DJI are killing it


I don't want to like DJI for the same reason I don't want to like Apple - I like open systems that can be tinkered with and that a community can work on together to improve in the long term.  But I'm more and more impressed with what they come up with and how they package it.

With all the recent changes between 3dr and APM, can either or both projects regroup to take them on and provide a compelling price/performance alternative?  The solo is great but was too expensive to compete directly against the phantom 3, perhaps this more expensive phantom might actually be a good thing for the solo?  Has DJI already won the consumer market for good?

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  • Do not fear people the DIY juggernaut is still continuing. So many hacks and modifications to APM code still happening. Even the creation of a linux board friendly for drone use (mini-pcie, hdmi-in, gpio) is coming. It exists on the 3DR Solo already, and will eventually be released into the wild for everyone just like the APM boards were.

    Imagine a DIY 2.4ghz digital video + telemetry + comand + control board to compliment the APM/Pixhawk board, connecting to the Tower beta android app.

    Video range will be good, and direct to your tablet, commands and data will be there on screen with button press. It's all on it's way.

    The Phantom obstacle detection isn't that amazing, it is just running a set command on detection based on X-distance. 

    Who needs all this obstacle avoidance anyway? It's nice that it now exists to please the drone haters/critics, but what is important for DIY community is digital video feeds to a tablet/phone/laptop. This Linux board will arrive, and it will be the same price as Raspberry Pi. You only have to add your own mini pcie wifi module, wire antennas, and plug in your gopro. All will be be good.

  • DJI long ago won the consumer market. The only entrants were DJI and Parrot really - and Parrot only went 50% of the way there (usability) while DJI went 70-80% (actually could be used for stated purpose). 

    Sure, there are lots of toy makers and lots of hobby, DIY, research, government and other uav makers and tinkerers - but as to the original premise - the CURRENT consumer electronics drone market - DJI won that with the Phantom 1 and only buttressed it since. This is not opinion but is borne out by sales numbers, company valuation and other metrics. 

    Comparing DJI and 3DR is/was silly but the 3DR folks and the media did it. They love to portray everything as a competition whether or not it is. It's not apple and oranges. It's more like apples and acorns. 3DR, for whatever reasons, thought they could make it to the billionaires club. It wasn't about open source. It was about billions. That kind of money can make a lot of people have ridiculous assumptions, dreams and goals...and it did.

    From my business persons armchair - that's all over and done with. Water over the dam as they say. But I suppose if your chair is at the top of the dam or the bottom or your finger is in the dike - it may look different depending on one's POV and place in the cogs and gears.

    In an industry like this we can only look ahead a year or two. But I'd opine that  DJI will see 75% or more of the sales of $600-$2000 multirotors with the remainder going to Yuneec, Parrot (I actually hardly consider them in the same league) and then a bunch of very small volume newbies (Autel, ProDrone, Xiro, etc.).

    In numbers that means DJI may sell 1.25 million units in that price range in 2016 while all the others combined sell 250,000. 

    The "what is our community doing wrong" question seems the wrong one to ask....or at least need clarified as to what the goals are? That's probably a long discussion but it might start with whether all the injected (free, others peoples , Venture Capitalist) money was actually a good thing! While lots of people can point to lots of money received for development, you have to remember that there was a single reason for that money being given to 3DR (and then some to the wider community) and that was the desire of many people to profit greatly. That's what venture capital is.

    Probably fodder for another thread. But if the open source community grew organically and if 3DR didn't take the moon shot things would probably look very different. 

    Even then - to deliver the "secret sauce" of integration that DJI does would be largely impossible given the amount of time, money and personnel it would require. As Darrell made note of, it's a matter of "chipping away" at vast numbers of complex you get to each one...and then moving onto the next and the next. I don't think leapfrogging is possible which is why even the P3 and P4 are evolutions, not revolutions. 

    This may be my opinion - but a project like that requires very strong and visionary leaders who are ready to apply themselves and their core teams for year after year without wavering. DJI CEO is known for being demanding (almost beyond belief) and they have also worked closely with heavy-duty mentors and other support systems (Technical Universities, etc.).

    Also - when it is all said and done - if DJI can manufacture as many or more of that particular type of mass produced model as the market desires, what would be the reasoning behind another company or group trying to duplicate that?

    I guess we could write a book...

  • I personally love the pixhawk and after owning a P3P for a long time I sold it. While the P4 is cool, if you look at it past the wow factor you'll notice the image recognition software needs a year of development to work good enough and that the sense and avoid is limited as well. Leaves you with a P3P. Makes absolutely great videos, but not very fun or all that advanced yet. (Not to mention the legs + transportation issues of the phantom design).

    What I'm missing to go from a pixhawk to a next gen platform though is an integration between the flight controller, video processing and transmission capabilities. SOLO offers some of it but its hard to integrate elsewhere, so basically, it's the wrong balance for me. I'd want a pixhawk-like board that I can hack on and contribute to because I'd actually use it (and yes I contributed to the ardupilot code in the past, would again).

    It's probably difficult times for 3DR - they have to come up with a compelling alternative, and if they kill the opensourceness of their products they'll probably just lose everything they have accomplished so far and their userbase trust (which will buy the already established phantoms, thank you very much).

    Not only that, but at the other end of the spectrum things like cleanflight are getting pretty good as well, and cheaper, easier to use than ardupilot.

    Basically, from my engineer armchair (well, I wish I had one actually..) if I was 3DR, I'd re-focus and try to think completely out of the box.

  • When people compare DJI and what 3DR started it's like apples and oranges. 3DR came from the 'maker' type of thinking where open source and community synergy is the fuel that creates many different things. One of the things it created is the direction they are now heading. Another thing that created is the community that continues to do many different things. It's a win win really and a fascinating bit of history. 

    DJI on the other hand concentrated on one thing, a mass produced consumer level drone to make profit. Many people here may not be aware of how badly they faltered on many of their efforts. They are still held in serious disdain in the professional community where their flight controllers damaged a lot of very expensive equipment and they rarely even acknowledged customers, let alone taking any responsibility. How many of their products just flew away never to be seen again? We all know the joke about where 'Return to Home' is for DJI products. But they chipped away at it and indeed they now have some very solid advanced products and most consumers could care less about the past so they are very successful. 

    Have you ever tried to get a DJI flight controller or software to control a boat, plane or do serious research? APM was doing that long before DJI even thought of it. Have you ever tried to modify or confirm that DJI software is working correctly? Good luck. But no issue at all with Ardupilot/Arducopter.

    DJI has done some very smart things that IMHO will make them impossible to compete with in their section of the market IMHO. But they can't compete at all with what 3DR spawned which to me is much more important in the overall scheme of things. Companies that make 'things' come and go. Initiatives like 3DR supported over the years  support cultural development that lasts forever, benefit us all and make their mark on history. 

  • I personally prefer the barrier of entry inherent in open systems.  If you're focused on consumer-grade demands, you'll get consumer-grade solutions.  This isn't a bad thing, it's incredibly valuable and difficult to get widespread adoption with this advanced tech.  That being said, the Phantom 4 contains nothing that hasn't been accomplished years ago, they simply (not really simple at all though) put it in a pretty and easy-to-use package.  They're pushing the state of the art for the masses, but they aren't pushing the technology aside from adoption rates.  I hope there isn't an inferiority complex with this community simply because we choose not to overly focus on "dumbing it down".  That gets boring fast...

  • What is our community doing wrong? The code was pretty functional I think, ( both ground station and autopilot). It is without a doubt still preferable to me to use pixhawk than any DJI controller. Mr. Randy, Mr. Tridgell and all others are doing a great job. Do we lack hardware-side or system side (like compatible /efficient / compact modules, frames etc) developers?

    I am interested in this market since my childhood but now I'm getting tired of dealing with cables, compatibility issues, having to flashing modules (like rx, or osd etc.) Of course there is Solo but it still do not offer that much and not quite open project.

    I was planning to start a new discussion but let me ask it here; what is lacking in open source community to offer a complete packet solution like DJI does? (not only software or controller side, I am implying a packet solution that has compatible modules and that has compact (closed/wires are hidden, plug&play etc)form.

    Does it not among one of the aims of the project?

    Is there lack of qualified contributors?

    Insufficient funds?

    Summary: why do we not have a complete system that has compact form, all wires are hidden/absent, that contains sensors (at least empty sensor spaces) to avoid obstacles, navigates indoors (and software to accomplish it)?

  • Interesting post and I feel compelled to offer an opinion. It appears that the experiment of “free” is coming to an end. 3DR’s approach of product development initially involved rallying the community together, obtaining the best minds around the world to produce a working platform. Strategically, this was a clever business approach and the community essentially offered product support too, for free!

    But operating in a free market has its challenges. As companies like 3DR grow, so does their need to be competitive. Market forces requires competitive advantages such as product quality, capability and price to remain relevant. With that comes intellectual property. By releasing IP to the open community, you lose your competitive advantage. It is no surprise that 3DR has chosen the direction to separate.

    Some people in the community now may feel a little disheartened by recent events, but it had to happen sooner or later. They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. I guess that is partly true. The important thing for the community now is to use this opportunity to start a new chapter and drive development, open and unrestricted. The community owns the technology for the benefit of the community.

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