It may not be Cooperstown, but the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame is one hell of an honor for the DJI Phantom, the company and its co-founder, Frank Wang. Prepare to feel old. DJI was founded back in 2006 while its co-founder was still a student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
What DJI has managed to accomplish since then is nothing short of remarkable. It was not even close to a sure bet the company would become the dominant force in the consumer and enterprise drone market.
Brian Santo wrote about DJI’s marketing strategy for IEEE Spectrum:
The company needed to identify markets, and in doing so, it took a brilliant tack: It began to catalog the uses not for drones but for flight in general. The list included cinematography, agriculture, energy-sector inspection, infrastructure and construction, and emergency response. Then DJI developed a marketing plan for each of those applications.
It is a brilliant strategy. While the rest of the companies focused on what a camera drone could be used for, DJI concentrated on use cases of aerial photography and videography. Want an aerial shot? Rent a plane or a helicopter. That’s way outside the budget of most people and companies, so strap a camera to a GPS-enabled drone, and you have your market.
DJI continues this today by integrating new sensors and technology like thermal imaging, RTK, and better cameras. On the consumer side, the company always has an answer for the competition. The most prominent example has to be GoPro’s Karma launch being dwarfed by the unveiling of the Mavic Pro. GoPro’s drone fit in a slim backpack, while the Mavic Pro could be stuffed in a front sweatshirt pocket.
As we close out 2018, the Phantom 4 lifecycle has come to an end. It is still the multi-tool of drones. Portable enough to haul around and powerful enough for professional quality shots. All eyes are on what’s to come from the Phantom 5 after the company launched the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom. Interchangeable lenses? 360-degree gimbal? Better portability? It’s doubtful DJI leaves the Phantom 4 Pro on its store as out-of-stock, so expect those questions answered in 2019.
Until then, DJI can take a bow and fans can reminisce the days of the original $629 Phantom. I don’t suppose we can have that pricing back? Let us dream.