DJI is the name that comes to mind every time I think of drones. Having been in the industry for more than 10 years, they hold the lion’s share of the drone industry, and they don’t seem to be letting go of the crown any time soon.
They have made their name by building high-quality drones that are easy to use, even for a beginner and most of their components are built in-house.
Drones aren’t the only device they offer. They also make cameras, gimbals, robots, and several other fascinating gadgets. But who is behind DJI? How did it start? And what makes them stand out in the industry?
We will answer these questions in this article.
What IS DJI? – The Company
DJI is a Chinese-based tech company specializing in building consumer drones, stabilizers, gimbals, action cameras, flight control systems, propulsion systems, and flight platforms.
Even though it’s popularly known as DJI, its official name is Shenzhen DJI Sciences and Technology LTD or SZ DJI Technology co LTD.
Currently, DJI holds more than 70% of the consumer-drone market share worldwide. That’s pretty huge comparing none of the other drone companies holds more than 5%.
DJI drones have been used extensively in filming, aerial photography, Law Enforcement, and military applications.
The history behind DJI:
Frank Wang, also known as Wang Tao, founded DJI in 2006 as part of a science project.
He studied at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he also participated in ABU Robocon, a robot competition, where his team won the third prize.
As a student, he built the first DJI prototypes in his dorm room and sold them to Chinese electric firms and various universities.
With the proceeds from these sales and a $2300 funding for research and development, Wang moved to Shenzhen, rented an office, and hired some staff.
DJI struggled at first with both finances and the employees. Due to his perfectionism and abrasive traits, he experienced a high rate of churn from his employees.
To help in the company’s finances, Lu Di, a family friend, offered him $90,000 and helped him manage the company’s finances. By 2009, they had successfully built a prototype that they piloted around Mt. Everest.
In 2011, Wang partnered with a high school friend, Swift Xie Jia, who handled the marketing section, where they targeted drone hobbyists at a global scale.
And in 2011, Wang partnered with Colin Guinn to found DJI North America, responsible for mass selling the DJI drones. In 2013, the first DJI drone, the Phantom, was released into the market.
Wang Tao’s goal has always been to build a drone that a new user can fly out of the box, and he achieved that with the first Phantom.
The first Phantom was user-friendly, easy to use, and more convenient than the drones available in the market at that time.
However, the success of this first drone led to the falling out between Wang and Guinn.
This conflict led to Guinn suing DJI, but they later resolved the matter out of the court.
In 2015, DJI released yet another successful drone, the Phantom 3. Most of its success is thanks to the live streaming camera, which was not in its predecessor.
By this time, DJI was already phasing out other drone companies globally. It was in 2015 that they also started the Robomaster Robotics Competition in Shenzhen.
By 2017, DJI drones were being incorporated in filming. DJI received a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award since its cameras were handy in filming the Game of Thrones, The Amazing Race, Better Call Saul, and American Ninja Warrior.
Frank Wang became the youngest Billionaire in Asia and the first drone billionaire in 2017. He currently owns 40% of the company and is worth $4.8 Billion.
Corporation Structure and Infrastructure of DJI:
As mentioned earlier, Frank Wang owns 40% of the company. The rest of it is funded by investors. For instance, DJI raised $500 Million during a funding round in 2015.
Some of the investors who contributed in this round include New Horizon Capital, GIC, and New China Life Insurance. They also raised $1 billion during a funding round in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2018.
Currently, DJI has about 14,000 employees and 17 branch offices worldwide. They have a very rigorous recruitment process, and their workplace is quite competitive.
It’s said that they hold competitions among teams where the members strive to come up with the best product.
Considering more than 3000 of the employees are engineers, it’s no surprise that DJI produces state-of-the-art electronics.
Many of the parts of their assembly process are automated, and guess what? They built most of these systems themselves.
DJI’s new headquarters in Nanshan District, Southwest of Shenzhen, has got everybody talking. They were designed by Foster+Partners, the company that designed the Apple Headquarters in California.
The building is built to enhance productivity, whereby it comprises two towers. The research and development offices are in the east tower, while the office functions are in the west tower.
Since they are very protective of their technology and design process, the entrance is on the west tower.
The buildings have also incorporated Zen gardens, a gym, sky gardens, and a glass bridge.
The glass bridge is where they will be showcasing their latest technology. There’s a public exhibition for all the drones DJI has built and a theater for launching new drones on the ground floor.
What is DJI Aeroscope?
As much as drones are useful in other sectors, they pose a security risk when they fly overhead sensitive areas such as prisons, airports, and other protected facilities. And some of the measures put in place to detect UAVs flying over these areas may not always be effective.
That’s why DJI designed the Aeroscope, a device capable of detecting most modern drones.
Aeroscope intercepts the connection between the controller and the drone extracting the flight path, status, serial number, controller location, the owner’s contacts, and any other information that the user can act on.
The Aeroscope relays the information in real-time, and it takes seconds to gather the information. This gives those in charge of monitoring enough time to intercept any attacks.
Better yet, the Aeroscope has a range of up to 25 miles, and there’s even a portable option if you’re in areas with no electricity.
The DJI Aeroscope was designed for Law Enforcement and approved security firms, so you can rest assured that your data will not end up in the wrong hands.
Besides, if you’re not going to fly your drone in restricted areas, you have nothing to worry about.
Below are some of the most popular DJI products.
The DJI Phantom drones are some of the most popular among hobbyists and professionals alike. They have evolved across 4 generations – the Phantom 1, Phantom 2, Phantom, 3, and Phantom 4.
The latest Phantom drone is the Phantom 4 RTK, and it was released in October 2018. This drone is designed for more accurate aerial photography and surveying. This is thanks to the RTK and the redundant GNSS module.
The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 came in May 2018 and was reintroduced in January 2020. It includes a 4-direction obstacle-avoidance, OcuSync, better ESCs, and other upgrades.
The Mavic series contains some of the most budget-friendly drones on the market. They include the Mavic Pro, Mavic Mini, Mavic Mini 2, Mavic Air, Mavic Air 2, and Mavic 2 Zoom.
The latest Mavic drone is the Mavic Air 2, which came a few days after Autel Robotics released the Evo II. It has a 34 minutes flight time, 4K video resolution, obstacle avoidance, OcuSync 2.0, and a 10 KM range.
However, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the drones released in the US didn’t have the AirSense technology.
Inspire series drones are designed for professional photography and filming. They are similar to the Phantom series, but the Inspire drones have carbon fiber arms and an aluminum-magnesium structure.
There are only 3 drones in this series, including the Inspire 1, Inspire 1 Pro, and the Inspire 2. The Inspire 2 has 27 minutes flight-time and 5.2K resolution at 30FPS. It’s also waterproof.
Going for more than $6000, this is not an entry-level drone.
DJI released the Spark in 2017, and it’s the first DJI drone that allows you to control it through gestures. It also features a 12MP camera, 2-axis gimbal, and a 3D infrared camera for obstacle-detection.
However, the DJI Spark was discontinued and replaced by the Mavic Mini.
The Matrice series drones are specifically designed for surveying, aerial photography.
They are also programmable, allowing developers to customize them or expand their applications. Currently, there’s the Matrice 100, Matrice 200, Matrice 210 RTK, 300 RTK, and the 600 pro.
This is another industry-specific drone designed for aerial photography, surveillance, 3D mapping, and search and rescue.
All you have to do is attach the right gear. Some of the models available include the S800, S900, EVO, S1000, and the S1000+.
This is a series of multi-rotor platforms designed for aerial photography. The latest model is the ARF kit, but other models include the F450 and F330.
Flight Systems and Platforms:
DJI also manufactures flight systems such as controllers for larger platforms for aerial photography. A good example is the A2 flight controller with a built-in receiver, multi-rotor configuration, GPS, 2-axis gimbal, and BlueTooth.
Ronin is another example of platforms. It helps stabilize the camera during filmmaking, especially when the user moves vigorously to capture the scenes. The available models include the Ronin-SC, Ronin-S, Ronin-M, and Ronin-2.
For better FPV drone flying, DJI also came up with FPV goggles. These are devices that relay the drone’s footage to the user in real-time.
Instead of viewing it on the smartphone or controller, the user wears the goggles around their eyes, just like the virtual reality goggles.
DJI goggles are also compatible with other third-party drones. One of the most popular models is the Racing Edition, which also works with racing drones.
Zenmuse Gimbal Cameras:
Some DJI drones have an in-built gimbal but you can also purchase these Zenmuse cameras, which have an integrated 3-axis gimbal.
An excellent example is the Zenmuse X7 camera and gimbal. It has a 24MP camera, interchangeable lenses, and 6K and 5.2K resolutions.
If you want to record high-quality videos with your smartphone, you can use the Osmo camcorder. It allows you to take photos at up to 16 Megapixels and record 4K videos.
DJI Osmo also has an integrated gimbal. The latest model is Osmo Mobile 4 (OM 4), which has ActiveTrack, DynamicZoom, Story Mode, Gesture control, and other cool features.
If you’d like to hone your programming in AI skills, DJI has a robot you might like. It is known as the Robomaster S1, and it looks like a tank.
The fascinating thing about it is you are allowed to assemble it and program it with python or scratch. You control it through Wi-Fi, and an app is available for all modern operating systems.
The Robomaster EP is another excellent drone that’s perfect for kids involved in STEAM learning.
It has some cool features such as distance sensing mechanisms, obstacle avoidance, an arm and gripper for picking objects, and an intelligent controller.
What Is the Value of DJI in the Market?
The average cost of a DJI drone is $1000. According to Forbes, DJI has made $2 Billion in sales, and they were valued at 415 Billion in 2018.
DJI is a private company, so it’s not on the stock market. There were rumors that it may become an IPO (Initial Public offering), but currently, only major companies can invest in it.
Role of DJI Drones in Different Sectors:
Over the years, DJI has partnered with several Government and private institutions. For instance, they partnered with the Chinese police to offer surveillance drones in 2017.
They partnered with Axon to provide surveillance equipment to the US police Department.
As I mentioned earlier, DJI drones are also useful in filming. They even received an Emmy Award for their role in filming Game of Thrones, Amazing Grace, and several other films and music videos.
DJI drones are now useful in spraying pesticides and monitoring plantations in the US and Japan.
They even have a specific drone for agricultural applications, the AGRAS T20. This model is designed for the rugged conditions of farming areas.
Most DJI drones are known for taking photos and recording videos when advertising real estate property.
The Mavic Mini is great for taking interior photos since its small, has a 2.7K camera, and a 3-axis gimbal.
You can also get the Mavic Mini 2 if you need 4K video resolution. The Mavic Air 2 and Mavic 2 Zoom are great options if you need higher quality videos or more control over the footage.
DJI drones are playing a leading role in humanitarian activities, such as sensitizing people to wear masks in China.
And even in monitoring temperatures and disinfecting public areas in Saudi Arabia and Morocco to combat the coronavirus.
Like any other tech company, DJI has had its share of controversies. It has been involved in several scandals involving mishandling of users’ data.
In 2015, a Phantom drone crashed into the White House, leading to the geofencing technology being rolled out on all drones.
Terrorists have also used DJI drones in Japan and Iraq. Now DJI has been updating their drones by creating no-fly zones around airports, government buildings, and other protected areas.
The future looks bright for DJI. More companies are now coming up and giving them some competition, but that’s healthy for any business.
Whether you’re looking for an entry-level drone for learning or an advanced drone, DJI has a model suitable for you.
So, if you already have a drone, their FPV goggles would be a great addition to your gadget arsenal. And if you aren’t into drones yet, the OM 4 smartphone filming device is great too.
What does DJI stand for?
DJI stand for Da-Jiang Innovations
Who founded DJI?
Frank Wang, also known as Wang Tao, founded DJI in 2006 as part of a science project.
Where is the headquarters of DJI?
DJI’s new headquarters in Nanshan District, Southwest of Shenzhen.
What is the value of DJI in the market?
According to Forbes, DJI has made $2 Billion in sales, and they were valued at 415 Billion in 2018.