Drone maker spreads its wings
Updated: 2015-12-24 07:51
By Zhou Mo in Shenzhen(HK Edition)
A man flies a DJI drone for aerial photography in Central. Drone manufacturer DJI Technology Co is developing thermal-imaging technology for aerial applications with a US company to enable unmanned aerial vehicles to perform tasks more accurately and precisely in various fields like firefighting, agriculture and inspection. Roy Liu / China Daily
Shenzhen-based drone manufacturer DJI Technology Co is navigating into other industries after having secured the bulk of the global consumer drone market.
It inked a cooperative pact with US-based FLIR Systems earlier this month to develop thermal-imaging technology for aerial applications with a new product called Zenmuse XT, which is due to be launched next year.
Installing a thermal-imaging camera in drones will enable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to perform tasks more accurately and precisely in various fields like firefighting, agriculture and inspection.
"Adding thermal imaging as an additional sensor option for aerial platforms will open up new and innovative uses for consumers, whether it's gaining a strategic insight into how their crops are growing or understanding the spread of fires more efficiently," said Frank Wang, founder and chief executive officer of DJI.
Last month, DJI stepped into the agriculture sector with a product used specifically in pesticide spraying. The agricultural drone is 40 times more efficient than humans.
Drones are also being widely used in disaster zones or emergencies, seeing action in the massive landslide that hit three industrial parks in Shenzhen's Guangming New District last Sunday.
DJI, which was founded in 2006, currently commands about 70 percent of the world's consumer drone market. According to a Forbes report, DJI's sales reached 400,000 units in 2014, with total revenue of $500 million.
Most of the company's sales came from overseas markets, but it's putting extra focus on boosting its presence on the Chinese mainland. By late last year, DJI's domestic sales accounted for just 10 percent of the total, but have since risen to 20 percent.
"Most of our drones are sold online, but we're encouraging more people to make offline transactions," said DJI's public relations director Wang Fan. The company opened its first international retail store in Shenzhen last Sunday.
Supervision has been a major concern in the development of drones. The US Federal Aviation Administration issued a regulation on Dec 15, stating that drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds (0.25 kilograms) and less than 55 pounds, including payloads such as on-board cameras, must be registered.
Earlier this year, a DJI drone crashed on the yard of the White House, sparking concern over the safety of UAVs.
Last month, a video online showed that a DJI drone and a suspected jet fighter nearly collided with each other.
"UAVs must be regulated," said Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense. According to existing regulations, all UAVs should get approval before being used.
"As a prominent company in the new field, DJI is placing safety as its top priority," Wang said.
"We hope (the government) could encourage innovation and support the emerging industry rather than impeding its growth by imposing regulations."
(HK Edition 12/24/2015 page8)