DJI is a Shenzen-based company with a humble origin wrapped up on its belt. DJI was founded and initially funded by a boy with dreams of dominating the sky, which was completely built upon the scholarship money of this young talented individual. Today, with ownership of over 75% of the Market Share, the annual sales of DJI are over billions of dollars with an estimated employee count of about 14,000 people and counting!
Even the USA sanction on DJI Chinese brands couldn’t really grasp DJI’s emerging success. So how did DJI transform from being a mere Chinese company that was being funded by scholarship money to a brand that pretty much took over the market of consumer drones? Was it technology? A smarter market strategy? Or was it entirely the credit of the R&D team? Let’s find out!
The year is 2006. A student named Frank Wang who has been obsessing over UAV systems all his life suddenly decided to pursue his passion right after he graduated from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The start-up was moved to the manufacturing metropolis of Shenzen, China, and what’s even more surprising is the whole venture was being funded by nothing else other than the scholarship money Frank had in his possession! The empire of drones that goes by the name of DJI begins here.
The Phantom was DJI’s first successful product that came with a plethora of features and made a big impact on the market of drones. Though at first, it wasn’t the product that DJI would have dreamt to build, gradually with proper upgrades, it surely turned out to be a groundbreaking product. They even had an immense impact on the field of filmmaking and brought out a borderline revolution in the industry, all courtesy of DJI Inspire 2! Well, DJI didn’t stop there, as they kept on unveiling drones for every purpose for which a drone can be used. Whether it’s for a casual flier or for seeding the agriculture field, all the way to surveillance, DJI got you covered in every aspect.
For example, A casual or commercial user can easily opt for an Air2S, which is incredibly friendly to beginners and useful to pros. If you’re more of an experienced flier and want excellent cinematic aerial shots, you can take the Mavic 3 Pro into consideration. Other than that, if you’re into drones purely for surveillance, the Matrice Series would be a stellar choice. Be that agriculture, commercial, photography, surveillance, or just sheer entertainment, there’s a DJI drone for all!
Technology Behind DJI
A general stereotype regarding the success behind DJI often revolves around the words “Low Production Cost”, you know, since their production originates in China. While this is no less than a narrow and mostly incorrect point of view, low manufacturing cost could be a factor, but not a major one for a long shot, but more of a passive advantage. If you know anything about drones, you can imagine the amount of work, passion, and understanding one needs to have regarding technology and how one needs to be adept in intricate production processes such as injection molding and precision machining.
Now, just possessing supreme engineering and machine skills paired with a low manufacturing cost, as intimidating as they sound, are NOT the only reason behind the overwhelming success of DJI. Another silent but highly impactful reason DJI is dominating the industry is simply because of its incredible responsiveness to the general needs of the market. According to the CEO and Co-Founder of DroneDeploy, the method of re-using the technology platform for both consumer and enterprise solutions allows DJI to produce new and innovative drones without taking a hit on the rate of production. They also introduced Self-Diagnosis software which helped the drones pretty much take care of themselves. This also eliminated the need for frequent repairs in drones, which went a long way in the reputation of DJI. Apart from all that, a user accustomed to a Mavic can quickly be accustomed to a Matrice when he upgrades, resulting in a low-skill floor, high-skill ceiling situation where the core value lies in one word…intuitiveness.
Another factor that skyrocketed the success of DJI is the successful collaboration with Hasselblad. What started in 2016 resulted in a bundled version of DJI’s top-of-the-line Pro Level M600 Hexacopter that was then combined with Hasselblad’s A5D Medium Format Camera. The A5D-50c Aerial Camera housed a 50-megapixel CMOS sensor that was designed specifically for topographic and surveying works, all while being a prime choice for photography.
There was also the matter of DJI being called a Chinese Military Company by the US defense and was accused of commanding tech that had the potential to amass sensitive information. In order to step up lobbying efforts in Washington that put a national security ban on all its products, DJI explained how in order to share any kind of data or flight logs, you need a working internet connection with the drone in the first place, making it impossible to transfer unsolicited data even by mistake. They furthered the security with Aeroscope in response to potential safety and security challenges in areas with high risk such as airports, prisons, or government facilities. Through this alone, DJI won the favor of the people in a competitive market with opponents such as Skydio and Autel that were completely overshadowed.
Now, the ongoing trade war between the US and China has an obvious impact on the market. Now you might wonder, how did DJI respond to that? Well, according to DroneDJ, DJI responded with a price hike in the Phantom 4 Pro/Adv Remote Controller to 749$ back in October 2018. They did the same thing with the already expensive Mavic 2 Pro, where the price saw a hike to 1499$ from 1449$. However, if the price hike was a direct response to the increased tariffs for Chinese-originated products, is still a matter of debate. The funny thing is, the price hike didn’t seem to affect the loyal fanbase DJI has amassed, since the sales saw no negative impact whatsoever. However, according to Bloomberg, DJI is considering a change of scenery, so we’ll see how that goes.
Future of DJI
Now, as for the future, the US is always considered the core drone market. And with their experience of exponential growth IN the market, other countries like India are following suit. With India permitting commercial drone operations, it’s obvious that the drone market is not slowing down anytime soon, and DJI aims to take full advantage of that.
And why wouldn’t they? They have in their possession a strong and reliable R&D department that’s paired up with a production line that’s quick and efficient, which almost secures DJIs place as aerial superiority. As for the competition, the margin is pretty slim, and thanks to DJI, it’s sure to get sloppy when trying to find a firm grip on the market. With an evergrowing profit and raise in Market Share, DJI continued to launch incredible products such as the Ronin 4D, Mavic 3 Pro, Matrice 30T, and of course, the Osmo Pocket, and are STILL working to outrun their only competition…themselves.