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. You might prefer supporting your local economy. American products can entail potentially better customer service, given that you can talk to someone in your time zone and get it shipped faster. There’s also just general goodwill around the ‘buy American’ sentiment. 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. What’s more, 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).

We’ve outlined the biggest American drone companies here. Note that this list contains manufacturers only. There are hundreds of other big drone service providers, software companies or other ancillary companies like media companies. Also note that many drone companies could fall into multiple categories (e.g. companies categorized as military drone makers could arguably be considered commercial, and vice versa). We chose the ultimate category based on where most of that drone company’s energy was directed.

And this collection of American drone companies is hardly a comprehensive list, but rather a breakdown of the biggest names out there.

There are certainly more American drone companies out there than the ones listed here. These names were selected because they are either 1. the biggest American companies, or 2. they come up in conversation often, or 3. they’re relatively unknown and should come up in conversation often. So with that, here are the American drone companies that you should know about:

Consumer drone companies in the U.S.

Skydio 2 drone
The Skydio 2 drone

Folks frequently want to buy consumer drones (typically under $1,000) from American drone companies. But the reality is, that few such drone makers exist in that realm.

You can read more about this phenomenon in my guide to the best camera drones made in the U.S. But I might also just save you a click. There are no consumer drone companies in the U.S. worth talking about right now.

Sure, there were drone companies like California-based Skydio that at one point made consumer drones, including the beloved Skydio 2 drone. But even Skydio called it quits in August 2023 when it formally announced that it would shut down its consumer drone arm.

Most of these companies are further detailed in this section down below spelling out the history of American drone companies that have gone defunct.

Additionally, keep tabs on these other U.S.-based, consumer companies. 3DR has returned, albeit in a much different form, focusing on the DIY sector. Companies like EXO Drones have tried to position themselves as a company that makes drones in America, but they only kind of do. EXO Drones had close ties to Chinese drone maker Hubsan, but was recently acquired by American company OpenStore. EXO Drones is perhaps best known for its Blackhawk 3 Pro. But, we didn’t have a great experience while flying it — and the drone itself is not actually made in the U.S.

Enterprise and commercial-focused American drone companies

The following enterprise and commercial-focused American drone companies are listed in alphabetical order.

AgEagle (formerly SenseFly)

The eBee TAC can be operated by one person and deployed in 3 minutes.

Headquarters: Wichita, Kansas

AgEagle is primarily known for its eBee drones. That said, it also builds sensors and software, while also providing drone flying services. AgEagle’s eBee branded drones are autonomous, ultra-light drones that weigh under 2 kg (4.4 pounds) and are relatively easy to use. Its eBee TAC, which is a version of the drone designed for government tactical mapping, has a spot on the Blue UAS Cleared List.

American Robotics (parent company is Ondas Holdings)

American Robotics is behind the Scout drone and Scoutbase station.

Headquarters: Waltham, Massachusetts

American Robotics designs and builds industrial drone solutions for rugged, real-world environments. It’s primary product is the AR’s Scout System. The Scout System is a highly automated, AI-powered drone system capable of continuous, remote operation. AR markets it as a “drone-in-a-box” turnkey data solution service under a Robot-as-a-Service (RAAS) business model.

The Scout System is the first FAA-approved drone system for automated operation beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) without a human operator on-site.

In summer 2022, the FAA granted a waiver to American Robotics allowing it to not only operate its autonomous Scout System for research, development, crew training, and market surveys but also for full-scale commercial operations. American Robotics also has FAA approvals for fully-automated beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations. That enables the Scout System to operate over larger areas with the ability to customize range based on site geographies. 

Ondas Holdings, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ as ONDS, acquired American Robotics in August 2021. Ondas is a developer of proprietary, software-based wireless broadband technology.

Ascent Aerosystems

The Spirit drone by Ascent AeroSystems

Headquarters: Wilmington, Massachusetts

Ascent AeroSystems builds compact, all-weather, high-performance drones designed for use by frontline soldiers, first responders and industrial professionals. The company claims to build the only modular, coaxial, and weatherproof drone on the market.

Its Spirit drone is on the DIU Blue sUAS 2.0 Cleared List, which means any U.S. government customer can buy and operate a Spirit without further technical review or approval.

BRINC

Photo courtesy of BRINC

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

Founded in response to the tragic 2017 Las Vegas Shooting, BRINC builds drones designed specifically for the public safety sector. The company is best known for its NDAA-compliant Lemur 2 drone that has unique functions including a LiDAR sensor that can make realtime floor plans of buildings.

BRINC manufactures its products in the U.S., and the company claims that its products are deployed by more than 400 public safety agencies globally.

Draganfly

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

Draganfly has been in the commercial UAS and RPAS space for over 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. It’s intended to make it easy to gather accurate images across a large area.

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

The company is publicly traded on the NASDAQ as DPRO.

Flightwave Aerospace

The Flightwave Aerospace Edge 130
The Flightwave Aerospace Edge 130 tricopter.

Headquarters: Santa Monica, Calif.

Flightwave is all about the tricopter drones. Its flagship product is the Edge line, which comes in both a commercial and a military-focused model.

The first, the Edge 130 VTOL, is a consumer-priced yet military-grade tricopter drone designed for long-range, long-endurance missions. It also makes the Edge 130 Blue, which is a military-grade tricopter for long-range mapping, inspection, surveillance, and reconnaissance. That upgraded ‘Blue’ tricopter for government and military applications weighs 1,200 grams. It can fly for over 2 hours in forward flight mode and is Blue sUAS 2.0 cleared.

Freefly

Headquarters: Woodinville, Washington

Freefly Systems is one of the best American camera drone companies out there. The company has a robust lineup of drones, gimbals and cameras. Among them include the Freefly Alta X drone and Freefly Astro drone.

Unlike the budget-friendly, Chinese camera drones, though, you’ll need big money to afford these. One Freefly Alta X kit goes for $23,500, while Freefly’s Astro Base Industrial Drone with Mapping Payload & Pilot Pro Controller goes for $27,000. But perhaps that’s not a fair comparison.

After all, these drones are powerhouses. For example, the modular Alta X quadcopter can carry payloads up to 35 lb while still maintaining a trust ratio of 1.9:1. Even with 35 lbs of gear loaded to it, the Alta X can still fly fly for up to 10.75 minutes. Without any payloads, the Alta X has a 3.5:1 thrust ratio and up to 50 minutes of flight time. That makes it a powerful tool for not just high-end cinema cameras, but even RTK mapping devices and other heavy payloads.

Impossible Aerospace (parent company is Alpine 4 Holdings)

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Instead of selling their drones outright, Impossible Aerospace operates as a subscription model. 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.

Inspired Flight Technologies

Photo courtesy of Inspired Flight

Headquarters: San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Founded in 2016, Inspired Flight builds drones for commercial and government applications such as aerial photogrammetry, surveying and thermal inspection. It made a big move in May 2023 by launching a new plug and play solution. That makes it possible to easily put the Phase One P3 camera on its Inspired Flight IF1200A, putting the first true Mavlink-based P3 integration on the IF1200A.

In June 2023, Inspired Flight announced a medium-lift drone called the IF800 Tomcat. The IF800 Tomcat is the first NDAA-compliant industrial-grade drone to deliver greater than 40-minute flight time while carrying a high-resolution camera or sensors.

That drone stands out as an agricultural powerhouse given its compatibility with Sentera’s 6X Multispectral and 65R ultra-high-resolution RGB sensors. Sentera’s integrations enable high-resolution global shutter mapping and science-grade multispectral imaging capabilities.

Skyfish

Skyfish M4 drone American drone companies
Skyfish manufactures a few drones, including the Skyfish M4, pictured here. Image courtesy of Skyfish.

Headquarters: Stevensville, Montana

Skyfish is known for its advanced autonomous work drone platform, which is a series of enterprise-grade drones and drone products. Its drones include the Skyfish M4 Skyfish M6 and the Osprey drone, which many consider an American-made alternative to the DJI M30.

The Montana-based drone maker also makes flight planning and navigation software, and a data center. 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.

UAVAmerica

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.

Vision Aerial

Vision Aerial

Headquarters: Bozeman, Montana

Montana-based Vision Aerial’s fleet of industrial drones includes the SwitchBlade-Elite Tricopter and Vector Hexacopter. Its drones are designed, built, manufactured and assembled in the U.S.

“We keep operations stateside for supply chain stability, to better manage quality control, and to provide the best service possible,” according to a post on the Vision Aerial Website.

Its clients include the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Marathon Petroleum, DTE Energy and NorthWestern Energy 

WingXpand

WingXpand American drone companies
WingXpand’s fixed-wing drone. Photo courtesy of WingXpand.

Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri

WingXpand builds a fixed-wing drone with a unique, telescoping drone design. The drone is a 7-foot wide autonomous airplane, but it fits into a backpack through its patented, expanding wings.  WingXpand participated in Techstars Los Angeles 2022 and was chosen as a 2022 ‘St. Louis Arch Grants’ recipient. Women and Drones named it ‘Top Company for Women in Emerging Aviation Technology‘ at CES 2023

In 2022, it landed a pretty interesting deal through the Small Business Innovation Research program. Throuhg that U.S. government funding program, it’ll be working with the Department of Defense.

U.S. 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.

Altavian (parent company is Teledyne FLIR)

Headquarters: Gainesville, Fla.

Altavian is a drone engineering and manufacturing firm founded in 2011. It focused on building drones specifically engineered to fly in tough environments — and to generate cost-effective, accurate data. Last spring, the U.S. Army awarded Altavian with a Short Range Reconnaissance Prototype (SRR) contract as a part of the Army’s effort to field a next generation drone weighing less than 5 pounds flown by a single operator.

BlueHalo

Headquarters: Arlington, Virginia

BlueHalo builds a range of global defense products, including both drones and counter drone technology. In the drone world, BlueHalo is perhaps best known for its Intense Eye Version 2 drone. The is a ready-to-fly quadcopter with a 750 mm multi-rotor that’s designed to be easily foldable and transportable.

Easy Aerial

Headquarters: Brooklyn, New York

Easy Aerial builds military-grade, autonomous drone-in-a-box solutions. But they’re not off-the-shelf. Each Easy Aerial drone is customized to meet the client’s unique security, mapping, and inspection needs.

The company’s drones are all NDAA 848 compliant systems. And here’s a unique feature. While you might buy a traditional free-flight drone, you might also opt for a tethered version. The company will even build you what it claims to be the industry’s first tethered/free-flight hybrid configuration.

Though it’s headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, Easy Aerial also has regional offices in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and Belgrade, Serbia.

Skydio

Headquarters: San Francisco Bay Area, California

Skydio burst onto the scene with its incredible Skydio 2 drone, which was standout as a follow-me drone. But the company made a big move in August 2023 when it announced that it would kill its consumer-focused camera drone business to instead focus entirely on enterprise and public sector customers, as well as enterprise and military markets.

Since doing so, Skydio has attracted strong attention from key players in the U.S. military. That includes Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who paid a visit to the company in late 2023. Her visit was part of a broader tour of U.S. tech companies to understand how they can deliver cutting-edge technologies to warfighters (and outpace China).

Teal (parent company is Red Cat)

The Teal Golden Eagle drone.

Headquarters: Salt Lake City, Utah

Teal burst into the military drone spotlight in 2019 when it became one of six companies awarded a collective $11 million to design and build drones that meet Army requirements. In 2020 it launched the Teal Golden Eagle, a $14,800 commercial drone platform designed for aerial surveillance.

And in 2023, the company’s newer Teal 2 drone became publicly available. Teal 2 stands out for its ability to fly at night — all thanks to being equipped with Teledyne FLIR’s Hadron 640R sensor

Both the Teal Golden Eagle and Teal 2 drones are on the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit Blue UAS Cleared List.

(Editors Note: Since the time of this original publication, the Teal Golden Eagle has been discontinued.)

VantageRobotics

Vantage Robotics Vesper Made in US controller
The Vesper drone from Vantage Robotics

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 famously the drone that earned the landmark FAA waiver for commercial use near people with CNN.

Nowadays, the company mostly focuses on building NDAA compliant, military-grade drones. Its flagship product is the Vesper, which is an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drone.

The VantageRobotics Vision2 GCS 

The company also is known for its ground control station, dubbed ‘Vision’ (and more recently Vision 2). Though it was designed with the Vesper drone in mind, it is specifically intended to act as a universal controller. It could be a great option for people building their drones who seek an American-made drone controller.

Drone hardware companies in the U.S.

The companies listed below usually make parts, accessories for or components of drones, rather than the full drone itself.

Auterion

Skynode
The Auterion Skynode.

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

Auterion was created by the same people behind the open-source autopilot system, Pixhawk. It 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.

Given its position as the world’s largest open-source drone software platform, Auterion is massively invested in the open source drone community. It’s building an ecosystem of software-defined drones, payloads, and third-party applications. 

Auterion is closely tied to open source drone community Dronecode Foundation. That’s perhaps unsurprising given that co-founder and CEO of Auterion, Lorenz Meier, chairs the Dronecode Foundation. Kevin Sartori, the other co-founder of Auterion, is also a Dronecode Foundation board member.

WiBotic

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

WiBotic builds all sorts of advanced charging and power optimization solutions for drones plus aerial, mobile, space and industrial robots.

U.S. delivery drone companies

We also broke out companies that specifically make delivery drones. Few though are for sale to the general public, A2Z being one of them. Other drone manufacturers like Wing and Zipline do manufacture their own drones, but they won’t sell them to you.

A2Z

Headquarters: Los Angeles, California

A2Z Drone Delivery began as a drone delivery project at Brown University back in 2016. These days, it’s based in Los Angeles, Calif. The company sells off-the-shelf delivery drones, which you can buy to run your own delivery drone service.

Its primary product is the RDSX Pelican, a long-range delivery drone. It has the range and payload capacity to handle up to 5 kg payloads on up to 40 km routes. Prices start at $29,000 for the drone.

Amazon

Headquarters: Seattle metro area, Washington

Amazon’s drone deliveries are a bit hit and miss. Amazon was among the first companies to ever suggest the possibility of delivering food and other consumer products directly to peoples’ homes (back in 2013). But Amazon, which in 2022 announced delivery sites in College Station, Texas and Lockeford, California, had served fewer than 10 households in its first month or so after the announcement. Meanwhile, it also laid off more than half the employees at those locations.

DroneUp

Headquarters: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Founded in 2016, DroneUp provides drone delivery service for a few major companies. Its biggest customer? Retail giant Walmart. Other, small customers include Carilion Clinic, the not-for-profit healthcare organization based in Roanoke Virginia.

DroneUp builds its own software and hardware. DroneUp’s drones are roughly five feet in diameter, fly at around 200 feet in elevation, and typically carry deliveries up to 10 pounds. 

Zipline

Headquarters: South San Francisco, Calif.

Zipline is considered the largest drone service provider in the world, and is a drone delivery giant. Zipline largely started operations of medical deliveries to rural parts of Africa, but the company has been expanding into more complicated airspace, including a relatively recent U.S. expansion to deliver COVID-19 related supplies to North Carolina hospitals and other medical facilities. It also has partnerships with major retailers including Walmart, and in October 2022 launched drone deliveries in Utah with its partner Intermountain Healthcare. Zipline continues to expand their partnerships, in 2023 they dove into U.S. healthcare partnering with OhioHealth and finally entered the food delivery scene with Sweetgreen.

Wing (sibling company of Google)

Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.

Wing is the drone delivery company that’s owned by Alphabet, the company formerly known as Google. Wing is generally considered the second-largest drone delivery company in the world behind Zipline. But unlike Zipline, Wing is mostly focused on deliveries of consumer products (typically food or other small grocery-type items) directly to people’s houses. That includes a recent Wing partnership with DoorDash to deliver food and other convenience items via drone and a partnership with Walgreens in Frisco, Texas. Wing is growing as a company, but also their drone size. In 2024, they announced a new larger drone capable of carrying a standard cardboard delivery box with a payload of up to five pounds.

It’s also got major operations in Australia, as well as a more-fledging operation in Ireland.

What about DJI?

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

In some ways, DJI itself looks to be able to call itself a made-in-the-USA drone maker. In 2019, DJI in announced what’s called a “DJI Government Edition drone.” That drone was intended for use in high-security situations by government agencies around the world. It also inevitably circumvented government restrictions regarding 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.

Why are American drone companies so important?

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 of wildlife conservation and monitoring infrastructure). Other private organizations or other government arms have suggested or implemented bans on drones made by anything other than 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 concerns 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 the 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 are 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. 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 to buy a drone for their beach vacation.

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. What it “actually” means depends on whom you ask.

“Made in USA” means that “all or virtually all” of the product was made in America, according to the Federal Trade Commission. 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. It also necessitates 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.”

Made in USA grey areas

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 U.S. That’s 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 certain 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 (found on many drones) are manufactured in Japan. Nvidia, which provides obstacle avoidance sensors, 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.

What about the Buy American Act?

With the understanding that few drones would be entirely made in the U.S. down to the screws and mounting brackets, there is one type of Act that aims to at least set a threshold for what’s considered American-made.

That’s the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)’s Buy American Act, which was enacted to boost domestic supply chains and decrease reliance on foreign-made goods. As of 2024, the Buy American Act stipules that 65% of the product’s value must have been made in America. But by 2029 that figure will increase to 70%.

But don’t worry if your drone isn’t compliant. The Buy American Act rules only apply to a tiny minority of drone buyers. For example, drones purchased with a federal grant usually must meet the Buy American threshold. Yet even still, waivers and exceptions exist to remove the obligation to “Buy American,” such as cases where the U.S.-made version is not available at what’s considered a ‘reasonable’ cost. And often, that is the case.

A history of American consumer drone companies — that are (mostly) defunct

Particularly when it comes to consumer drones, 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.

3D Robotics

In the consumer and camera drone realm, former media darling 3D Robotics, promised a drone in 2014 called the Iris. Alas, 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, folks largely forgot Iris. Solo replaced Iris. Yet like Iris, Solo suffered from missed product deadlines and buggy components. Eventually, 3D Robotics — which is headquartered in Berkeley, Calif. — burned through $100 million in funding. It eventually shut down manufacturing operations and pivoted to drones as a service — until its service arm also shut down.

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

GoPro

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 debuted in December 2015 with an availability date set for early 2016. But in early 2016, GoPro 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

If the name Teal sounds like deja vu to you, that’s because we already named the company above. Utah-based Teal was initially founded as a consumer-focused drone company back in 2016. Teal touted its offering as a modular drone. The modular design enabled 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. After a brief quiet period, Teal came out bigger and better than ever (at least from an investor standpoint). While their consumer drone is dead, they have a far more powerful drone now.

Teal has since pivoted to building military-grade drones. The $15,000 Golden Eagle, which is built for short-range reconnaissance and situational awareness, first launched. That led do the military drone Teal 2. Teal prominently states that its products are mass-produced in America.

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.

Other major American drone companies that never panned out

Consumer drone companies have struggled to stay afloat in the U.S. But what about enterprise and industrial drone makers? Here are among the biggest names that tried and failed to make drones:

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 I 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 launched as a drone manufacturer but, like 3DR, pivoted to software. Eventually, French company Delair acquired Airware for an undisclosed (but likely relatively small) sum of money.

“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 on the enterprise end of examples of once-promising drones that never panned out include InstantEye, which built a less-than-one-pound drone that could be hand-launched, flown and hand-recovered by a single person in any weather. This drone was featured in the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College’s 2020 edition of their Drone Public Safety report as the first non-Chinese company in a list of most common drones used by U.S. public safety agencies. Sadly, the company closed its doors on Aug. 31, 2022 “due to adverse business conditions in the sUAS market.”

Another once-promising company, TerraView, was based in Valencia, Calfornia and was known for its RangePro X8P – Pixhawk. The drone was notable in that it was designed to meet federal government and Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines. The company actively markets that it is “proudly engineered and manufactured in the USA.”

However, the company shut down on May 31, 2022 due to “supply chain and other pandemic associated obstacles.”

The drone industry also got quite the shock in December 2023. That’s when PrecisionHawk, which at one point was one of the biggest drone industry giants,  filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

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 had 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. That’s 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. That could backfire by hindering U.S. company growth.

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.”

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54 Comments

  • Golten says:

    Great resource thank you Sally

  • 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

  • Skyfish.ai 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.

    • Hentie Beukes says:

      I too believe in buying local however Australia do not produce Drones as the US do. I am interested in buying a cyber safe drone for private family photography with the peace of mind that some country is not mapping my routs and surrounding. I wish my country will ban those mentioned drones.

      • Jees Gouti says:

        I completely understand your concern about privacy when it comes to drones. Clearspot.ai focuses on edge-based real-time computer vision, and if you’re looking for a cyber-safe drone for family photography, it might be worth exploring.

  • 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”.

    • Norm says:

      Shari Tony: We will have No Bidens to worry about real soon because the whole family is corrupt and criminally liable.

  • 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.

    https://www.visionaerial.com

  • 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 thompsond1902@outlook.com.

  • thor says:

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

  • Would love to work with you. We are giving out flight scholarships in honor of our heroes. Our drones scholarships are becoming very popular. We would rather work with US companies. Any lead would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Sarah Graves says:

      Hello there! Would you consider helping a dog rescue in antelope valley california get a drone and learn to safely and correctly operate the drone so it may be used to help locate and bring home furbabies whom wandered and ended up lost in the desert or to locate and rescue dogs people dumped and left to fend for themselves, often pregnant momma dogs who just need a chance! Any leads or help to make this happen would be a dream come true and I’m sure the families who get their babies home will be so grateful as well!

  • runbei says:

    My goodness, no mention of Freefly – major U.S. maker of extremely high-quality drones for professional movie, utility, and many other applications. http://www.freefly.com.

  • runbei says:

    Sorry, the Freefly URL is http://www.freeflysystems.com. Cheers!

  • Dan Streuber says:

    Sally, thank you for your article – it’s extremely informative. What drone manufacturer and model would you recommend for a high school aviation club? The goal is learning flight fundamentals, basic UAV concepts and experience, and hopefully a real world project or two with the local governments. Any and all help appreciated – we’d like to steer away from DJI, and toward a drone that might be useful for students that later go into government, industrial, or military use.

  • kevin james says:

    LOL at the naive comments. What would happen if every country does the same thing and buy only products made in their respective countries? Usefulness and Quality should always be ahead of politics in deciding which product to buy.

  • Mark Young says:

    DJI is a Chinese company. Just do a search for their headquarters online.

  • Mark Young says:

    Thank you for your incredibly useful comments and supporting US security concerns. I suggest moving your “Leave a Reply” to the top of the list of comments, rather than at the bottom.

  • Mark says:

    Thanks for the review. I am super pissed at DJI at they way they give the west the finger. Case in point, I just got the DJI mini pro 3. First time you power up the screen asks for what language and the first is Chinese, then it asks for what time zone and the first option is Beijing timezone. I dread to ever hit the “reset to factory settings” Making Chinese the first language and Beijing timezone the factory settings is a pure FU to the west.

  • Adrian says:

    So many companies! Thanks for the article

  • John says:

    Should update your site for American made Drones. Some are no longer in business……

  • Outbackadventuturer says:

    Wow, a “patriot” and an influencer spewing conspiracy theories based off of unproven information, name a more disgusting combo.

  • david grasso says:

    Jim leave your politics out ! Great blog looking for more truth about drones.

  • Barb Mc says:

    Hello – thank you to the author and all the commenters. I’m interested in buying common stock for US-made drones and this article was super helpful! Or Canadian-made – anything but Chinese made!

  • Brando.NOLA says:

    I personally find it entertaining to read all the comments from the liberals. (Now that it’s common knowledge that China is absolutely taking every opportunity they can to spy on other countries, especially USA.) I’m pretty surprised by the absence of “told ya so” comments since PRC “lost” those “weather research” balloons over American airspace. Idiots!

  • Ricci Lake says:

    This article is filled with inaccuracy and misinformation.
    “American Made” or “Made in America” is not remotely fluid. The DoC, CBP, and other entities have clearly described and designated this claim for many years, with more recent adjustments.
    I also believe the author should clearly disclose they receive free drones from DJI and has been a DJI fan-gurl for years.

    • Sally French says:

      Thanks so much for your feedback! I actually don’t receive free drones from DJI, so your last statement is inaccurate.

      DJI occasionally sends me review units for new products a few days prior to launch. Having a review ready for launch time helps readers make informed decisions about whether or not it’s a good buy. While that means I’m not able to purchase it directly from a store like everyone else, I do return all products back to DJI after the review is complete.

  • I really appreciate you for publishing this blog here about There are plenty of reasons to buy products made in the USA supporting your local economy, potentially better customer service, 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. I love all the information shared. Great article!

  • Brian says:

    To date besides Skydio are there any other Made in America or USA made drones around $1,500 range worth while looking at?

  • Chris says:

    The two biggest challenges facing American Made drones is 1) Pricing and 2) Lack of Advanced Technology. Companies like Skydio have pivoted to the US Government to regulate their competition out of business. In the meantime, they have pulled out of the general consumer market, and they put an extra 0 in their price point. You pointed out that many Public Safety Agencies would “Buy American,” but not when they can buy 4 DJI aircraft for the price of 1 American Made aircraft. Even if you could find an American made drone at the same price point as a DJI or Autel, the technology in the drone will be substantially inferior and not worth the purchase.

  • Eye Hate Google says:

    Maybe the biggest challenge is the blood-sucking Google.

  • Matt says:

    I’m all for buying American but this is just illiberal protectionism of hopelessly obsolete “toys” at ridiculous prices —or not consumer-ready products. DJI is simply 2 generations ahead at the very least.

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