DJI targeting the commercial market again

For a long time DJI has sort of forgotten the commercial market, apart from filmmakers.

With the announcement of the DJI A3, however, it is offering a very compelling product.


Here is a list of features I think are important for the commercial market:

  • Triple redundancy, both in GPS and IMUs. Pixhawk won't arm if IMUs mismatch, but if one fails in flight how do you know which reading is correct? (I would like to see some CPU fault tolerance since NAZAs have been known to freeze causing crashes)
  • Motor fail tolerance. I am guessing this also has a lot to do with ESCs that actually give feedback to the Flight Controller as opposed to only reading a PWM input.
  • RTK GPS support (this one is already supported on Pixhawk so I guess Pixhawk wins the battle here, but we'll see how well it works)
  • Lightbridge 2. High bandwidth, low latency, digital communication. (I don't know why they are also offering Datalink Pro with <1Ghz frequency when Lightbridge is so advanced already.)
  • Ground station support. (This one is a must, but was almost forgotten with the A2 and the outdated DJI Ground Station for windows and iPad.)

Now I am in now way affiliated with DJI and I am actually a supporter of Dronecode and Open Source in general.

However, this announcement makes me rethink whether Dronecode based drones will continue to be the best option for any business operating drones.

I, personally, have been using a Phantom 2 for surveying for 2 years now and have sold mods of it for surveying work and they have worked great (not that I had problems on the Pixhawks either). But I think the refinement and ease of use will be really compelling for anyone except the OS fans like us. 

Now, of course the main thing going on for Dronecode and 3DR, and the reason I won't buy another Phantom, is the versatility of Open Source based drones. But if (big IF) DJI gets a decent SDK they might be a very solid option even for people with custom needs.

I am sure we will see some serious competition soon between 3DR and DJI which I think will benefit everyone, 3DR will have to keep up with the relentless upgrade path DJI is taking right now. I would be quite nervous if I were 3DR, since matching the technology used in DJI products will require vasts amount of time and money (the Lightbdridge alone is quite remarkable with OFDM) and they don't have the super profitable consumer products DJI has.

I do wish they'll keep up since they (together with this community) make the drones I've had the best time developing with.

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  • @Rob L. Well actually DJI spec their power systems to have enough redundancy to cope with a motor failure. For example an E1200 powered S900 hex certainly will have enough power to maybe fly on 4 of six motors with a typical payload but an A2 or Pixhawk will likely not keep it under control if it loses the wrong 2 motors. Again, be curious to see more on this.

  • Rob, I am as much a fan of AP as you are :) but when it comes to fast forward flight my cousin usually loughs his ass off of AP and demonstrates how his 780ish quad can travel 100s of meters only about 2 meters off the ground while he holds his TX with one hand and gives full front pitch. 

  • Rob, maybe it also has to do with the fact that the frame of the Phantom is always the same, whereas in the A2 and Pixhawk it varies, so you can't compensate cabin pressurization easily.

    In the Phantom 4, which flies faster, there are also reports of the drone falling about 1 meter when it stops

  • Oh, and Artem, even the mighty DJI is not immune to the reality of baro sensor falsing due to airflow.  If you have not had a problem, it is just due to luck.  Plenty of others have with DJI, particularly with the A2.  There are entire threads about it.

    In fact, it's funny, because those guys point to Ardupilot and ask "If they can do it, why can't DJI?!"

  • The multi-motor-failure is probably a bit of a red herring.  It depends 100% on the airframe.  Most heavy-lift airframes are not capable of flying after a motor failure.  They just don't have the extra thrust overhead.  Now, keeping the airframe, upright, instead of rolling over, is going to help reduce damage.  But I fear that many people will just ASSUME that their system is completely fault-resistant just because it has 6-8 motors.  

    Fact is, a dodecacopter will crash if it loses a motor and doesn't have enough thrust margin.

  • I do not believe that DJI is able to get into industrial applications. DJI has a very big problem: Lack of Support! Small and medium-sized manufacturers enjoy at least here in Germany a much higher reputation, because there are People which can help and not only marketing profis. Who ever calls in Germany DJI for help is knowing what I'm talking about. But I do not know if that also applies in other countries.

  • I agree. I have been involved in decisions as to what FC to use for a number of platforms to carry expensive IR systems that have to do little more than fly patterns over industrial roofs. Pixhawk is being used now but if they have sorted out the issues that plagued the A2 it would be hard not to consider it. One hopes their no fly zones software is not operating on this (and I do not think it is).

    A new thing that is impressive with the A3 is the alleged ability of survive multi-motor failure by giving up on fixed yaw (presuming you have enough thrust in your remaining motors). To me that is a big deal. It would be nice to see this in Ardupilot but I am not sure we will any time soon.

    Also, when you are really using these in the field for work it is nice to just have pieces that interconnect with molex connectors.

    Think I will wait to see if this proves itself.

  • This is a pretty solid offering from DJI.  In combination with their SDK, it's a pretty compelling solution for professional multirotor use.  There are two things that will make or break this.

    1) Geo Fencing.  I don't understand all the details of their geofencing, but I see a lot of complaints.  Simply put, professional operators will not tolerate a system which prevents them from doing their job.

    2) Reliability.  The A2 system was plagued with problems when it launched.  I don't think all of the problems were ever fixed.  In some ways, it seemed like A2 customers were paying beta-testers for Phantom software.  If this situation repeats with the A3, it will be very bad, as the A2 as nearly banned from commercial use in several countries (the few where regulators were actually paying attention).

  • No you can't. There is a difference between mandatory no-fly zones and the geo fencing beta. Only in the geo fencing you can self authorise a warning zone for 24h, but then you're information is stored that you requested that and that is information can be relayed to the law enforcements.  So, I would say that especially (the newer) dji copters are not the ones that cause this mayhem


  • You can switch off that geofencig on DJI drones ;)

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