Is DJI Working on a Delivery Drone? Surprising Leak Reveals Unexpected New DJI Model
BY Zacc Dukowitz19 July 2023
A recent leak reveals that DJI is working on—wait for it—a consumer delivery drone.
Check out this clip, in which you can clearly see a drone with a payload container made to hold delivery packages.
— Igor Bogdanov (@Quadro_News) July 12, 2023
This is just one of a series of four tweets Igor Bogdanov, the person behind @Quadro_News, shared in a single day teasing DJI’s delivery drone.
Here’s a summary of all four:
- In tweet 1, he teases the delivery drone, saying “Many of the world’s drone experts will like this product.” (See tweet 1.)
- In tweet 2, he says DJI is working on “a delivery drone to compete with the Autel Titan” and shares that it will be “unveiled soon.” (See tweet 2.)
- In tweet 3, he shares that the delivery drone will be unveiled in China on July 13, and that it’s made “for the Chinese market.” (See tweet 3.)
- In tweet 4, after all that buildup, he shares the actual promo video (that’s the tweet embedded above).
A Product without a Market?
We’ll be honest—we’re pretty surprised by this news.
DJI has released consumer drones at almost every price point you can imagine. But it’s never talked about releasing a delivery drone, and we wouldn’t have imagined there was a market for one.
And the truth is, if DJI is working on a delivery drone, there may not actually be a market for it. At least not in the U.S.
Brendan Schulman, former V.P. of Policy & Legal Affairs at DJI, chimed in on one of Bogdanov’s tweets with the following:
There’s no market at scale for delivery drones in the US until the regulations change. So this is a lot like the dock. The tech is here, the policy is not. This could be quite successful in China.
— Brendan Schulman (@dronelaws) July 12, 2023
As Schulman points out, DJI could be working on a delivery drone just to get out in front of a possible future trend, as it did with the DJI Dock.
When DJI released its Dock last year along with the Matrice 30, commercial drone and inspection robotics experts at MFE Inspection Solutions—a DJI reseller—told us the dock was basically unusable in the U.S. due to regulatory restrictions.
The reason for this? Most use cases for a drone with a dock (also called a nest, or a drone-in-a-box) require the drone to operate autonomously, deploying on its own to collect data, as Percepto’s drones do for monitoring power plant infrastructure.
The Matrice 30 and the DJI Dock | Credit: DJI
These kinds of operations require a BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) waiver, since autonomous operations are, by definition, done without a visual observer present. And most operators don’t have the resources to get that kind of permission.
The same is true for delivery drones. Although you can do drone deliveries within visual line of sight—and some companies like DroneUp are doing this—the ideal use case requires permission to fly BVLOS, and probably flying over people and vehicles, too.
The Part 107 rules prohibit all three, making U.S. drone delivery too restrictive for selling a drone custom built for that purpose. (Not to mention the competition from drone delivery companies like Wing or Zipline, which make their own delivery drones and wouldn’t be interested in a third party.)
DJI’s First Reactionary Drone Play
Right now, Bogdanov’s tweets are the only source of information out there about the DJI delivery drone, so our knowledge is pretty limited.
But we do know the drone was made to compete directly with the Autel Titan, Autel’s first delivery drone, which is an interesting fact.
News of the Titan was leaked back in April from Autel’s first Partner Summit, a live event held in China. The Titan hasn’t been released yet, but Autel is showing it off in person at conferences like EDRC right now as part of an ongoing roadshow of all its new, largely unreleased drone technology.
The Autel Titan
Autel is known for creating drones made to go head-to-head with DJI drones.
For example, the Autel EVO was made to compete directly with the DJI Mavic Pro, and there are several other Autel drones made to take on DJI models.
But DJI has never made a drone to compete with Autel. If the DJI delivery drone is real—and it seems to be—it will mark the first time DJI created a drone in reaction to an Autel drone.
That kind of reactionary move is noteworthy. It shows that Autel anticipated something DJI didn’t, and that DJI thought it was worth making its own version to compete.
One other interesting thing to note about the Autel Titan vs. DJI delivery drone topic—according to a leak a few months back (shown below), the Titan will officially launch sometime this month.
So it wouldn’t be a stretch to speculate that DJI’s delivery drone could be rushed out this month, in order to beat Autel to market.
Autel has some interesting new products coming out.
👉Drone EVO Max 4N in May,
👉Drone AUTEL Alpha and AUTEL Titan in July pic.twitter.com/2yqSdvfDk7
— Igor Bogdanov (@Quadro_News) May 1, 2023
One other thing we know from all four tweets about the DJI delivery drone is that its primary market seems to be China, not the U.S.
This would make sense, given not only the regulatory challenges for drone delivery in the U.S., but also the movements to ban DJI products here.
If DJI has success selling this drone in China it may look to other, more friendly countries next—countries in places like Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe, where drone delivery may be done more easily than in the U.S.