After 3 years of not making money on drones, I quit

sUAV technology is now on a plateau, anyone could build a drone to bid a contract, and fooling customer with flight time, or lowering price by incapable hardware. Lily fails, Parrot is cutting jobs, This market is NOT healthy.

Even worse, an average user still crash their DJIs a lot: flying a dji from balcony then flip vertically to the ground, racing drones still use analog modulation to acquire flickering video and crash into trees, false GPS lock for careless pilot and then fly away...  although they are all “pilot error”.

Where to go to have fun? Depends how serious you are.

Now tesla has autopilot, mercedes has E class also doing L2 autopilot, but a $5000+ sedan is way too much comparing a DJI toy, or any rc toy including a turbine jet. Or you can join Udacity course to have a nano degree on this. Well, it depends how serious you want to go, and last but not least, put your ass in a car with a RESET button is not the  flying a drone with RTL switch.

At least you can get a L2 autopilot kit to drive a honda with no hands. Take a look at

But, the elixir for the future, really is deep learning?

Average model hobbyist don’t know what computer architecture is, nor what difference between linux kernel and distro. They want to FPV, thus, they will not have “fun of the future”.


“For the future” you will need at least:

  • ROS capable SOC platform, a raspberry pi 3 is minimal for CPU, jetson from nVidia is de-facto

  • Lidar or TOF camera for depth point cloud, Hokuyo LIDAR, intel RealSense, or old Hokuyo LIDAR, or Garmine Lidar lite with a motor.

  • Machine Learning coding/training experience: depends how nerdy you are. Python based platform is popular, you don’t need to worry about stack overflow at least.

A good starting point will be:

Putting this bunch of $2K hardware for a starter, it’s better to roll on wheels on the ground, and makes more sense for developing initial obstacle avoidance algorithm. Well, driving a car to avoid crash by itself, equals crash it purposely, is the future.

Now the stake has been raised. Are you ready?

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  • ...thanks a lot Chris for creating th

    is f@#&^%g site! we are all addicted now.... :) 

  • Developer

    It's still early days for drones, we are still figuring out what works and what doesn't. So reason says it's also to early to expect a big payout. And up until now the entire industry for some reason has been fixated on the quad platform which we know has limited functionality, only really suitable for amateur stuff. And I guess this is also why DJI has been focusing on the hobbyist marked.

  • I may be barking up the wrong tree (or is that crashing into the wrong tree?) but if I'm reading the heading correctly this post is actually about making money from the drone market. A post-mortem based on the state of the drone market may be obfuscating the reality that engineers and techies in general are not particularly good at running companies in any market ;).

    This isn't a site about business management so I won't preach about the importance of cash flow or marketing or hiring the right people or cutting costs or changing strategies or any one of the million things that are needed to get a company to survive, let alone thrive! Throw this complexity into a chaotic market and, yes, you're going to find it hard to make money. But it's not impossible...

  • @ Jack +1

  • The best way to make money on quad copters is to go on speaking tours about regulation.

  • @Andy you are not talking about reclusive British tech companies fueled by reclusive right wing Billionaires are you? Good point. Maybe this is the first world-changing use of AI! 

  • Developer

    Welcome to the dawn of AI that finally works..
    Great for stopping Drones bumping into things as well as for mercenaries to swing elections!

  • Hi Jerry and Rob,

    There are many parallels to the original personal computer revolution actually begun with a thing called an Altair if any of you have lived long enough to remember that.

    I was directly centered in that whole event.

    The vast majority of the players went broke and some commercial giants emerged Microsoft, Apple and Intel and early on at least IBM.

    And even IBM managed to screw up it's lead and dominance.

    Our whole drone thing is fundamentally a bit more resilient than PC's in that there are opportunities for "players" at a variety of endeavors.

    The horizontal consumer segment will be (has already been) taken over by a few (1) giant commercial enterprise.

    And maybe one or two more will survive to challenge or at least play in it's ballpark but thats it.

    Fortunately there is also a huge opportunity for more specialized and professional applications eG: Rob above certainly representing one of those.

    The niche and vertical markets will keep individual "drone" development viable and interesting for some time yet although there will inevitably be shakeouts in them eventually as well.

    That said, I actually got into this whole thing because of my interest in robots - real autonomous robots.

    The sky was the easiest place to start because it was uncluttered and we could use nice affordable GPS to get around.

    But the ground was always the high ground so to speak and to completely obfuscate the use of metaphors.

    3D vision and environment relative navigation was always my Holy Grail" and like Gerry say's, the time is now.

    I loved going through the heart of the PC revolution, I have gotten a real kick out of participating in the drone revolution and now, finally I am really looking forward to the robot revolution (for how ever many years I have left).

    Really, this is the place to be.

    I'd like to say something political at this point, but that would be too depressing and isn't allowed on this site anyway.

    Best Regards,


  • I disagree that sUAV technology is on a plateau. I believe we are well on Slope of Enlightenment.

    At least, some of us are.

    You are right to some extent, some of the market is stuck down in the Trough of Disillusionment. Small electric quadcopters are pretty much at the peak of development capability, and people are finding that they are have very limited capabilities. Also, so many companies beating each-other over the head on pricing of these systems. Nobody is healthy but DJI.  Most well-funded companies have decided not to produce multirotors anymore, and have shifted their business to the development of software that will process data, with the assumption that their customers will use DJI systems to gather that data.  But the part of the equation they seem to have missed, is that, if you're developing software that has broad market utility, well, DJI is going to do that too.  And they've started to show that with some of their latest offerings.

    However, quite a few more are continuing to develop advanced platforms, that can do incredible things.  Not the common and easy jobs, flying around with little cameras. This market is just getting started.  New applications are developing as we speak.  It's just not happening with small electric multirotors.  

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