GUANGZHOU -- Chinese drone maker DJI plans to start building its unmanned aircraft in the U.S. to avoid being hit by additional tariffs and alleviate concerns among American national security officials about data leaks.
The world's top drone manufacturer intends to use its warehouse in California to set up a facility for assembling parts from China and elsewhere.
The company, which is said to command nearly 80% of the North American market, hopes to appeal to customers by touting local production and step up marketing to government agencies as well.
This will be DJI's first drone assembly base outside China, Jan Gasparic, the company's director of strategic partnerships, told Nikkei. He did not specify when the facility would begin producing drones, saying that the company was still waiting for the regulatory green light.
Starting U.S. production will enable DJI to avoid being hit with additional U.S. tariffs. Its drones, built in the company's home city of Shenzhen, have thus far escaped added levies in the U.S.-China trade war.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in May issued an industrywide warning about security risks associated with using Chinese-made drones. The company, the implicit target of the warning, has dismissed the concerns.
DJI has been committed to letting users manage their own flight data and its drones are checked by independent security companies, Gasparic said.
In the U.S. market, firefighters and other emergency responders are increasingly using DJI's drones, Gasparic said, adding the aerial vehicles have helped save more than 250 lives.
Earlier this month, DJI products also cleared the U.S. Department of the Interior's security assessment for use in search-and-rescue missions during events such as wildfires.
The company sees growth potential in fields ranging from infrastructure testing to energy and farming besides public safety, Gasparic said, indicating increased marketing efforts that target a broad range of corporate customers.