DJI Corners the Market Again: New ZenMuse Camera Designed Specifically for Cell Tower Inspections

BY Alan Perlman
26 December 2016

When it comes to cornering a market, you have to be forward thinking.

DJI has done a great job anticipating industry needs, and the way that niche demands will grow into larger markets. One example is the way they’ve created and marketed their cameras.

Without a camera, a drone is almost worthless for commercial use.

Think about it—no one wants to pay for something that can fly to hard-to-reach places if you can’t also see and capture what’s there. Without the capture—that is, without high quality images and videos—the fact that you can get access to those places is really just a neat trick, but not worth anyone’s money or time.

So of course all of the big drone companies that create drones for commercial use (or even crossover commercial-serious hobbyist use, for that matter) don’t just include cameras, but include cameras of high quality made by the company themselves.

This makes sense. Because, following the logic laid out above, if you’re going to invest in making great drones, you really need to invest in making great cameras too. And why go to a third party when you could create and sell the product yourself, and reap the reward?

From this perspective, it also makes complete sense that a camera company like GoPro would decide to get into the drone market (whether  or not they’ll succeed is, of course, another matter entirely).

DJI & ZenMuse: Marketing Strategy 101

What DJI has done so well when it comes to making and marketing cameras for drones has to do not just with the quality of the cameras they create, but in how they address certain emerging needs—such as the need for a camera that can enable a drone to inspect cell phone towers, which we’ll get to in just a moment—and, just as importantly, in how they approaching branding.

That is, how they market what they do so that people associate their two brands (DJI and ZenMuse) with specific products, and with quality.

Think about it. If you’re interested in commercial drones, you’ve probably heard of ZenMuse cameras. And you probably know that ZenMuse cameras are created by DJI, or that there is some connection between the two. But do you know what Parrot’s cameras are called? Or Yuneec’s?

You don’t know for a simple reason: unlike ZenMuse, the cameras created by Parrot and Yuneec don’t have their own name.

What DJI has done well when it comes to cameras (as one could argue they’ve done well in other areas, too, such as segmenting out types of drones for various commercial uses…but we’ll just stick to one rabbit hole today, thank you very much) is to segment out the brand of their cameras through the creation of ZenMuse, and associate it with quality.

This is a simple but brilliant marketing approach to highlighting value for different types of product lines, and allowing each line to help the other grow, instead of muddying the waters with all the different things you do well under one brand.

ZenMuse Cell Tower Inspections

Image Source

New Drone Made for Cell Tower Inspections

Before we started thinking about all these things DJI is doing to win, we set out to write a short post about a new ZenMuse camera created to help drones inspect cell phone towers.

(And we want to be clear that we are neutral when it comes to all of the companies mentioned above—it’s really just been fascinating for us to see their different approaches to marketing and production, and to watch DJI manage to come out on top time and again, and to try and figure out why that is.)

The new camera for cell tower inspections is called the ZenMuse Z30. Here is a concise description of the camera from DJI’s website:

Designed from the ground up with demanding industrial applications in mind, this powerful telephoto aerial camera comes with intelligent features like TapZoom that makes it easy to use, so that anyone can adapt it to their operations.

This is yet one more example of DJI perceiving a developing need, and hustling to be there first with a drone to address the specific commercial application in question.

https://youtu.be/xRwQ3G8H-ts

Why Make a Camera Just for Cell Tower Inspections?

Traditionally, cell towers are inspected by a person, heavily weighted down with gear, climbing the entire tower. This approach has the potential for injury, and associated high insurance rates.

Drones present a preferred approach, but there have been hurdles to using drones for these inspections.

The biggest challenge in using drones for cell tower inspections has been that, in order for the inspection be thorough enough to actually identify issues on the tower, the shots taken need to be incredibly clear. This has meant needing to fly drones quite close to the towers, which has led to electromagnetic interferences with the drones, sometimes causing them to crash.

And here you have the very specific need that ZenMuse’s new Z30 addresses—a camera that is drone-compatible, that can zoom for incredibly precise shots, and that can actually be used in place of live personnel for these inspections.

Of course, whether this new camera will actually corner this particular market is yet to be seen. As we wrote recently regarding the fall of 3D Robotics, putting too much money into production can certainly be a fatal error for any company, regardless of size, but so far this is not a mistake DJI seems to be making.

And though it’s clear that drones are the way of the future for cell tower inspections, as both AT&T and Verizon have recently made clear, it’s still fairly open as to who will be the ones selling the drones that make the actual inspections.

But one thing is clear: DJI is there again on the ground floor, making it uphill work for any other competitor to try and elbow there way in.

 

Alan Perlman

Founder & CEO

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.

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