Surprise! Drone Sales Double

A new report from the NPD Group reveals that drone sales more than doubled (up 117% to be exact) from February 2016 to February 2017. That’s a big jump, clearly showing the strength of consumers drones in the market. These sales numbers include the a wide variety of drones from $50 mini-drones (which are really just toys) to the $3,000 DJI Inspire 2.

Here are some useful tidbits from the NPD report:

  • During the holiday season drones with a price tag between $50- $100 saw a significant uptick in sales.
  • For drones in the $300-$500 price range, there is a clear consumer demand for premium features.
    • Drones with auto pilot capabilities sold nearly five times more quickly.
    • Drones that feature follow mode functionality sold 19x more quickly.
  • During the first two months of 2017…
    • Drones with a price tag over $300 drove 84% of dollar sales and nearly 40% of unit sales.
    • Drones sold for $1,000+ saw the highest rate of sales.

In roughly the same time period from January 2016 to January 2017 the number of drones registered with the FAA when up by 123%. And according to the numbers in the last two months over 100,000 more drones have been registered with the FAA.

Drones: A Tourism Boom and Bust

drone tourism

When drones first came out, some travelers instantly recognized the possibility of using them to enhance their experience as a tourist. Before any laws or regulations could be formulated some traveled the world and took stunning photos and videos of famous places.

Now it’s harder to do that. In February, a South Korean tourist was held by Indian police for flying over the Taj Mahal. Last summer, a French tourist was caught flying a drone over Rome’s iconic Colosseum and faced a $170,000 fine!  Many other famous locations, like Angkor Wat, now have drone restrictions in place. If you are planning on using a drone on your next vacation, make sure you check local laws and restrictions.

Still, drones offer huge marketing potential for the tourism industry. TripShock the company that operates (a website advertising tourist opportunities in Pensacola, Florida) recently redid their online campaign and included drone videos shot on the beaches of Pensacola. Across the ocean, Tourism Australia just partnered with DJI and aerial photography community SkyPixel to hold a drone photo contest that showcases the natural beauty of Australia. Also, tourism authorities in Australia’s Northern Territories recently launched a new ad campaign aimed at Millennials that uses drone footage. There is even an American tourist who made his own video of his experiences in Australia, shot completely with his drone.

But that is not the end of drone tourism. Recent laws in Canada have heavily restricted the recreational use of drones, so the Klahoose Nation on Cortes Island in British Columbia is inviting drone pilots to come to their island and fly around. The Klahoose Nation’s “Drone Territory” is set to launch this April and they are hoping it will boost tourism to Cortes Island.

Chief James Delorme said about the project, “We have many wildlife, grizzly bears, and fantastic waterfalls. There’s a business opportunity here that doesn’t rely on resource development, doesn’t rely on taking advantage of anything that’s going to compromise our rights and title and our traditions.”

Don’t Ignore China’s Drone Market


The last few years the drone industry has soared to new heights thanks to China. In a recent report, the China Business Review relays that 5 of the top 11 venture-capital funded drone companies are Chinese. On top of this, in 2015 Chinese drone giant DJI is estimated to have made up 70% of the drone market alone.

But China is not just exporting drones; its commercial sector has a vivacious appetite for this new technology. A lot of this has to do with the current economic and business environment in China. All over China the cost of labor is increasing, to help offset this rise, many parts of the Chinese economy are looking to technology like drones. In agriculture drones make the spraying of pesticides and fertilizers more efficient and Chinese provinces (Henan, Zhejiang, and Hubei) are already offering training and financial reimbursements for those that give drones a try.

Chinese internet giant is far head of its American counterpart Amazon and already is making thousands of drone deliveries. Additionally, JD is currently working with cooperative government agencies to expand drone delivery further. China is also pushing drone use in construction, sensing/mapping and film. In fact, today on a motion picture produced anywhere in the world it would be hard not to find a Chinese made drone somewhere on the set.

In the future new players will certainly arise, but for the time being China’s drone industry will still set the pace. But it also has plenty of investment opportunities. Just has Intel who has invested over $60 million in Chinese drone manufacture Yuneec.

Drones Can Save Lives

The team here at Drone Dossier knows that if you tell the average person on the street that drones save lives, it’s probably not something they will readily agree with you about. Unless they really follow what is happening with drones, their knowledge is going to be limited to what they have heard in mainstream news or social media. For drones that means bombing vast areas of the Middle East and concerns they may threaten privacy here at home.

No one is to blame, it’s just part of the growing pains of the drone industry. But while drones were birthed for military uses, they have now moved beyond that. Media organizations are starting to pick up on this, but it’s not their job to education people about how drones can be used for good. That’s the job of the drone industry—the men and women that really know how to explain that drones are much more than machines that drop bombs or toys some creep uses to spy on their sunbathing neighbor.

Drones are already starting to change major industries like construction and agricultural, but more importantly, drones are a tool that can be used to save people’s lives.

That’s the idea of a recent press release from leading drone company DJI. According to the Shenzhen-based company drones have saved 59 people in 18 incidents around the world since 2013. Fortune picked up on DJI’s release and added its own examples, such as a drone dropping life vests to two drowning teens and a heat-sensing drone that was used to find missing kayakers.

Drone Dossier has also reported on examples, such as a drone being used to find lost skiers in Canada, Microsoft’s efforts to use drones to stop mosquitoes from spreading disease and the University of Toronto testing of drones to deliver defibrillators during emergencies.

Hell, just in the last two days there have been articles—one form Iowa and the other from Texas—about local authorities purchasing drones to help their emergency response efforts. One of the best articles the team here at Drone Dossier has read about this issue is an article from the Guardian that came out last summer. The article tells the story about how drones are being used save both humans and animals in Africa.

Yes, drones can kill you. But the majority of drones that take to the sky everyday aren’t armed with missiles and bombs. They are instead equipped with tools, sensors and new ideas that, if used correctly, can make the world a better place.

DJI Stakes a Claim In the Commercial Drone Market


Drone-powerhouse DJI just took aim at dominating the commercial drone market with the launch of its new Matrice 200 (M200) drone at the World Mobile Conference in Barcelona, Spain. The new drone offers a few firsts for DJI and has a lot of customization options which makes it a versatile choice to tackle a wide range of commercial applications.

New features include a dual forward-facing gimble set up. This allows the operator to attached both a HD video camera and a sensor apparatus like a FLIR thermal camera (or whatever combo you want!). The drone also has an upward facing gimble that is placed on the top of the drone—also a first. This gimble is a much needed addition that will make activities like bridge inspection (where you fly under the bridge!) much easier and safer.

But the new feature the team a Drone Dossier is most interested in is the claim this new drone will be “weather resistant”. This is a key issue when talking about commercial application of drones because if you are outside you are going to run into inclement weather. A drone’s ability to perform well in these conditions will be key in making them a viable option for large scale operations. We will have to see how “weather resistant” the drone is once it hits the market.

The M200 also boasts robust sense and avoid ability. It comes standard with sensors, located to either side of its built-in flying camera, which helps the drone with obstacle avoidance by rending objects in 3D. The M200 also has a built-in ADS-B receiver which will alert the drone and pilot if there is another aircraft nearby.

This new drone is not the first drone aimed at more commercial applications that DJI has built. The larger M600 (6-rotor) drone has been out for a while. But the new M200 has the new features mentioned above and only has a 4-rotor power system. Given the powerful software tools available for DJI drones, the M200 is shaping up to be a versatile and able drone that can tackle many of the commercial uses of drones that are starting to take off nationwide (power line inspection, bridge inspection, search & rescue, etc). The M200 is expected to hit the markets sometime in the second quarter of 2017.

Karma Drone is Back


Finally, the GoPro Karma drone is back on sale on GoPro’s website and a few selected retailers nations wide.

Last November GoPro pulled their Karma Drone from shelves over a a mechanical issue on how the battery was stored, which when it malfunctioned caused the drone to lose power and drop from the sky. Of course GoPro has fix this problem and is hope the Karma drone can offer some new competition in the market.

However, the price is still about the same as when it came out in November–$800 for the drone itself and $1,100 for the drone with a GoPro Hero 5 camera (which makes it comparable in price to a Phantom 4).

GoPro reported 4th quarter sales of $541 million, which was $33 million short of Wall Street’s estimate, so they definitely has an uphill battle. They have already closed their entertainment division and let go of 200 employees. Some analysts think that bringing the Karma back is just an attempt to boost sales numbers a little to reduce Wall Street pressure.

Hopefully, GoPro can make things work, so they can reverse the trend of American drone companies failing to properly bring a consumer drone to market. But still if you ask for the advice of the Drone Dossier team, it is still better to spend your money on a DJI drone.

Speaking of DJI drones, the Daily Dot is having a DJI drone giveaway. All you have to do is create an account with them to enter.

Seagate Takes On Challenge of Developing New Storage For Drones

Data storage company Seagate has partnered with DJI to create a new data storage device for drones. The two companies are planning on revealing the new storage device later on this year.

The issue is that as drones develop longer fly times, existing storage will not be enough to retain the vast amounts of data a drone can gather. Right now Seagate estimates a 25-minute flight could generate over 120GB of data. Future drones will need a high-capacity storage device that is fast to make the most of additional sensors for mapping, flight planning and even atmospheric reading.

While data can be transferred via the cloud or cell networks, such methods are still not always reliable for uploading gigabytes of data in real time. Plus on-board storage should always be available for backup purposes.

Apple’s Solution to Better Maps = Drones


Users of Waze swear by the community based traffic and navigation app, but Apple seems to think that drones might be more reliable at finding traffic and navigation issues (like construction or accidents) than your fellow human brings.

The Cupertino-based tech firm is looking into using drones to improving its Apple Maps app. A report from Bloomberg states that Apple has already handed in its application to the FAA and wants to use drones from DJI and Aibotix.

This move makes sense by Apple as it is challenging Google maps. But a possibly bigger questions arises. Will Apple expand their interest in drones any further?

DJI Unveils New Agricultural Drone in China


DJI launched its new MG-1S agricultural drone in China in late November. The drone is an upgraded version of the MG-1, DJI’s first foray into agricultural drones last year.

The MG-1 has clear dominance of China’s agricultural drone market accounting for 70% of sales to Chinese farmers. However, total sales ares still in the thousands as many Chinese farmers lack the capital needed to invest in expensive agricultural drones. The MG-1 (branded Agras MG-1) is also available in the US, but sales numbers were unavailable.

DJI is the clear leader in consumer and camera drones, but clearly they want to get into the rapidly developing market for agricultural drones. There is no information about when the MG-1S will be available for purchase outside of China.

DJI and 3DR: the competition heats up

solo_phantomChinese drone manufacturer DJI is still the undisputed king of the drone market, but American based 3D Robotics (3DR) is trying to change that.

This May 3DR will launch their Solo drone which promises to boast many tools to make flying easier for drone newbies. The drone will also feature the ability to plug your smart phone or tablet into controller to get a live first-person view from the drone.

As cool as this sounds DJI has already beat 3DR to the punch with its recently launched Phantom 3. The Phantom 3 boasts many of the same abilities as the Solo and has a whole month on the market without any real competition from 3DR.

But this is not the biggest problem for 3DR if they plan to be able to gain market share from DJI. Forbes, recently reported from confirmed sources that DJI is seeking to raise money at a $10 billion valuation, giving it the opportunity for a huge capital injection. While the exact amount DJI will raise is still unknown, it should easily surpass the $50 million 3DR raised in February.

When you add in the fact that DJI’s sales were somewhere around $500 million in 2014, and 3DR only did $50 million, it seems like 3DR has quite a mountain to climb. But as mentioned in Wired, one of the Solo’s strongest features is the fact it will be sold as an open system, allowing it to be more like the Android of drones.

But the question is, does that mean DJI is the Apple?