Author(s): Raghu Gopal
One particularly innovative segment of the consumer electronics industry is that of unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly referred to as drones. Although these machines are shrinking in size, they're being packed with more advanced features.
Last week, Chinese drone maker DJI unveiled its latest consumer drone at an event in New York. Dubbed Mavic Air, the device extends DJI's portfolio as the company works to increase its already sizeable share of the consumer drone market.
DJI generated about $2.7 billion in sales in 2017 and it has been reported that the company enjoys a share of about 70 percent of the global drone market. It makes a variety of drones ranging from the consumer-friendly DJI Spark, priced at $399, to the professional-grade, movie-quality drone Inspire 2, which can cost more than $10,000.
Giving credit where it's due, DJI has been particularly successful in expanding the drone market by making the capture of aerial footage as simple as possible.
Its new Mavic Air is a particularly compact machine, with dimensions just slightly larger than a smartphone, albeit a lot thicker, when folded. The drone boasts a 4K camera stabilized using a three-axis gimbal. It also features capabilities like obstacle avoidance, object tracking and gesture control, all thanks to its various ultrasonic and infrared sensors and vision-positioning cameras. The smart sensors and high-quality video cameras allow users to shoot impressive aerial photos and videos.
Mavic Air has a top speed of 68.4 kph and can fly for 21 minutes on a single battery charge. Users can control it at a range of up to 6 metres using DJI's smart capture technology, 80 metres using the smartphone app and up to 4 kilometres with the dedicated controller, subject to compliance with local laws.
The release of Mavic Air comes just weeks after GoPro announced that it would exit the drone space, a sign of GoPro's internal troubles and DJI's dominant position. GoPro's departure didn't come as a shock as its drone business had been struggling. That said, we caution about the long-term sustainability of the broader consumer and hobbyist market segment for drones. It has become increasingly difficult to fly drones in public places because of regulatory limitations on proximity to buildings and people, as well as decisions to ban drones in parks, at public landmarks and other areas. These emerging regulatory challenges must be of concern to all drone makers, give that they could hamper future market potential.
But even if the opportunity for consumer drones in the future is limited (and there's still strong demand in the near term), we believe that certain industry sectors enjoy a much more optimistic outlook. On this basis, it's little surprise that DJI has a portfolio of drones that goes way beyond consumer gadgets. We expect many vertical market opportunities to continue to appear in numerous areas including construction, agriculture, security and more.
DJI's strong position shows the sky's the limit as this market continues to evolve.