We have said before sales figures for consumer drones are hard to come by. Manufacturers keep numbers close to the chest while large research firms sometimes lump consumer drones and industrial drones together when publishing sales reports. We found ourselves discussing drone sales numbers in our office the other day and, as we were jotting down out some notes, we realized this could be as good a guess as any in predicting how many consumer drones have actually been sold and how many we can expect to see fill up our skies in the coming years.
First, a DISCLAIMER: These numbers were pulled from sources and quotes all over the internet. We are mashing up a lot of hearsay and estimates so all the conclusions are pure conjecture.
For this examination, we dealt with the big three of consumer drones: DJI, 3DR, and Parrot.
All the following calculations assume each company sells the same amount of each of their different drones every year. This is obviously not true, as cheaper drones sell in higher numbers, so when we say “average drone price” we mean the average price of the drones they offer not the average price of drones sold. However, we do take into account the release of new drones which, in some cases, does affect the average price.
Still with us? Great. Here we go:
Parrot made $53.35 million from drones in 2013 which, at $300 a drone (average price of AR Drone ~$200 and AR 2.0 ~$400 in 2013), is about 180,000 units. Revenues from drone sales for Parrot tripled in 2014 which, accordingly raises the units moved to 530,000. This takes into account the phasing out of the AR Drone 1 and the release of Parrot’s Mini Drones and the Bebop. Though the Bebop is considerably more expensive than Parrot’s previous drones, it wasn’t released until late 2014 so, it most likely had little effect on our calculation.
However, Parrot expects to triple revenues again in 2015 with a full fleet of drone options on the market with an average price of about $400. This would translate to around 1.1 million units sold in 2015 if all of Parrots drone models sell equally.
DJI is probably the most secretive when it comes to metrics, but we do know DJI’s revenue jumped from $4.2 million in 2011 to $130 million in 2013. The key to this explosion, of course, was the release of the original Phantom at the beginning of 2013. Even if we say DJI’s revenue doubled from 2011 to 2012 (before the release of the Phantom), that leaves a $117.4 million dollar jump thanks to the Phantom. At $1,000 a unit, that is 117,400 Phantoms in the first year.
In March, The Verge reported DJI’s 2014 sales figures were around $500 million which is right around the number analysts had forecasted. Of course, DJI rolled out several more expensive versions of the Phantom as well as new editions of their Spreading Wings systems, driving up the average price of a DJI drone. So the conservative estimation would be DJI moved about 416,000 drones in 2014.
This would mean DJI sold 533,400 Phantoms between the initial launch and the end of 2014.
It’s a very real possibility DJI does $1 billion in sales this year which would put them in position to move 500,000 drones this year alone (taking into account the company’s new, more expensive, offerings).
The last officially reported 3DR sales numbers are from May 2013 and the company had moved 30,000 units. The report said 3DR had posted $5 million in sales in 2012 and was on pace to at least double it.
The final piece of this puzzle is the fact that 3DR didn’t launch their first true ready to fly drones, the IRIS, Y6, and X8 until the last two quarters of 2013. Most of those units in 2013 were drone kits rather than RTF models.
However, if revenues have at least doubled every year as CEO Chris Anderson believes, that means they did $10 million in 2013 and $20 million in 2014 which, at about $750 a drone is 27,000 units in 2014 and would translate to 46,000 units in 2015 – taking into account a slight price increase caused by the release of 3DR’s latest drone, Solo.
This aligns with Anderson’s comment to the Bay Area Business Journal that is company is selling “tens of thousands of unmanned flying vehicles annually.”
By the numbers
So what does this all mean for the future?
Well, it could mean nothing. As I said, this is all conjecture. Tack on the fact that I haven’t had to do any real math since 2007, and you could make the argument that these figures are more based on faith than facts.
But the obvious conclusion is there will be well over 1 million privately owned consumer drones taking off by the end of the year.
Drone Deploy CEO Mike Winn recently said he believes DJI has between a 60-70% share of the prosumer drone market and 3DR has around 10%.
This doesn’t quite match up with our numbers, but it’s not that far off. So, at the very least my calculations can give you a ballpark figure of exactly how crowded the sky is getting.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com