In the wee hours of one random January morning, a drunk federal employee accidentally crash-landed his friend’s 2-foot-by-2-foot drone, or “quadcopter,” in the White House lawn.
The employee, whose name hasn’t been identified, went to bed that day without realising where exactly the drone had landed. The next day, after seeing the news blow up, he contacted the Secret Service and admitted he was drinking at an apartment a few blocks away from the White House and lost control of the aircraft.
The incident raised red flags around the lack of regulations for drones and security measures around the White House. But what got lost amid all the coverage was the actual manufacturer of that drone — a Chinese company called DJI.
It turns out DJI makes some of the most popular consumer drones in the world. And on Wednesday, the Chinese drone-maker raised $US75 million at around $US8 billion valuation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The investment is led by Accel Partners and could ultimately raise DJI’s value to $US10 billion, the report said. Founded in 2006, in its founder Frank Wang’s dorm room, DJI now has more than $US1 billion in sales, a nearly 10x growth from its $US130 million revenue in 2013, the WSJ said.
The new raise signifies the rapid growth in the global drone industry. According to BI Intelligence, the drone market is expected to grow nearly 20% over the next five years, becoming a $US10 billion market. Although the commercial side of the business is still relatively small, DJI has sold about 400,000 units in last year alone, netting a profit of around $US120 million, according to Forbes. One of DJI’s biggest competitors, 3D Robotics, also raised about $US64 million last month.
DJI drones start at $US859 and some of the high-end ones could cost thousands of dollars. They’re widely used by photographers and filmmakers, but also within specific industries like agriculture, energy, and security. If you’re not familiar with how these drones work, watch DJI’s video for its Phantom 3 model below: