As a “thought experiment” today I wondered how many camera drones have been sold worldwide in the last 3+ years. I quickly put fingers to keyboard and made some wild guesses which turned out as follows.
The time frame for these sales is 2014 onward – being as that was arguably the start of the “consumer camera drone” market. I also excluded models which were sold without a camera and/or gimbal (Phantom 1, Blade 350QX, etc.). Only units under $2K are listed.
My “back of the envelope” results look like this:
These numbers line up fairly well with other estimates. Highlight of the data:
- 2.5 BILLION dollars at retail of consumer camera drones have been sold.
- DJI may have sold 80% of the DOLLAR amount – at retail.
- Yuneec is the ONLY other company with more than 5% of the sales volumes at retail dollars.
If these numbers are even close to correct, it shows the folly of the many bloggers and industry pundits who claim that this market contains any competition for DJI. Bloggers and others who follow the industry, like sports announcers, like to paint the market as a “horse race” or “war” – when, in fact, it’s the equiv. of comparing the US Military strength to that of other countries.
Many of us hope…and wish…that there were a number of drone companies pushing the technology forward. But, despite our hopes, the past couple of years have not borne the fruit we expected. Toy companies (Yuneec, Parrot) and DIY Shops (3DR) have failed to bring groundbreaking technology to the marketplace and therefore have had to rely on small scraps of the market. It is very unlikely that these scraps will provide enough in revenue and profits for the runners-up to bound into the heart of the marketplace.
More likely any true competitor to DJI will have to come from a new firm or an effort tied to the robotics R&D being done at Google, Apple, Amazon and other large technology companies. We have passed the point where “good enough” is good enough or where a couple hobbyists in a garage are going to bring the Next Big Thing.
Note – many of the numbers from other experts will not line up with ours…not because either are wrong, but because of the criteria being stated. For example, if we were discussing the numerical count of drones, Parrot would score much higher than they do when $$ are counted.
We are always open to hearing rebuttal to our numbers.
A slightly different perspective is in this recent article by NVdrones.
To illustrate how misleading all of these numbers can be, let’s take one result from their poll:
“20% of pilots say they own one 3DR Drone”. That number is 10X the market % (in $$) of 3DR in this field….so how can that be? 3D Robotics is all but “out of business” at this point and has lost and left the consumer drone market.
This discrepancy can be explained in this manner. 3DR was popular with the early DIY (build your own drone) crowd in the 2011-2013 period. As is admitted in the article, the Pilots referring to 3DR were not referring to a 3DR camera drone, but rather to a Flight Controller which was open source and may have been bought from 3DR (probably long ago). Also, NVdrones makes beta software for “drone fleet management” and, as such, their beta testers are likely to be a “geek” subset of those who are actually flying camera drones (for money or otherwise).
Counting Drones falls under the heading of the Blind Men and the Elephant. What you “feel” depends on which part you are in touch with!