Did DJI Win Again? Skydio Announces End to Consumer Drone Sales
BY Zacc Dukowitz15 August 2023
Skydio will no longer be selling drones to consumers.
For years, Skydio has denied rumors that it was planning to pivot away from consumer sales, and start selling drones strictly to enterprise customers.
Just two months back we shared news that the Skydio 2+ had been out of stock for quite some time, a fact that Sally French of the Drone Girl speculated was due to preparation for a pivot away from the consumer market. At the time, a Skydio spokesperson told French that the shortage was simply due to high demand.
But now we know she was right.
The impact we’re having with our enterprise and public sector customers has become so compelling that it demands nothing less than our full focus and attention . . . As a result, I have made the very difficult decision to sunset our consumer business in order to put everything we’ve got into serving our enterprise and public sector customers.
– Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio
What Does This Mean for Consumers?
First, what does this mean for you?
Put simply, you as an individual won’t be able to buy Skydio drones any more.
Right now, if you go to the Skydio website you’ll see there’s no longer a button for shopping on the site:
But just a month back, there was:
This change in how you navigate the Skydio site illustrates what the company means by “sunsetting consumer drone offerings.” There’s literally no way to buy Skydio drones directly any more.
Instead, if you want to buy a Skydio drone you’ll have to fill out the Contact Sales form. Then, a Skydio representative will reach out and make sure you work at a company or government organization before entering a sales conversation.
One other note—although Skydio has been aggressive about selling directly to consumers from its website, it has also sold its drones through third parties like Amazon.
And right now Amazon also shows the Skydio 2+ as unavailable. We’re guessing that will be permanent going forward.
Already Own a Skydio Drone?
Don’t worry. Skydio says it will continue supporting any owners of its technology, whether you’re a consumer or an enterprise client.
We stand by all warranty terms, Skydio Care, and will continue vehicle repairs. Additionally, we will retain inventory of accessories for as long as we can to support the need for replacement batteries, propellers, charging cables, etc.
Here’s what you can expect from Skydio as a current customer:
- Skydio will still support those who own a Skydio drone.
- Skydio will still honor any live warranties.
- Skydio will maintain an inventory of accessories, including replacement batteries, props, and charging cables for now (the statement says it will do so “for as long as we can”—implying that there will eventually be an end to accessibility for this inventory).
Why Skydio Is Getting Out of the Consumer Drone Business
Skydio broke into the drone industry as the maker of the best follow-me drone on the market.
When the Skydio R1 came out in 2019, there had been a clamor for a selfie drone that could follow you without any special piloting knowledge.
People were wary. In 2017, a company called Lily Robotics had raised $34 million in presales based solely on the hype of a video showing a drone that could do, well, what the R1 actually did when it came out in 2019.
But where Lily’s drone never materialized, the R1 actually worked.
The R1 put Skydio on the map for making autonomous drones that actually flew themselves, allowing people to capture extreme sports sequences without spending time learning how to fly.
In 2020, Skydio started promoting its drones to businesses, launching the X2 for enterprise applications. And the timing coincided perfectly with a big push across U.S. government agencies to blacklist DJI drones.
With DJI drones on the outs, at least politically, at a time when federal agencies and private companies were starting to realize the major benefits drones could provide for inspection, defense, and other commercial applications, Skydio was well positioned to take advantage of an emerging gap in the market—the need for U.S.-made commercial drones.
From there Skydio’s business took off, with the company locking in large military contracts, partnering with Axon to sell to law enforcement, and securing hundreds of millions more in funding. All of this growth led to the drone industry’s first ever billion dollar valuation for a drone startup in 2021 (Skydio is now valued at $2.2 billion).
Apparently the company has learned an important lesson along the way: the consumer drone market just isn’t worth the effort. Instead, all the money and new market opportunity is in selling drones to businesses and government agencies.
That’s not to say there isn’t money to be made selling drones directly to consumers—just that getting a piece of that market is incredibly hard because DJI dominates consumer drone sales.
Skydio isn’t the first company that’s tried to break into the consumer drone market and failed because of DJI’s stranglehold.
Back in 2016, 3D Robotics (or 3DR) tried hard to break into the consumer market. It ended up failing spectacularly and pivoting to making software for commercial drone applications because it couldn’t compete with DJI.
In 2018, GoPro tried to launch a consumer drone called the Karma, but also failed. And with Skydio’s exit now, there aren’t any major American drone companies left focused on the consumer market.
The GoPro Karma
To put it another way: DJI wins again.
In the commercial market Skydio has several things going for it. The fact that Skydio is an American company will help it win contracts DJI just can’t win anymore in the U.S. And it’s now ready for production at scale.
But one other thing—something Skydio never could have known about as it planned its departure from consumer drones—may tip things thoroughly in Skydio’s favor. And that’s the recent announcement that China plans to restrict civilian drone exports.
That’s right—it may soon become much harder to find DJI and Autel drones in the U.S.
It’s unclear right now how severe the restrictions will actually be. But given that the list of restricted drones includes those with 30 minutes of battery life or more—that’s all the Matrice series drones, not to mention all the Mavic 3 series drones—DJI’s enterprise sales may soon be cut short, leaving a big gap in the commercial market for Skydio to enter.
Of course, the same could be said about the consumer market, and the potential gap that may be left there if DJI is actually restricted from importing drones to the U.S. Which is to say, only time will tell whether Skydio has actually made the right move in sunsetting its sales to consumers.