Can this US drone maker break the dominance of China's DJI?

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China-based DJI accounts for 70% of the small but fast-growing consumer drone market. The company made $US500 million last year, and expects to revenues to top $US1 billion this year. But rival drone maker 3D Robotics, which is based in Berkely, CA, aims to take on DJI’s dominance of the market. 3D Robotics’ new Solo drones for consumers, released last week, will be sold at Best Buy’s stores and on its website.

The Solo drones feature more onboard computing power than DJI’s new Phantom 3 drones, making them easier to fly. They also have an open software architecture that will allow different cameras, sensors, software, and applications to be integrated with the drones.

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That open architecture could appeal to enterprises looking to buy drones for commercial use and then customise them with different hardware or software for specific tasks. The use of commercial drones in the US has been limited by FAA regulations, but the FAA has been granting exemptions in cases where drones can complete tasks that would be dangerous for humans, like inspecting oil rigs or damaged houses. BII still expects military drones to make up the bulk of drones shipped through 2024.

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