Why Consumerization Is Great for Commercial Drones: Lessons Learned from Apple, Google, and DJI

By Mike Winn, CEO and co-founder, DroneDeploy

DJI is currently winning the drone wars. Not only have they captured the lion’s share of the market, but in just one year they have also managed to release an entire product line —from consumer to enterprise— where other manufacturers have failed to launch even a single popular drone.

DJI’s strategy is not a new one. It has been used before by technology giants like Apple and Google to create products that people love whether they are consumer or business users. It’s a common practice in today’s technology market, but it’s something many companies haven’t been able to reproduce.

Building on a Base of Technology: How DJI Moves So Fast

The impact of consumer-originated technology on the enterprise is something that can’t be ignored. Enterprises want to take advantage of these powerful, yet easy-to-use products, and put them to work on the job. DJI knows this. That’s why they have adopted a model that provides a similar experience to both consumer and business users. DJI’s popular consumer models have become the base technology platform of the premium models.

By building on top of their existing technology platform, DJI can fast-track development and benefit from economies of scale. By migrating the successful technology stack and feature set up market, DJI never has to reinvent the wheel—just improve upon the original design, and save engineering cycles for real innovation.

Consumerization of IT: Parallels to Other Industries

Consumerization is not a new trend. It’s something we have seen across other industries, where an initial consumer product such as the iPhone becomes the de facto enterprise solution. Remember when the Blackberry was considered the only phone suitable for the enterprise? That’s obviously no longer the case.

Changes happen fast in technology, especially software. When consumers find a new technology or service they love, they are quick to integrate it into their professional lives. Box, Google Apps, and Salesforce were all products originally designed for consumers or small businesses. But as they were adopted at scale and gradually matured, they provided better experiences and ease of use, and quickly overtook the reigning “enterprise solutions”.

DJI has infiltrated the entire drone market from consumer to enterprise. And just like Google, Salesforce, or Box, their enterprise offering is based on the same core technology as their consumer models. That’s not to say that enterprise drone models like the Matrice 200 don’t provide unique and powerful features. They do. Capabilities like built-in RTK GPS systems, IP43 rugged protection, and dual gimbals are major differentiators from consumer models like the Mavic Pro. But they have more in common than you might think.

Sharing Core Technology: Efficient Development at a Lower Cost

While the Mavic looks different than the Matrice 200, it shares a base platform of technology including redundancy in magnetometers, accelerometer, barometers, downward and front facing cameras and sonar, 7km range, and 1080P transmission, smart batteries—the list goes on.

The features shared by the Mavic and Matrice 200 are great for enterprise customers who are seeking a more advanced product that shares the usability and reliability originally developed and tested for consumers at scale. Enterprises benefit from this consumerized technology. It requires less training and is built to be foolproof, reducing the room for human error and the time and risk to integrate the new technology across their company.

That said, a product like the Mavic can’t meet every enterprise’s needs. There are plenty of features that have been upgraded on the Inspire and Matrice series models to address enterprise pain points including additional cameras, larger batteries, and an upward facing collision sensor. But when you think about development costs, it’s easy to see why DJI can efficiently release new product lines to meet the emerging needs of a fast-growing market.

Consumerization Benefits the End User: Average Joe and CEO

The Matrice 200 is the bigger brother of the Mavic. It’s got the same DNA and the same user experience, plus new features that make it more useful for businesses. The same principle of consumerization also applies to software. Individuals using DroneDeploy’s drone mapping software platform for $99 per month benefit from the same platform and DNA as our enterprise users.

A shared core technology benefits all users and enables companies to scale the best experiences to everyone. Enterprise customers get the added simplicity and usability of the consumer product that has been built to meet the demands of thousands of customers around the world. The average individual pilot gets to benefit from the reliability and scalability inherent in the product and demanded by enterprise users.

In my time at Google, one of the things we were proud of was our ability to deliver the same experience to the everyman as to the President of the US. What other products can do that?

The best technologies address the needs of individuals and businesses alike, while also solving problems across industries. The Matrice 200 is a horizontal machine. In some senses, it appears to be designed for inspection, but the RTK GPS system makes it an attractive tool for surveyors and construction as well. And dual cameras combined with long range capabilities could make it a compelling search and rescue tool. I expect that it will rise to the challenge of many use cases in the next year.

Onward and Upward: Creating a Scalable Drone Platform for the Future

What lessons can we learn from market leaders like Apple, Google, and DJI? To be successful, technology products need to provide users with reliable, usable, and scalable solutions to their problems. You shouldn’t have to reinvent your product every year, you should be improving on the success you’ve already created—constantly upgrading your offering for everyone who may find your product useful.

Whether it’s in software or hardware, the consumerization of drones is creating new possibilities for individuals and businesses alike.

Michael Winn is CEO and Co-Founder of DroneDeploy, a cloud-based drone data platform that provides automated flight, real-time mapping, data processing and analysis. Learn more at www.dronedeploy.com or follow @DroneDeploy on Twitter.