suavc_logo_350.pngFrom USA Today article Drone coalition splits as DJI, GoPro faction quits.

SAN FRANCISCO — The national group that represents companies that make and sell drones has split, with those focused on consumers leaving to form their own organization.

Four drone companies left the Small UAV Coalition on Thursday. They are China-based DJI, French-based Parrot, San Mateo, Calif.-based GoPro and Berkeley, Calif.-based 3DR.

UAV stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

While still tightly aligned with the coalition on big issues, the break-away companies plan to create a still-unnamed group to very specifically focus on consumer issues, said GoPro spokesman Jeff Brown.

As the drone market matures, a shifting of needs was inevitable. Larger companies such as Amazon’s Prime Air, Alphabet’s Google X and others are looking more at drones for delivery, cargo and more commercial uses. Consumers have gravitated to using drones for photography, racing and just to play with.

“We think there are going to be millions of consumers that fly these, and that are focused on safe and responsible fight, and we want to make sure that the regulations track with them,” said Brown.

DJI and the other three companies all joined the Coalition about a year ago, "so it was a natural time to review where we were going,” said Adam Lisberg, spokesman for DJI Technology, the world’s largest drone manufacturer.

“We consider the Small UAV Coalition to be allies and friends. But the business is growing so big that we thought we would most benefit  from a group focused on the issues that are important to small drone manufacturers and our customers,” said Lisberg.

Many of the regulatory issues that surround drones are beginning to diverge, as the FAA makes a distinction between pleasure and commercial use. However the final outlines of what the rules will look like is still far from clear.

“The issues for our customers are about where and how average people can fly small drones,” Lisberg said.

The split was not unexpected and was very amicable, said Michael Drobac with the law firm of Akin Gump in Washington D.C. He is the spokesperson for the Small UAV Coalition.

“We wish them incredibly well in their work and we remain committed as a coalition to what we believe is going to be an incredibly vibrant commercial marketplace,” he said.

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  • OK, this concerted move was suspicious but today it's clear what they want to do :

  • There are other outfits out there that never really get discussed, like AirWare. They're after Enterprise business and are succeeding. When you get John Chambers on board you suddenly have a ton of access to serious business markets. These companies selling consumer drones has been great for the industry, but selling hardware that falls out of the sky is an expensive business to operate. How much do they lose on customer support or returns? Going Enterprise means 80/20 > 80% revenue comes from 20% of clients instead of the opposite with consumer. 

    IMHO, I think they also know that there will be market saturation like with GoPro, and competitors will suck up what's left. Yuneec, for example, is definitely on the rise. You don't want to be a drone only company like GoPro was a camera only company. 

  • I imagine Gopro was there as a drone manufacturer (soon) rather than as a camera company :

    But I agree it's not completely clear why they gathered lobby-style.

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  • Moderator

    My guess is that they have spotted this group has achieved nothing.... Wrong people in the wrong place saying the wrong things. Ask yourselves, why was GoPro even there.... Oh yes for their extensive drone and aviation knowledge (not) If GoPro were there representing you why not Canon, more people here do real work not play play look at me GoPro shots with Canon gear.

    Personally I don't see how GP can beat the Phantom 4 with their first ever offering.

  • Developer

    My guess is that one or more of the the big companies in the group, wanted some change that did not sit well with the smaller and/or consumer oriented companies.

    The big players like Amazon, Google etc. does not want private or small business UAS operations to be possible, since it will hinder their ability to 'monetize' the small UAS (below 400 feet) flight zone.

  • I think you're over thinking it Ben.

  • Interesting move, especially as 3DR said it will stop to fight Dji on the consumer market, and focus on the corporate market.

    We'll see, but it seem that by leaving the UAV coalition Dji is also aiming to target the corporate market.

    But this sudden move of 4 companies at the same time is surprizing, they are supposed to be concurrents (at least Dji and 3DR), but this looks more like a concerted move.

    Is 3DR trying to be bought by Dji ? Could there be a complementarity between the two companies ? Buying an american company could maybe help Dji to penetrate the corporate drone market, and the big players for non-consumers drones are almost all american (Google, Amazon etc).

    Given the difficulties encountered by 3DR with the Solo, being sold to Dji could be a way for the stakeholders to limit the loss. Notice that 3DR reorganized itself recently, reduced its empoyee number and closed several locations, which is not uncommon before this type of operation.

    Remember that 3DR had two years ago hired Dji Innovations' CEO Colin Guinn, who could have played a role in this.

    All of this is purely hypothetical, only future will tell, but I'm trying to make sense of all the recent news regarding 3DR.

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