Drone Market Strategies—DJI, Intel, and Parrot’s Partnerships and Acquisitions

With so much happening in the drone industry, just keeping track of who does what can be pretty overwhelming.

Last week we wrote about DJI’s marketing strategy for cameras, and why it was smart to name ZenMuse as a separate line just for DJI-produced cameras (though the extra name does add yet another layer of complication when it comes to knowing who does what in the industry).

Today’s guest post from Drone Industry Insights (DroneII.com) parses out the different activities of three major players in the drone industry—DJI, Intel, and Parrot—over the last several years, and provides a useful bird’s eye view to help understand their involvements in different aspects of the industry.

The Drone Industry Insights post begins here:

The drone market today can be described as a melting pot of different technologies, where combinations of hard- and software components and service features are provided for the end user.

In order to create sustainable success in this extremely fast moving market, it’s crucial for companies to maintain strategic partnerships or invest in a solid UAV portfolio. This is nothing new. As we showed in our recent publication, this situation is a process that started quite a while ago, long before anyone thought about drones to be the next big thing.

However, lately a few players have been extremely busy with engaging in new partnerships, looking for investment opportunities and acquisitions.

Drone-Market-Strategies

Currently, the commercial UAV market consists of three dominant players, namely DJI, Parrot SA and the Intel Corporation.

Parrot started to create professional solutions at a very early stage. The acquisition of Software manufacturer Pix4D (2012) and MicaSense (2014) were great strategic moves and paved the way to highly advanced end-to-end solutions.

Although profit margins in the commercial UAV market were very small at this time, Parrot did invest heavily into their new strategy. Building a new market segment has never been easy (or cheap) and the low-cost competitors from Asia also apply a lot of pressure causing market deficits especially in the hobby/prosumer sector.

Despite this, the share of the drone sector within the Parrot Group increased from 38% (Q1 2016) to 54% (Q2 2016) due to their strategic move.

Whereas Parrot started three years earlier, Intel Capital started later, beginning to invest in the drone industry in 2014.

Now, Intel Corp. chooses a pro-active approach and moves into the market by acquiring the missing pieces of the puzzle around their high-performance chip-sets. The Intel RealSense platform combines hardware and software in a way that enables cameras to process and understand images, and eventually providing “computer vision” to flying drones.

Before acquiring the German drone manufacturer Ascending Technologies earlier this year, the two companies had already engaged in a close partnership to improve UAV sense and avoid systems.

Intel’s biggest and certainly most game-changing move was the acquisition of the mobile vision processor company Movidius. This acquisition paves Intel’s way towards autonomous systems – not only for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Other chip manufacturers such as Qualcomm and Nvidia have recently copied Intel’s strategy, as they see the immense opportunities in becoming technology suppliers for the emerging drone industry.

The third key player and dominant market leader DJI also started a number of new partnerships this year.

While Intel and Parrot grew their drone business through acquisitions, DJI now uses partners to expand their business portfolio (e.g. the infrared camera maker FLIR, surveying expert Leica Geosystems and micro ADS-B transponder manufacturer uAviniox).

For their position this strategy makes a lot of sense since DJI has everything it needs to bring drones up in the air and as such, does not have to acquire the technology. Partnering can be an extremely quick way to grow a company, particularly in times of rapid change.

Without implementing difficult and time-consuming internal changes DJI can expand the knowledge of different industry sectors, boost innovation and increase their market share.

Initially partnerships were heavy on hardware but the demand to deliver high-quality end-to-end products more quickly and at lower costs has become a fundamental part of the entire UAV industry.

Alan Perlman

Founder at UAV Coach
Alan is an FAA-certified drone pilot and founded UAV Coach in 2014 to help connect drone enthusiasts, to provide world-class sUAS industry training courses, and to help push the drone community forward with a focus on safety and commercial opportunities.