DJI has singlehandedly launched the drone market into the stratosphere. The DJI Phantom is instantly recognizable and synonymous with the word “drone.” It is nearly a household name. Just last week, we saw one at the center of a sequence on Big Bang Theory.
Right now, you can order a DJI drone to be shipped to your door in a day or two at prices ranging from $350 for a base-model Phantom 1 to over $6000 for a DJI S1000 that can haul heavy-duty camera. And there are models at nearly every price point in between. There is much and more for everyone in DJI’s lineup.
DJI announced a new round of fundraising yesterday with $75 million coming in from Accel Parters, which is an investor of other tech companies like Facebook and Dropbox. This round is the biggest for a drone manufacturer to date and put DJI’s valuation at $8 billion but further fundraising in the works suggest a value of $10 billion is possible.
DJI has been ahead of the curve as its products continue to define the aerial drone market. Late last year, DJI unveiled the $2900 Inspire 1 quadcopter, which features a built-in 4K camera with more advanced features than its Phantom line-up. Most recently though, DJI announced the Phantom 3 Advanced and Phantom 3 Professional models, both of which feature attached cameras on a stabilized gimbal and shoot HD and 4K video, respectively.
At $1000+ each, aerial photography enthusiasts are flocking to the new Phantom 3 drones with great early reviews thus far. Only recently have other companies began to catch up in technology. The DJI brand is strong and it will take a great deal of exposure for companies like 3D Robotics, which completed its own $50 million round in February, and Yuneec to build the brand awareness needed to compete with DJI.
DJI is a lot like GoPro in the action camera market. GoPro has dominated the market that it defined and continues to push competitors out of the space or leave them on the fringes with annual updates to its product lines and relentless marketing.
In fact, GoPro may be the one major brand that can put a dent in DJI’s dominance of the drone industry. Late last year, we first heard rumors that GoPro would release its own drone in 2015. With a faithful and rabid fan base, GoPro could make serious noise in the drone industry if it gets the tech right and delivers a competitive product.
Now a publicly traded company, GoPro’s market cap is $6.22 billion. They’re a big action camera company. Starting up with an entirely new product line though will take GoPro to a place it hasn’t been in a long time. It clearly has the camera tech to compete with the images DJI’s Phantoms capture.
But can GoPro deliver a UAV that competes in the market with this Goliath?
Frankly, I think so. GoPro is the one company that is bold enough to put up a serious fight for King of Drones. GoPro’s massive marketing engine can stir its customers, who are in a cross-over market anyway. Many GoPro users are already flying drones and most, if not all, DJI customers are familiar with GoPro’s action cameras.
Brand-recognition is already there in the marketplace for GoPro. Now, it just needs a killer UAV product.
The drone market is the Wild West (or, ahem, Westeros) right now. It is exciting to watch as an enthusiast and to cover these developing technologies related to drones. So many drones that I saw at NAB and CES this year just blew me away – and the market is still in its infancy.
DJI is clearly the King of Drones today and the potential $10 billion valuation shows that. However, there are several hungry companies that want a bigger piece of the pie. Will smaller outfits like 3D Robotics or Yuneec give DJI a run for its money? Or, will an established company like GoPro swing into the market to fight for the drone throne?
Hold onto your transmitters. I think it’s going to be a fun year…