Model Inspire One of DJI, screenshot from DJI official website.
Shenzhen-based DJI Innovations, a creative technology company which owns 70 percent of the global civilian-use small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) market, has experienced explosive growth recently, now having 2,800 employees.
As the global leader in UAS, DJI's sales grew 79-fold over the past three years to top out at 800 million yuan (US$130 million) in 2013. It was expected that its sales would grow more than three-fold in 2014.
Frank Wang, who founded DJI in 2006, is a fan of drones. He studied drone suspension technologies as a postgraduate student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and founded DJI with three others after graduation.
At an exhibition in 2011, Wang came up with an idea to use camera drones to replace aerial photographers who had to use helicopters after learning that Hollywood production companies usually hired helicopters at rates of around US$20,000 per hour.
"I thought: ‘Why can't we have a solution to replace manned helicopters with unmanned drones to save costs?'" recalled Wang.
DJI first started doing business in overseas markets and gradually expanded its sales to the Chinese market.
In 2013, DJI placed the latest upgraded version of its Phantom series of aerial drones on sale on the e-commerce website Tmall and it's now working to expand its business abroad. In July 2014, it began expanding its overseas and e-commerce distribution channels, including adding 12 aerial photography suppliers in North America.
Compared with foreign brands, DJI's main selling point lies in the low prices of its products.
Some of the drones that were introduced in 2014 sold for between 3,000 and 5,000 yuan.
"Market share is our top consideration, then come profits," said Wang, adding that the company holds a technology inventory for developing new devices over the next two to three years.
With DJI's success, some domestic drone companies are also trying to manufacture UAS devices to be used to take aerial photographs.