Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd has established a strong early lead in the U.S. commercial market as companies turn to its inexpensive, light-weight flying devices for a host of uses from shooting films to mapping and site inspections.
Sixty-one of the 129 companies that received regulatory approval to use unmanned aircraft are using DJI drones, or 47 percent, far ahead of its nearest rival, a Reuters review of federal records as of April 9 shows. Nearly 400 other companies, more than half of the 695 businesses still awaiting approval, have applied to use DJI drones.
Shenzhen-based DJI, whose best-selling Phantom 2 Vision+ drone retails for around $1,200 in the United States, estimates that it already has about 70 percent of the commercial market worldwide and a larger portion of the consumer market.
DJI accounted for about a third of the roughly 50 exemptions granted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from last September through mid-March. But it has claimed just over half of the 89 exemptions received since then.
Founded in 2006 by Chinese entrepreneur Frank Wang, DJI generated nearly $500 million in revenue in 2014, up from $130 million in the prior year. It expects to exceed $1 billion in sales this year.