In 2012 we wrote an introductory article called Rise of the Drones which predicted the consumer drone industry would grow very quickly starting in 2013. This turned out to be the case and drones have captured the public attention (in both positive and negative ways) and have evolved from a DIY pursuit to one which is just now entering the mass consumer market. In this article we will look at the current state of the industry – how it got here and where we predict it is going. At the end of the article we will present an Executive Summary – a quick read for those who have less need for all the details!
Note: As is our forte, we focus on drones for the consumer and hobbyist – in general those under $2,500 at retail.
A Short Rehash of Consumer Drone History
The first consumer quadcopters appeared in approx. 2009-2010 with the introduction of the AR Drone from Parrot as well as some toy and hobby grade models from various Chinese manufacturers. Very few of these machines were reliable or easy to use – however those who persisted in the hobby were able to take flight and get some idea of what the future might hold. Models such as Hubsan X4 and Syma X1 were introduced in 2012 and provided budding pilots with inexpensive and ready-to-fly machines ($40-$60) to hone their skills.
At the end of 2012 DJI Introduced the Phantom 1 Ready-to-Fly quadcopter which had advanced features such as GPS, larger payload (GoPro holder) and long range. This machine turned out to be quite reliable and capable and kickstarted the consumer camera drone revolution.
2013-2015 saw the introduction and/or announcement of many additional machines…but many manufacturers misjudged the amount of engineering and design time needed to perfect these products. Many models were as much as year late (from original announcement) and turned out to be unreliable. Various kickstarter and other crowdsourced models raised millions of dollars – most have failed to deliver.