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Key Trends Among the Major Drone Companies

Hi there! Drones are taking over the skies for both personal and commercial use. From photographers to farmers, drones are proving useful across so many industries.

In this article, I‘ll walk you through the 10 largest drone companies worldwide. We‘ll explore what each one manufactures, their target markets, top models, and more. I‘ll also share key insights into the drone industry overall as we recap the major players. Let‘s get started!

1. DJI – $15 Billion Valuation

First up is DJI, the dominant drone brand you‘ve likely heard of or even flown yourself! Founded in 2006 and based in Shenzhen, China, DJI is the world‘s #1 consumer drone maker with over 70% market share.

DJI‘s annual revenues exceeded $2.7 billion in 2017, up from just $1.6 billion in 2015. That‘s some rapid growth! DJI drones are found everywhere from Walmart shelves to professional film sets.

The company makes ready-to-fly drones for everyone from hobbyists to cinematographers. Flagship models include:

  • Phantom – The most popular DJI line starting at $999 for aerial photography.
  • Inspire 2 – A high-end $2,999 drone for pros with interchangeable cameras.
  • Mavic – Foldable drones starting at $719 for travel and portability.
  • Spark – DJI‘s cheapest drone yet at $399 for casual users and kids.

DJI keeps users hooked with a steady stream of new feature and accessory releases. For example, the Mavic Air added 8GB of internal storage and 32MP panoramic photos. Partnerships with companies like Hasselblad also let DJI tout pro-grade cameras.

No wonder DJI is the Apple of drones! They make UAV technology easy and accessible for everyone from hobbyists to Hollywood directors.

2. Parrot – $143 Million Revenue

Next up is Parrot, founded much earlier than DJI in 1994. These French wireless product wizards didn‘t enter the drone game until 2010. But their AR.Drone quadcopter was an instant hit as one of the first drones controlled by smartphones.

Parrot offers both leisure and business drones today. Top consumer models include:

  • Anafi – Foldable 4K camera drone at $699.
  • Bebop 2 – Drone with 1080p camera and 25 minute flight time for $599.
  • Mambo FPV – Fun mini racing drone for only $179.

For commercial use, Parrot makes solutions for inspection, mapping, and security. Their advanced camera and software packages cater perfectly to fields like construction, mining, and agriculture.

Unfortunately, Parrot bowed out of the consumer drone market in 2018 after being unable to keep pace with DJI‘s growth. Their revenues dropped from a peak of $200 million in 2015 down to $143 million in 2017. But their commercial drones continue to deliver robust capabilities for serious business use.

3. Yuneec – $60 Million Revenue

Yuneec, founded in China in 1999, is another major DJI rival making both recreational and professional drones. Some of their most popular models include:

  • Typhoon H Plus – Hexacopter with 4K camera and 25 minutes of flight for $1,299.
  • Tornado H920 – Commercial mapping hexacopter with 40 minute endurance.
  • Breeze – Selfie drone targeted at social media users for just $299.

In 2016, Yuneec received a nice investment of $60 million from Intel Capital to advance their R&D and manufacturing. Today they boast over 1,000 employees.

While Yuneec hasn‘t unseated DJI, their drones consistently offer competitive features at lower price points than DJI which appeals to many hobbyists. And their early focus on commercial drones gives Yuneec an edge in that market.

4. Autel Robotics – $49 Million Funding

Founded in 2014, Washington-based Autel Robotics is a rising star among drone startups. Unlike 3DR, Yuneec, and Parrot who all started with hobbyist drones, Autel focused only on commercial and enterprise solutions right from the beginning.

Today, Autel caters to both consumers and professionals:

Consumer drones:

  • Evo II – 40 minute flight time and 8K camera for $1,500.
  • Evo Lite+ – Portable 4K drone for $949.

Commercial drones:

  • X-Star Premium – Professional aerial photography quadcopter for $2,999.
  • Evo 2 Dual – Built on the Evo II but with an extra camera for thermal imaging.

Backed by over $49 million in funding so far, Autel is winning business from industrial inspection, public safety organizations, and drone enthusiasts who appreciate the company‘s end-to-end solutions.

Look for Autel to keep on pushing innovation as they aim for the top. Their early bet on commercial and enterprise drones could pay off big.

5. 3D Robotics – $125 Million Funding

Founded in 2009, 3D Robotics (3DR) was an early pioneer in the consumer and DIY drone space. Their first drones were assembly kits aimed at hobbyists. But 3DR hit it big when they launched the Solo drone in 2015:

  • Smart drone with advanced computing onboard.
  • User-friendly software suite for easy piloting.
  • Over $100 million invested in the Solo‘s development.

The Solo was poised to compete with DJI‘s growing Phantom line. But manufacturing issues resulted in delayed shipments and several recalls that damaged 3DR‘s rep. DJI pulled far ahead as 3DR struggled.

By 2016, 3DR pivoted to focus exclusively on commercial drones for agriculture, construction, mining and more. Some of their top professional drones today include:

  • Site Scan – Mapping and analytics solution designed for construction sites.
  • Soil Scout – Fixed-wing ag drone that can scan 100 acres in 12 minutes.
  • X8-M – Rugged octocopter built for industrial inspections.

Having raised over $125 million to date, 3D Robotics keeps pushing UAV innovation through partnerships focused on advancing drone tech.

6. EHang – $83 Million Funding

Next up is EHang, a Chinese drone manufacturer with one of the most futuristic roadmaps in the industry. EHang wows audiences at tech shows with footage of their autonomous air taxis in flight.

While their long-term vision is passenger drones buzzing around cities, EHang‘s current drone models are aimed at:

  • Aerial photography
  • Surveying and mapping
  • Emergency response
  • Cargo transport

Their flagship drones include:

EHang 184 – Single-seat passenger drone able to transport a person autonomously for short flights.

Falcon AAV – Quadcopter for industrial inspection, search/rescue, and other commercial applications.

EHang has raised $83 million to date including a $42 million Series B round in 2018. The funding fuels their ongoing R&D into eco-friendly, intelligently piloted drones.

Exciting times ahead if EHang can successfully launch urban air taxi services down the road!

7. senseFly – $22 Million Funding

For surveying, mapping, and data analytics, one top commercial drone maker is senseFly. Founded in Switzerland in 2009, senseFly‘s fixed-wing drones include:

  • eBee X – Survey drone that can scan 500 acres in a single flight.
  • eBee TAC – Made for precision agriculture with multispectral sensors.
  • eBee SQ – Drone with security and thermal live-streaming cameras.

In 2012, senseFly was acquired by Parrot Group to become their commercial drone subsidiary. Their drones now integrate with Parrot‘s advanced software analytics suites.

By keeping drones extremely lightweight (under 1.5 lb), senseFly aims to maximize flight times and efficiency when mapping or modeling remote areas.

To date, senseFly has secured over $22 million in funding to expand their commercial drone reach. Their drones have surveyed terrain across six continents for enterprises in agriculture, construction, oil/gas, and more.

8. Kespry – $55.5 Million Funding

Silicon Valley-based Kespry is another commercial drone provider focused on aerial data analytics solutions. Their systems include:

  • Kespry 2.0 – Automated survey and mapping drone.
  • Kespry Cloud – Platform for storing, managing, and analyzing drone data.
  • Kespry Insights – Built-in tools to turn drone data into business intelligence.

Unlike other commercial drone players, Kespry promises clients a complete end-to-end solution. Their drones fly autonomously while proprietary software produces analytic reports for decision making.

Initially seeded by $2.35 million from Google Ventures, Kespry has now raised over $55.5 million in VC funding to date. Their "drones as a service" model is resonating with major enterprises.

Look for Kespry to keep delivering easy-to-use drone intelligence as they expand across industries seeking aerial insights.

9. PrecisionHawk – $29 Million Funding

Founded in Canada in 2010 and now headquartered in North Carolina, PrecisionHawk provides drone tech for businesses seeking large-scale enterprise solutions.

Their systems are designed to integrate into a company‘s IT infrastructure for data collection, analysis, and safety across the entire organization. PrecisionHawk platforms include:

  • Lancaster – Enables companies to plan, control, and process drone data.
  • DataMapper – Photo processing software to quickly generate actionable maps and 3D models.
  • Flight Horizon – Cloud-based drone fleet management and compliance tracking.

To date, PrecisionHawk has raised $29 million in funding from venture capital backers. Their growth mirrors the booming demand for drone intelligence across agriculture, insurance, energy, and other commercial sectors.

10. AeroVironment – $271 Million Revenue

Founded way back in 1971, AeroVironment helped pioneer modern drone tech. Initially building drones for military and defense clients, they have since crossed over into the commercial drone arena.

Their commercial UAV lineup includes:

  • Quantix Recon – Hybrid drone that launches vertically but flies horizontally for efficient mapping.
  • VAPOR Helicopter – 55 pound helicopter drone with gimbaled EO/IR camera suite.
  • AV DSS – A cloud-based data analysis platform designed for AeroVironment‘s proprietary sensors.

In addition, AeroVironment continues to manufacture tactical drones for military groups like the U.S. Army. Their small but powerful models like the Raven and Puma provide frontline aerial surveillance.

With over 45 years perfecting smart drones and sensors, AeroVironment delivers advanced aviation systems to enterprises and governments worldwide. In fiscal year 2021, their total revenue exceeded $271 million.

After surveying the top 10 largest drone manufacturers worldwide, we can highlight several key trends:

  • Market bifurcation – Many drone makers now focus on either consumer or commercial markets, not both. DJI dominates the recreational space while enterprise drones remain more fragmented.

  • China‘s growth – Chinese companies like DJI and EHang are experiencing massive growth, enabled by ready access to supply chains and engineering talent.

  • VC funding abounds – Drone startups have attracted billions in venture capital, especially those pursuing commercial applications.

  • Defense crossover – Early military drone developers like AeroVironment now look to civilian uses for UAVs. Their deep expertise transfers well.

  • Advancing technology – Improvements in areas like battery life, AI software, and computer vision allow new innovations in drone capabilities.

  • Automation & analytics – Commercial drone providers increasingly tout end-to-end solutions from autonomous flight to data processing and analytics.

  • Consolidation ahead? – There may be acquisitions as growth slows and remaining players seek to build market share. Parrot acquiring senseFly is one example.

Exciting times are ahead in the drone industry! Let me know if you have any other questions.