How have DJI pioneered the drone revolution?
DJI is the worlds number one drone manufacturer. The Shenzhen-based firm led the way in popularising UAVs as a commercial solution and 2021 is set to see no abatement in their advances.
With the election firmly underway in America, Coptrz thought we would take a look back over DJI’s journey to breaking the drone market and how the US government have been involved in DJI drones.
An introduction to the founder…
Da-Jiang Innovations began life as a small start-up in 2006 and has found itself thrust into the spotlight in today’s shifting political landscape. During the Trump era, the Chinese tech leader has become embroiled in the divisive American protectionism debate and an ongoing trade war with China.
Yet DJI remains the one to follow in the drone revolution and is set to rise again in the new year with the rumoured launch of a successor to the phenomenal Mavic Mini, along with two “breakthrough” payloads.
As of summer 2020, DJI enjoyed a near-75% share of the global drone market. Its product range, including iconic UAVs such as the Phantom, Mavic, and Matrice Series, have changed the way we both think about and employ drones.
A Chinese student by the name of Frank Wang began his first foray into flight from his dorm room at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. He named his fledgeling company Da-Jiang, which translates to “great ambitions have no boundaries”.
Wang turned 40 this year and should he wander the shopping malls of Shenzhen this winter, surely he can’t help but break out into a wry smile at the huge cargo nets strung from the rooftops.
From them, Chinese consumers can test drive the latest UAVs and don a pair of goggles to get a drones-eye view before deciding which one to purchase. Certainly, drones have flown a long way in a decade. And much of that is down to DJI.
Wang doesn’t appear in public. The rumour is after just a couple of media appearances in a decade, Wang won’t bother with the media ever again. Perhaps he doesn’t need to.
DJI – the brand beyond boundaries
Down the years, DJI has always pushed the boundaries. There’s been the Spark which can take off from a user’s palm; the Mavic Mini which offers stunning photo capture from a feather-light 249g frame; and the M300 RTK, which has pushed battery limits with its flight time of 55 minutes from a single charge.
DJI has aggressively pursued the drone market at every price point and for every application. Wang’s strategy has pushed rivals into the fringes. Empowering customers with choice has also been key, with different versions of the same drone available for different types of users and different markets.
How DJI has stayed one step ahead
The essence of DJI’s success is straightforward. The Shenzhen innovators simply stay one step ahead of the market and of legislators.
DJI was the first company to seamlessly integrate a camera with a multi-rotor copter. Prior to the arrival of DJI, drone operators had to assemble the camera and the drone themselves.
Traditional aerial photography involves flying a helicopter. That costs a lot of money and is prohibitive to smaller producers. A video from a chopper is often unable to produce the same stabilised shake-free footage that a drone is capable of. DJI quickly positioned itself as the solution for aerial photographers, able to capture stunning footage at a fraction of the cost.
While DJI has been the first in many drone markets, it’s the massive investment in R&D that separates Wang’s assembled team of engineering talent from its competitors.
It’s also riding the rest of the drone boom that has contributed to the success of DJI. Offering a high-quality product that reinvented the way people can shoot aerial videos and analyse commercial scenarios helped turn users into word-of-mouth marketing hubs. For years, customers have posted their videos on social platforms and helped build the DJI brand.
Take the Phantom series. The range, launched in 2013, is still one of the best all-in-one quadcopters to this day. The Phantom, which has gone through four versions to date, is a highly versatile machine. It is the entry-level UAV that’s stable and responsive.
DJI – Turning gamekeeper
After a DJI quadcopter was loosely identified as the drone which almost brought down a Chinese fighter jet in 2016, the authorities proposed a tracking and identification system for all UAVs operating in the country.
Rather than allow the government to develop such a system, Wang was quick to devise his own solution.
DJI now offers a tracking system called AeroScope. It allows operators of sensitive locations to employ a device that can scan up to 30 miles of airspace and detect drones in a matter of seconds.
Aeroscope can be utilised in any environment that might be threatened by malicious drone activity. Airports, power stations, stadiums, prisons, businesses, critical infrastructures, open-venue events, and military installations can secure their airspace from potentially threatening drone flights.
Spreading its wings – how DJI distribute
DJI has been able to dominate global markets and has earned comparisons as the “Apple of the drone world.”
With its all-encompassing product line potential, DJI has formed sustainable long-term B2C and B2B wholesale relationships and processes. DJI’s main competitor is in reality itself.
Now a truly international firm, DJI has three factories in Shenzhen along with offices in Los Angeles and Europe.
Each manufacturing plant is only a short drive from HQ, enabling DJI to keep communication tight between its network of engineers and marketing teams.
A large part of DJI’s success is its ability to operate a supply chain model that allows high-quality products to be distributed for relatively low prices. DJI has also capitalised on the Chinese government’s programmes to boost the economy’s innovation and technology sector.
Shenzhen as a city has established itself at the heart of the consumer drone revolution. This is due to the area’s access to tech manufacturing resources, a highly-skilled talent pool, and excellent geographical links and general connectivity.
This has allowed DJI to utilise its R&D excellence to design and manufacture products quickly and bring them to market faster than their competitors due to their world-class supply chain processes.
In terms of product development, DJI have proven themselves able to grow both vertically and horizontally with little friction. That’s due to DJI’s huge market share and innovative engineering.
Vertically, DJI has produced the full drone spectrum. The range includes its own stabilisation mechanisms, drone motors, flight control systems, cameras, and video shooting, along with editing and sharing software. Horizontally, DJI has expanded into industries that have historically had very high barriers to entry.
DJI drones and the Trump administration
In November 2019, the US Department of the Interior announced that it would ground its fleet of DJI drones because of fears they might pose a threat to US national security.
Other US government departments soon moved to withdraw their own fleets of China-made drones or even US-made drones that use Chinese components or software.
The moves follow legislation passing through Congress which would limit all US government agencies from purchasing Chinese drone technology.
In the US, concerns about DJI’s products have done little to discourage its customer base though. Put simply, that’s because DJI leads the way and no rival has yet been able to elbow its way anywhere near the Chinese leaders. Companies such as GoPro, who attempted to launch its own drone line, have simply given up trying to compete.
It is also incredibly difficult to untangle Wang’s company from law enforcement agencies at the state and local levels. Agencies in all 50 states of the US have drones. Around 90% of them are made by DJI, according to a recent Bard College study.
DJI launches new payloads with hints for what’s in store for 2021
In October, DJI announced two new payloads that will push aerial surveying beyond current capabilities. The release includes an integrated Lidar drone product and a high-spec full-frame camera.
The two new payloads will be integrated with the Matrice 300 RTK. Named the DJI Zenmuse P1 and DJI Zenmuse L1, the company says they “are set to be game-changers for the industry, bringing more efficiency and new perspectives at an affordable cost without compromising the quality and accuracy of the data collected for precise aerial inspections and data collection missions.”
DJI has already stated that the Zenmuse L1 is recommended for topographical mapping; the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries; surveying and emergency responses. The company recommend the Zenmuse P1 for topographical mapping, cadastral surveying, AEC and surveying, natural resource management, geological investigation, and disaster site modelling.
With 2021 rapidly approaching, rumours on the internet suggest that DJI are set to release their smallest and least expensive drone. Strong hints point towards the launch of the DJI Mavic Mini 2. The Mavic is a little over a year old and quickly became the beginner’s drone choice when it arrived in October 2019.
The original DJI Mavic Mini arrived in November 2019 and quickly became one of the best drones for beginners. Its success owes much to its ingenious design and the fact that it cheekily weighs in at a gram under the weight required for registration with civil aviation authorities.
A new filing in the US, spotted by DJI drone enthusiast @OsitaLV on Twitter, documents a new DJI device in development which has the placeholder name “Camera Drone”. The filing also references a model number that is very similar to the original Mavic Mini.
So what new features might the DJI Mavic Mini 2 bring? Certainly, DJI will be slightly hamstrung by the need to keep the drone’s weight at 249g (or below) due to legislation in countries like the US and the UK. Those rules say that drones weighing 250g or more need to be registered with civil aviation authorities.
This means the Mavic Mini 2 could well be an incremental upgrade. One obvious leap forward would be the inclusion of 4K video capability. The current Mavic Mini does not shoot 4K because of the limitation of the onboard processor.
Wondering what DJI drone is the one for you?
If you’re wanting to incorporate DJI drones into your work but unsure where to start, watch this short video where our UAV expert Jamie Cording talks you through the different options of DJI drones we have available.
Talk to us today
It’s business as usual here at Coptrz, if lockdown has got you thinking about how you can begin to utilise drone technology for your operations, call us today. Our expert team are ready to help talk you through the packages we have available and can get you started today.
Our job at Coptrz is to make it as easy as possible for you to adopt drone technology into your organisation while supporting you all-year round.