The vast Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has always had a reputation for hype. After all, it’s the largest show of its type in the world and the resulting PR filters out for months afterwards. When it comes to drones, however, CES may soon be irrelevant. Read on….
Many years ago, massive companies like Apple, MicroSoft and IBM famously stopped attending and displaying at various large Computer and Tech shows. This was because of various reasons – for example:
- The companies were moving quickly and offering up new and improved products on their own schedules – therefore didn’t want to have to stick to a timeline set by yearly shows.
- The companies didn’t want their brands and message mixed in with that of thousands of other firms and products – from small to large.
- The companies often had many of their own shows and large meeting – for example, Apple did “Macworld” conventions and still does WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference).
- With the rise of the Internet it’s possible for a brand or company to disseminate information immediately and inexpensively.
- Many large trade shows are/were built around a certain buying cycle. For example, CES in in January so that new products can be introduced by April or May and the pipeline can be stocked for the Back to School and Holiday Selling Season. Some companies don’t follow this sales timing model.
2017 will be an exciting year for drones but less so for CES/Drones. Here is a quick overview of what the major players and some new players are showing at CES – as well as some outlook and opinion on consumer drones.
Major Industry Players
DJI – DJI introduced a large number of evolutionary – and revolutionary models in 2016. These include the Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic Pro, Inspire 2 and others in the commercial and industrial range. They also honed their software offerings. DJI is showing all these products at CES. Here is an article by our friends at the Digital Circuit laying out the “new products” DJI announced just for CES.
Autel Robotics – first showed their X-Star series drone at CES 2016 and had a good first year- often coming in well ahead of Yuneec and Parrot in terms of Camera Drone sales. Their existing offering look like an orange colored DJI Phantom (also available in white). At CES they announced a new 1″ sensor camera for the X-Star series as well as a software SDK (allows possible expansion using 3rd party programs). An infrared camera is also slated for announcement. Pricing is not known at this time.
Yuneec – Also had introduced their newest model at CES 2016…the Typhoon H. Yuneec was unable to ship the H with the RealSense (obstacle avoidance) until August, 2016 and also had a number of quality control problems with the initial production. A year later the model is priced about $500 less than when announced and finally contains much of the originally promised technology. Yuneec does not seem to be offering anything new in the consumer segment at CES 2017, however they are announcing some upgraded cameras designed for law enforcements, inspection and more. These are designed to fit a similar chassis to the existing H model and will sell for $2500 to $4500
Parrot – is also not announcing anything new or revolutionary at CES. The good news is that Parrot seems to have finally figured out that we (consumers) want a real controller (sticks) to operate our camera drones. They have a new package which is includes the Bebop 2, FPV glasses and a Remote (w/sticks!) – and it’s selling very well. After giving up on Parrot (we had 3 bad experiences with different products), this new setup may just entice us to try again.
Newer Drone Models and or Companies at CES
A number of companies are trying to chase a market for “selfie drones” – a market that we feel is quite small. Many of the companies are basing their models on a pre-built “motherboard” that is provided by Qualcomm. This saves the companies a lot of R&D and development time – however, it also limits the capabilities and features of the models. Here are some of the companies introducing selfie drones:
Note – there are quite a few others including “toy grade” units. In addition, some standard Camera Drones (Mavic Pro, etc.) have software and hardware features designed for selfies. The difference with these models is that they also have many other functions such as fully stabilized video, long distance capabilities, etc.
Summary – There is a lot new in the world of drones – major advances have been made in both the hardware and the rules and regulations in the last 12 months. However, CES itself has not brought anything groundbreaking to the table – rather, it is a showplace for those already selling machines – and/or a wish and a prayer for newer companies to break into the field.
For those who want to do some of their own snooping as to Drone exhibitors at CES, here are some of the less well known companies which displayed there: