New Import Codes for Drones – What You Need To Know

Soon, the United States will update its schedule of import classifications to reflect new, specific classifications for uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS).

All goods imported into the United States must be declared to U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) under the applicable tariff classification as provided in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). For many years, the HTSUS has lacked classifications specific to UAS, meaning that importers have had to classify these products under codes applicable to crewed aircraft systems.

That is now changing, with an update to the Harmonized System, the multi-country product classification scheme on which the HTSUS is based. On December 23, 2021, President Biden issued a proclamation adopting the recent Harmonized System updates. These will become effective on January 27, 2022, thirty days after the presidential proclamation’s publication in the Federal Register.

The newly amended HTSUS will reflect the following tariff codes for UAS—which the HTSUS still refers to as “unmanned aircraft”:

88.06 Unmanned aircraft.

8806.10 - Designed for the carriage of passengers

- Other, for remote-controlled flight only:

8806.21 -- With maximum take-off weight not more than 250 g

8806.22 -- With maximum take-off weight more than 250 g but not more than 7 kg

8806.23 -- With maximum take-off weight more than 7 kg but not more than 25 kg

8806.24 -- With maximum take-off weight more than 25 kg but not more than 150 kg

8806.29 -- Other

- Other:

8806.91 -- With maximum take-off weight not more than 250 g

8806.92 -- With maximum take-off weight more than 250 g but not more than 7 kg

8806.93 -- With maximum take-off weight more than 7 kg but not more than 25 kg

8806.94 -- With maximum take-off weight more than 25 kg but not more than 150 kg 8806.99 -- Other.

UAS that take the form of toys will not be subject to these provisions. Rather, they will remain classifiable in tariff heading 9503, which covers toys and other items solely for amusement purposes.

The amended HTSUS will define “unmanned aircraft” to include any aircraft, other than a balloon, dirigible, or unpowered aircraft (such as hang gliders) that is “designed to be flown without a pilot on board.” The schedule’s definition will include UAS that carry payloads or are equipped with permanently integrated cameras or other equipment. The amended schedule will also define “maximum take-off weight” to mean the “maximum weight of the machine in normal flying order, at take-off, including the weight of payload, equipment and fuel.”

From a practical standpoint, the updates to the schedule will not impact the import duties applicable to UAS. Rather, the existing U.S. duty treatment is being carried forward under the amendments. As in the past, UAS will not be subject to any standard U.S. import duties; however, Chinese-origin UAS will continue to be subject to 25% Section 301 duties.

Notably, because the HTSUS updates are based on a larger update to the Harmonized System, companies trading in UAS internationally can also expect corresponding amendments to other countries’ tariff classification schedules. For example, Canada amended its tariff classification schedule to reflect the Harmonized System updates effective January 1, 2022.

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