Chinese drone manufacturer DJI is estimated to have more than a 70 percent share of the global drone hardware market. Competitors from Europe, Asia, and North America have fallen by the wayside, unable to keep up with the company’s rapid iteration, low prices and, more than anything, industry-leading technology.
So it comes as no surprise that a manufacturer which set out to provide platforms for photography enthusiasts is now perfectly placed to cater to a growing number of enterprise applications.
Among these are search and rescue, industrial inspections, and terrain mapping. DJI has become a one-stop-shop for any project that requires data to be gathered remotely or at scale.
DJI announces new hardware, software and partnerships
The headline news from DJI’s AirWorks conference has so far been the launch of a new commercial drone, the Mavic 2 Enterprise.
The aerial platform, which is an iteration of the enthusiast-focused Mavic 2 Pro launched in August, offers optical and digital zoom, automated alerts of ADS-B signals from nearby aeroplanes and helicopters, and built-in data security features to protect sensitive missions.
The Mavic 2 Enterprise is also designed to be modular, with different payloads available for various commercial and public safety scenarios, including a spotlight to illuminate nighttime operations; a loudspeaker to broadcast critical instructions, and a beacon to make the drone visible from miles away.
The data security features are particularly significant for DJI. The company has had to deal with fears from commercial and government customers that its software may be ‘phoning home’ to China – allegations that the company has always strenuously denied.
The new drone includes password protection for onboard data storage, GPS timestamps for every image recorded, and integration of the company’s ‘Local Data Mode’ to prevent any internet data transfers.
DJI updates enterprise software offering
Several of DJI’s original hardware competitors, including 3D Robotics, have been forced to pivot and specialise instead in enterprise drone software. But DJI has clear intentions to go after that market, too.
At AirWorks this week, the company made three significant software announcements. The first is DJI Flight Simulator, a program that’s been designed to provide realistic flight experience and training for new pilots.
The obvious upside is that skills can be honed without the cost of new hardware and the risks that come with real-world operations.
The simulator can be manipulated to make environments situation-specific and more challenging. The program works with DJI’s remote controls and simulates any one of the company’s enterprise-level drones.
DJI has also launched an official application for professional work, DJI Pilot. The app has been designed to work intuitively with DJI enterprise drones and, importantly, their many payloads. Pilots can plan flights and build payload capabilities into their operations, including the Zenmuse XT2 thermal imaging camera launched with FLIR earlier this year.
And then there’s the solution that arguably ties it all together: an updated version of DJI Ground Station Pro. DJI’s fleet planning software gives accuracy, accountability, and visibility to enterprises managing multiple drone operations, linking together the pilots, the missions they fly and the data generated.
“Drones are transforming daily work in industries such as construction, infrastructure, energy and insurance, and we are proud to unveil new tools at AirWorks 2018 to help the growing number of people and enterprises putting drones to work,” said Mario Rebello, VP and country manager of North America at DJI.
“Hundreds of thousands of professional drone pilots around the world are setting the new standard for aerial productivity, and DJI and our partners are creating the ecosystem to support a future where every enterprise routinely incorporates drones into their operations.”
New strategic partners
DJI has also announced a number of new partners, including railroad giant Union Pacific and utility provider Southern Company. Together they will collaborate on new aerial solutions for industrial inspections and more.
Meanwhile, Microsoft and DJI are publicly releasing the DJI Windows SDK. Developers can use it to wirelessly transfer data to Windows edge devices, as well as integrating and controlling DJI hardware using Windows apps.
The move was originally announced in May, with Microsoft signing up a number of partners to open pathways for its plans in AI. The platform will enable real-time AI and machine learning capabilities to be used with images from DJI drones.
DJI says the step will “exponentially increase the ways drones can be used and scaled in the enterprise.”
Internet of Business says
DJI has released a short documentary with American Airlines, detailing how drones – rather than being a threat to air traffic – could actually play an important role at airports around the world. The video, below, highlights the potential that drones have to replace labour-intensive methods for aircraft maintenance and inspections.