Before DJI released the new RoboMaster S1, many people speculated that DJI plans to unveil its first consumer drone of 2019: a brand new Spark 2 with series of upgrades or a entirely new family line that focuses on FPV racing. Even Phantom 5 was suggested as the next potential consumer drone of 2019.
Although, our wishful thinking have got the best of us. The world-leading drone industry surprised us by venturing into an uncharted market: educational robotics. RoboMaster S1 launch was followed by the Osmo Action camera earlier in May. Which also indicated that DJI is shifting its focus on different type of market.
While DJI has to launch a flagship consumer yet in 2019 after the brand new Mavic 2 Pro drone launched in August 2018. But that doesn’t means DJI isn’t busy working on new drones. For instance, they actually managed to release Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual and the Smart Controller as well improved fleet management and DJI Storm. As a matter of fact, there is a lot more than just these popular consumer drones we are hoping for.
So what does that tell us about it? DJI have shifted their priorities due to consumer drone slowdown, especially coming from a well-known drone industry that has earned reputation for quick iteration and product turnarounds. It is a grim reality of how the consumer market is shaping up right now. Some of you might be wondering why DJI consumer drones all of sudden slowed down and there are number of reasons why it is happening.
There are Contractions in Drones Market
Looking into the eyes of DJI, the consumer market have been conquered already. The company managed to create compelling products that range in various price tags. There is no sense that any competitors are serious enough to take head-on with the drone industry juggernaut yet.
Although, the slow down in drone productions means there is some market contractions. For instance DJI reported to generated $2.83 billion revenue in 2017 which is a 80% increase from 2016. The growth figure is somewhat spectacular, but not in the context compared to 2014 (300%) and 2015 (100%). It could be a reason why things are slowing down a bit.
Because of DJI’s decisive moves, it has given them strong lead over its rivals like Parrot and Yuneec. But there is also another factor that restricts the insane revenue growth in the long term. For instance, drone enthusiasts isn’t that likely to purchase new drone at the rate DJI releases to consumer market.
Releasing new model or product is beyond what majority of remote pilots can afford to buy. It might make sense to offer options at different price points that allows us to climb the ladder as DJI managed to do it very effective.
Why Drones Isn’t Just Like Smartphones
To be blunt, smartphones worked very well for a niche of mass market items. Every year, we see new smartphone generation featuring upgrades like better camera quality, longer battery life, and more. The smartphones, unlike drones, are much more successful in rapid iteration and annual product turnaround for these three reasons:
First, these smartphones usually are bought via contract. Which means the upfront costs is waived in preference for paying on a monthly plan. Secondly, these smartphones are fashionable and goes great with pretty much everyone.
Keep it in your mind that the drones is still very far from the point of being fashionable. The reality is that they probably won’t be fashionable at all. Lastly, the smartphones comes with element of becoming obstacle that is the major force in driving the sales. Some manufacturers were caught trying to make their smartphones unusable over the time in an attempt to push the sales further.
That strategy will not work well in drone businesses because performance, reliability and safety are crucial. Otherwise, the drone industry could well risk legal liabilities for hindering the drone’s performance and safety. Not just only that, it will discourage people from buying drones in the future which is so important that DJI and other major drone industries continue to maintain its consumer’s trust.
Although, it is unknown whether DJI managed to reach mass of recreational drone pilots. It is possible that there is some buzz left in the consumer market. Only the time will tell to see whether they will release new consumer drone or not.
DJI Drones Keeps on Cannibalizing Each Other
One of the main reason why we aren’t seeing a major release from DJI in 2019 just yet might be due to the fact that new Phantom 5 remote control distance is actually way out of league. They would rather to hold on to preserve sales of Mavic 2 drones.
DJI also have been very clever with re-purposing their existing models to extend lifespan. We can’t help but felt that DJI probably ended DJI Phantom 5 ambitions due to improved specifications. If they were ever to release Phantom 5 drone, it probably will require capabilities that is far superior choice against the portability and compact.
At this stage, we aren’t sure what they are planning to do next.
Like for instance, the introduction of Mavic Air and Ryze Tello actually cannibalized the Spark’s family line. Many remote pilots buy DJI Mavic Air over Spark due to its camera mounted on a 3-axis gimbal stabilizer and featuring 4K UHD resolution setting. It is also compact and easy to carry around thanks to foldable motor arms which is something that Spark drone truly lacks.
On the other hand, Ryze Tello is an incredible affordable quadcopter that allows you to learn how to code and program. Again, DJI Spark also lacks this feature that makes it unappealing to the mass market for beginners and first time drone users.
Issues With Family-Friendly & Beginner Drones
When we say it is a family-friendly and beginner drones. We mean that DJI consumer drones are very easy to fly around. Pretty much most of its flight functions are done autonomously and beginners do not have to worry about accessibility. This is definitely a huge positive outlook for all of the consumers.
But that makes it even more difficult to create a compelling entry-level product while maintaining family-friendly style. One possible consumer drone that we might see coming in end of 2019 is the new iteration of the Spark drone — Spark 2.
Although, DJI will have to be very careful about pricing the drone as to avoid cannibalizing their Mavic Air sales. Do you see what we mean? DJI consumer drones keep on cutting through each other sales. At this point, every new drone launch is a challenging balance act that factors price, features, appealing and the like.
Shift of Focus in The Market
As we mentioned previously in the article. One of the reason for DJI”s lack of new consumer drone this year simply might be the reason because they were focused on expanding into the new market sectors.
DJI already made huge steps into enterprise hardware and software. Which definitely exceed their potential consumer sales in the long run. But, at the same time they expanded into educational robotics and launched Osmo series indicated that DJI wants to be known as consumer technology company, not a drone company.
DJI has its eyes laser-focused on GoPro customer base. Even though for a company with large resources, strong research and development with manufacturing prowess. It does make sense that DJI is focusing all of its energy on the emerging markets.
Ongoing Trade Wars
Another reason for DJI’s lack of consumer drone this year is due to political disarray that impacts its most successful market: the United States. Americans is one of the biggest drone consumers and DJI managed to sold most of its quadcopters to them.
But DJI has come under scrutiny recently for series of stories related to cyber-security. Most recently, Department of Homeland Security warned that Chinese government might be spying via these drones. But the alert didn’t explicitly mentioned DJI and company already took measures to ensure privacy of consumer data to maintain its consumer’s trust.
Under Trump administration, they are intended on cracking down Chinese technology companies. It only make sense to see why the technology companies is in this kind of situation right now. Compared to Huawei, DJI has an influential U.S-based team and many Americans can vouch for the company. It is unlikely that we will see ban on the company itself.
What Can We Expect from DJI In 2019?
Going forward with the evolving drone technology. One of the biggest clue is that DJI plans to install AirSense to all of its next drone generations. According to a statement, “All new DJI drone models released after January 1, 2020 that weights more than 250 grams will have AirSense technology incorporated.”
There is two ways to read this line. First, it suggests that DJI will release a new drone before 2019. However, the drone will be lightweight. The Spark drone originally weight 300 grams and new iterations usually end up bigger, not smaller which is the opposite of what we would hope.
Regardless, it confirms there be no major consumer drones such as Mavic Air or Phantom series before 2020. Furthermore, it wouldn’t make sense to get all excited about the new AirSense technology only to fly a drone model released in 2019 that doesn’t have one built in.