Drone Wars: Is DJI the evil empire and 3DR the rebels…?

Forbes put out a great article on May 25th, titled “Bow To Your Billionaire Drone Overlord: Frank Wang’s Quest To Put DJI Robots Into The Sky,” by Ryan Mac.

The article is the first western publication interview with DJI founder and CEO Frank Wang.  It is a long but fascinating read and offers many revelations about the new Phantom 3 and its rivalry with American Drone Company 3DR, which has been fueled by the fallout between DJI North America and DJI Global.

In my opinion, there are three main take-a-ways:

  1.  DJI’s growth over that last 3 years has been phenomenal going from $160M in 13′, to $500M in 14′, to an expected $1B in revenue in 15′.  Check out this video linked in the article.
  2. Wang did not attend the Phantom 3 launch in April in New York because “the product was not as perfect” as he expected.  This is a scary revelation and if you read my previous post I hope there is not a link.
  3. DJI Global had a falling out with DJI North America in 2013 and by New Year’s Day 2014, DJI G had dissolved DJI NA, fired lead Colin Guinn and all his employees.  Colin felt screwed and joined 3DR with a big chunk of his team.  3DR is the emerging American consumer drone company who is consider to be the new kid on the block with enough financial backing to take on DJI.  3DR has now been energized to avenge Guinn and his team, and defeat what I am sure they consider to be the evil empire. (Like the Facebook story, I predict this will find its way into a Hollywood movie someday)

Overall, I think the article tells a great story and well worth the read.  I give it Icon Icon Icon Icon Icon  (5 drones out of 5).  http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanmac/2015/05/06/dji-drones-frank-wang-china-billionaire/

My Take – The fact that Wang is calling the Phantom 3, not a perfect drone and missed the launch, makes me nervous.  That seems to indicate the product was rushed to market before he felt it was ready, and those situations typically end in disaster.  I hope the potential Phantom 3 failure issue discussed in my previous post is not a sign of bad things to come.

After hearing the story of Colin Guinn and 3DR, it is almost hard not to root for 3DR.  I don’t mean to paint DJI as an evil company, because thus far I have been a fan, but as an American it is hard not to root for the home team, and I am sucker for the underdog.  3DR has a new impressive drone coming out to compete with the Phantom called the Solo.  They have put an emphasis on software and open source architecture.  The article states that they are to DJI as Android is to Apple, and their software can be used on other platforms.  They also have a partnership with GoPro and have the first drone designed to seamlessly integrate with the action camera.  An option that DJI passed on that was brokered by Guinn when he was still part of the company.

I considered ordering the Solo instead of the Phantom 3, but when you add up the cost of the drone, gimbal, and GoPro it is over $2K, which is 2x the cost of the Phantom.  Also, the Phantom 3 with its Light-bridge Technology, has 4x the FPV range versus the Solo and the FPV range was my biggest complaint with the Phantom FC40.  I am excited to see the range on the Phantom 3.

Overall, I am glad to see another serious contender has entered the fight in the consumer drone space, I hope 3DR does well and who knows, maybe my next drone will be from 3DR.

Finally, I hope that the Phantom 3, which may not be perfect in Wang’s eyes is still great and well worth the $1000 bucks.  Time will tell.  I just received an email from DJI this morning that I will have mine by June 2nd and I cannot wait!

What’s your take?