPro laid off between 200 and 300 employees, primarily from the GoPro Karma drone team.


Teal has pivoted since its first launch — though that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Utah-based Teal was a consumer-focused drone company announced back in 2016. It was touted as a modular drone, enabling it to serve a range of functions including racing, thermal imaging and traditional photography.

Two years after its launch, Teal finally began selling its flagship product, the Teal One (Teal also launched a pared-down version of the initial product announced in 2016 called the Teal Sport, which started at about $500). The Teal One sold for $1,199.

The Teal One is no longer for sale, and the company has remained largely quiet. No request for comment to the Teal One’s contact pages were returned.

That said, Teal is exploring building drones for the government. A report from last year said that Teal was one of six companies awarded a collective $11 million to design and build drones that meet Army requirements (they have until the middle of 2020 to complete the prototype and see which of those six companies will be awarded with the coveted contract).

And Teal’s website indicates that it is now focused on building military-grade drones. Their website markets a drone called the Golden Eagle, which is built for short-range reconnaissance and situational awareness. Prominently stated in the marketing materials: the drone is mass-produced in America.

There’s no indication of when the drone will be available, other than text on the site that says “coming soon.”

Other major American drone companies that never panned out

American drone companies Lily mota sally french the drone girl
I reviewed the Lily drone, made by Mota, an American drone company. I looked happy, but was not impressed.

San Francisco-based Airware raised an even bigger $118 million in funding over 10 rounds — also burning through most of it. Airware was launched as a drone manufacturer but, like 3DR, pivoted to software. Eventually it was acquired for an undisclosed (but likely relatively small) sum of money by French company Delair.

“Even powerhouse technology company Intel attempted to compete against DJI, but could not find success in a market where DJI could flood the shelves with low-cost, good-quality drones that were relatively reliable and easy to use right out of the box,” according to a September 2019 Droneresponders white paper.

And then there’s Mota, the San Jose, Calif.-based electronics maker, which bought the Lily drone brand. Both the original company, Berkeley, Calif.-based Lily, and Mota, disappointed fans over a massive Kickstarter debacle.

Do people want drones made in the USA?

For what it’s worth, people want to buy from American drone companies. Here’s a fascinating study from the Fall 2019 Public Safety UAS Survey by Droneresponders:

224 respondents were presented with four drones possessing nearly identical quality, capabilities, and price points. The only difference? One was from a Chinese-headquartered company. The others were from France, Germany and the U.S. 88% of respondents said they would purchase the drone from the U.S.-headquartered company.

And alas, 55% of survey respondents said they already have plans to buy at least one more drone in 2020…from DJI.

A DJI flies during the opening of the DJI flagship store in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong in 2016, not far from the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China.

For what it’s worth, not all government agencies are adamant about sticking to U.S.-made drones. The Department of Agriculture and the Office of Management and Budget have both argued that there is no viable alternatives to DJI drones.

Other economists have suggested that prohibiting government use of Chinese drones would prompt China to ban American-made products, hindering the growth of U.S. companies.

Some experts have proposed an alternative where, instead of banning drones by country, drones are banned (or required) based on technical limitations or abilities.

“Drone restrictions based on nationality rather than security standards won’t protect our nation from cybersecurity vulnerabilities,” said Carl
Szabo, vice president of NetChoice, which advocates for free markets in technology, during an interview with Libertarian-leaning magazine Reason. “Discrimination against foreign-made drones means our country won’t have access to the best technologies. What we really need are cybersecurity standards for drones that apply to all manufacturers, enabling greater competition and security.”

The made-in-USA drone companies you should know about

There are certainly more American drone companies out there than the ones on this list. But here are the ones that you should know about, either because they already come up in conversation often — or they’re relatively unknown and should come up in conversation often.

Hardware companies


Headquarters: Moorpark, Calif. (U.S.) and Zürich, Switzerland

Auterion, which was created by the same people behind open-source autopilot system, Pixhawk, launched its Skynode product in May 2020 as a sort of “brain for drones.” Auterion has offices in California and Switzerland, and the Skynode is made in the USA.

Skydio 2 drone
The Skydio 2 drone

Consumer drone companies


Headquarters: Redwood City, Calif.

Skydio builds a follow-me, camera drone that claims to be crash proof. Their latest product, the Skydio 2, costs $999. It first went on sale in 2019 but sales were paused paused due to coronavirus halting production (much of manufacturing was shut down due to California rules). They resumed production in California, and the Skydio 2 went back on sale in June 2020. Read my Skydio 2 review here.

Military and defense drone companies

U.S. aerospace and defense stalwarts such as AeroVironmentBoeing, Lockheed Martin have tapped into drones, but their price point is too high for most enterprise drone operations to take advantage of.

“This would have likely meant increasing their cost of sales while simultaneously lowering their prices (and thus their margins) from their existing lucrative defense contracts in an attempt to pursue and accommodate the modest budgets of most public safety agencies,” the Droneresponders report stated. “That clearly wasn’t going to happen.”

That said, here are some U.S. companies that build aerospace and defense drones.


Headquarters: Gainesville, Fla.

Altavian is a drone engineering and manufacturing firm founded in 2011. Last spring, the company was awarded a Short Range Reconnaissance Prototype (SRR) contract as a part of the U.S. Army’s effort to field a next generation drone weighing less than 5 pounds flown by a single operator.

InstantEye Robotics

Headquarters: Andover, Mass.

InstantEye is a less-than-one-pound drone that can be hand-launched, flown and hand-recovered by a single person in any weather. This drone is notable in the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College’s 2020 edition of their Drone Public Safety report: it’s the first non-Chinese company in a list of most common drones used by U.S. public safety agencies.

Enterprise and commercial-focused drone companies


Headquarters: Raleigh, North Carolina (U.S.) and Saskatoon, Canada

Draganfly has been in the commercial UAS and RPAS space for 22 years now. In March 2020, the company announced a “teaming agreement” for Draganfly’s distribution of AeroVironment’s Quantix Mapper systems to commercial markets.  That essentially means that AeroVironment will provide Draganfly sales, marketing collateral, and product technical support for its Quantix Mapper system, which is a hybrid drone that can launch vertically and transition to horizontal flight. The drone is designed for use cases like assessing crop health or damage from storm, flood or fire, intended to make it easy to gather accurate images across a large area.

Meanwhile, Draganfly will provide e-commerce, enterprise and direct sales operations, and oversee development of a network of resellers and strategic distribution partners worldwide.

Impossible Aerospace

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Instead of selling their drones outright, Impossible Aerospace operates as a subscription model, where clients rent drones via packages that start at $7,500. Impossible Aerospace CEO Spencer Gore said he believes the subscription route is better for most enterprise use cases because its engineers (also based in the U.S.) can better monitor and service drones.


Headquarters: Stevensville, Montana

Skyfish is known for its advanced autonomous work drone platform, which is a series of enterprise-grade drones and drone products. The platform includes not just two drones (the Skyfish M4 and Skyfish M6), but flight planning and navigation software, a data center and more. Skyfish drones support many payloads and sensors out-of-the-box, including LiDAR and thermal sensors from FLIR. Plus, they can fully integrate with the Sony Alpha series of cameras. The drones are designed for industrial work, like photogrammetry and infrastructure inspections.


Headquarters: Valencia, Calif.

The drone maker in March unveiled the RangePro X8P – Pixhawk, a follow-up to its previous drone, the RangePro X8, designed for industrial, first responder, and government enterprise data capture. 

The drone is notable in that it was designed to meet federal government and Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines, and the company actively markets that it is “proudly engineered and manufactured in the USA.”

“We designed the RangePro X8P based on U.S. market and federal government demand,  aligning with the pending U.S. Senate bill, S.2502, the American Security Drone Act of 2019,” said Bruce Myers, president of TerraView. “If this bill is passed it will ban federal departments and agencies from purchasing any commercial off-the-shelf drone or unmanned aircraft system manufactured or assembled in China or other countries identified for national security concerns,” We have been working with suppliers in the U.S. and other U.S. partner countries to provide best-in-class technical solutions and components that allow us to manufacture one of the highest-performing commercial drones in the market today.”  


Headquarters: San Diego, Calif.

UAV America is a part of another company, Solute (mentioned in this guide as well). The drone maker is behind the Eagle XF and X8 UAV, and they also produce custom drones.

UAVA touts that their products “limit exposure to cyber vulnerabilities,” adding that they are closed systems that never require an internet connection. UAVA is a division of SOLUTE, which builds a number of technical products, primarily focused at government clients.


Headquarters: San Leandro, Calif.

VantageRobotics manufactures drones in the US for government, commercial and consumer markets– including the portable Vesper drone system with EO/IR. Their first product, Snap, is famous for being the drone that earned the landmark FAA waiver for commercial use near people with CNN.


Headquarters: Cerritos, Calif. (U.S.) and Shenzhen, China

DJI itself may be looking to be able to call itself a made-in-the-USA drone maker. DJI in 2019 announced what’s called a “DJI Government Edition drone,” intended for use in high-security situations by government agencies around the world (and inevitably to circumvent restrictions imposed by the government about products made in China). Major differences with the DJI Government Edition drone include no data transmission, firmware update reviews and restricted hardware pairing.

DJI makes them out of a warehouse in Cerritos, Calif, though DJI itself is, of course, a Chinese company.

Of course, there are many more American drone companies out there, and this is far from a comprehensive list.


  • Golten says:

    Great resource thank you Sally

  • theabacusweb says:

    Albatross UAV from Applied Aeronautics has been a product of the USA since the companies launch in 2014

  • Jonathan says:

    You forgot to talk about AgEagle $UAVS who will open a manufacture to produce their drone in next september in Witchita.

  • Excellent overview, very informative

  • Tommy Mc says:

    Miss Fisher, thank for you consistent information in this drone market. Your amazing and so glad to be able to have you as a source of information THANK YOU .TOMMY MC

  • is an American drone company based in Missoula Montana since 2014.

    SKyfish makes commercial drones for precision measurement, inspection and surveying.

  • TC Freeman says:

    It really chaps my hide that we don’t have a more comprehensive and robust sUAS manufacturing industry in the US. I know it’s a loaded topic but would like to think there are at a minimum niche’ segments with higher margins that could pull this off. Kudos to Skydio for putting together the closest thing to USA manufacturing thus far, I’m rooting for them! Looking forward to researching those mentioned in the comments.

  • i would like to buy a drone but, after reading the reviews on most of them, i would like to buy american. i wold rather do without than deal with the problems a whole lot of people are going through right now. i’ll keep looking and hope i find a jewell.

  • Tony Rivera says:

    I consider myself to be a Prosumer and I am looking to buy my first Drone, but only if it is made, built, designed, etc. whatever Here in the U.S.A.! This article was Very informative!!! Thank You to the Writer or Writer’s.

  • Shari Tony says:

    We will have no industries in the US because biden is china owned

    • Tim says:

      That would not appear to be the case, based upon Biden’s move to have U.S. governmental agencies purchase “Made in U.S.A.” supplies. Google it. Also, the Biden Admin wants to increase the required percentage of material that goes into making something be considered “Made in U.S.A”.

      • Jim the Sandman says:

        Thats Russian misinformation. And you Google for accurate unbiased information?? Thats a laugh. Google is censorhip central and proBiden. Wake up or quit using my air.

      • broomsh says:

        Thank you Tim. I hope you are right.

  • Charlie says:

    All of us in the US should buy US made. There are millions in the US who would like to buy a small drone under the FFA 250 gram registration limit that connects to a tablet just for family fun, not commercial purposes. Anything out there?

  • G. Lee. says:

    Thank you Drone Girl. Love your website

  • Josh says:

    Invest in ALPP. (Alpine 4 Technologies) They recently have acquired Impossible Aerospace and Vayu. All drones proudly made in the USA and they have a contract with the US Air Force. They are uplisting to the Nasdaq soon, everyone should support American made drones to take down DJI!

    • Grant says:

      After reviewing several US Drone companies, I agree with you Josh that Alpine 4 appears to have the best overall solutions & Vision. ALPP is a smart investment long term!

    • Paul Dwyer says:

      I bought a Mavic Air a few years ago and lie the way it works. But that was before COVID. I agree with you and want to make my next drone purchase an American.

  • Jason says:

    You failed to mention Commercial Drones Canada Corporation. Well, its technically not American but they’re hand built 30 miles from Detroit. All American parts, aircraft grade aluminum, carbon fiber, and ultra thin titanium. Parker-Lord dual RTK and PPK. Every part is time stamped when they’re installed, via Q code. Each drone has it’s own engineer, it is not an assembly line. That engineer works on it until its complete. They’re then tested on the private 25 acre site via third party. Each drone comes fully loaded, with global shutter 6 lens NDVI ultra multi spectral cameras, Lidar, ag. Sprayers, and a 3 year warranty. After 3 years they will buy it back from you if you are not satisfied. I watched an engineer assemble one, and after he was finished, he signed the inside of the fuselage. That drone went out to the oil sands for leak inspection. I asked how much it was, he said 25 grand. I honestly dont know how they’re making money. I talked to the manager and she said they are starting to sell to the public in the spring of 2021.
    I personally cant wait. I can see a few in my future. Sorry about the long review, 🙂

  • Maybe have a look at Aquiline Drones out of Hartford, CT.

  • Rae Siebels says:

    Hi Sally, I was wondering if you are familiar with Vision Aerial. We are an American drone manufacturer and we specialize in UAVs for industrial applications. Please reach out if you have any questions.

  • David Thompson says:

    To whom it may concern, My name is David Thompson. I’m a visionary. I have ideas on how drone can be protected from gun Violent. These drones can be sold to churches school agency in cooperation around the country. The cooperation can make trillions of dollars. What do I gain for sharing this idea. My email address [email protected].

  • thor says:

    X-Craft- US made and poised for success mainly through Gov contracts. It’s a smart, and patriotic, investment

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