Drone usage both public and private has increased enormously across the world over the past decade and sales and the number of use cases continue to surge. Though there have been some issues with airspace and using drones to spy on the private lives of their neighbors and others, for the most part drones have been a positive addition to our society. Recently however, Chinese drone manufacturer Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI) has put drone users and governments worldwide on high alert announcing that they may share data gathered by their drones with the state. This has led to a ban on Chinese drones in the US and Australia has recently followed suit fearing for the safety and security of their nations. This raises a large issue in the drone flying community – just how much information are these drones gathering on their flights and who is learning from this information?
DJI is the Chinese company that transformed drone technology from a military grade weapon used to gather information into a cheap and accessible product everyone could enjoy. Once the technology was put into the hands of consumers however, it has begun raising some questions for DJI and other drone producers: who has the right to use the information gathered with this technology? Is DJI entitled to sell information the drones collect to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its own use?
Either way, the governments of the United States and Australia want no part of it and have banned use of Chinese drones within the last year. It seems not only possible, but very likely that other government agencies in these countries and more will follow suit. More countries are looking into the possibility of companies using their drone data and it’s beginning to expand to the corporate sector as well. We could see a plunge in the number of Chinese drones not only in use but on the market.
Thouh DJI is the leader in drone manufacturing and sales, they are not necessarily the best available. DJI has risen to the top of the heap thanks in part to their economies of scale and early adoption of the technology and manufacturing. Being based in China also allowed them to benefit from low-cost labor and price their products lower than competitors’. There are already many other companies offering superior technology to what DJI provides and hopefully will see an increase in business thanks to these new opportunities with the US Department of Defense and other government branches.
Foosung Uconn System RemoCopter
Despite the breach of trust this creates for many, it also presents a great opportunity for drone makers outside China to increase their market share. Companies like KAI (based in South Korea), Parrot (based in France), and UVify (based in the US) may seek to fill the gap in the drone market created by DJI and China’s many other drone manufacturers. Out of the top 12 drone manufacturers in 2017, only four manufacturers were headquartered outside of China. This China-dominated drone market is already distrusted by the US Department of Defense and as private companies and standard consumers begin to learn of the issues with data privacy it could lead to their wariness as well.
Parrot AR Drone
With the growing suspicions of China-based drone manufacturers, the entire drone manufacturing market could drastically change over the course of the next several years. These opportunities created for non-Chinese companies could allow them to not only catch up to but surpass the technology DJI and others have currently. With the increased sales they should see, the extra funds could help fuel growth and research and development in other areas, which in the aggregate will benefit the market as it will diversify the drone ecosystem, stimulate growth, and enable the birth of a world of new products and services.