Despite a slowdown in the consumer drone market over the past few years, new research shows the COVID-19 pandemic may fuel modest interest.
DroneAnalyst research head and study author David Benowitz suggests dominant drone maker DJI helped drive the slowdown with a combination of the product expansion, cost cuts and competitive price points its competitors couldn’t match.
“As new competitors entered the market, DJI remained one step ahead, releasing products at a comparable or superior performance with lower prices,” Benowitz writes. “At the same time, DJI better covered the entire market with a variety of new offerings, both lowering and increasing prices simultaneously to attract a wider range of customers.”
How DJI Does It
DJI’s strategic investments in emerging tech coupled with a deeper focus on manufacturing automation are yielding profits that far outpace its competitors, Benowitz noted.
Although price and efficiencies have expanded the Chinese company’s market, reductions in sales and marketing efforts have led DJI’s profitability bounce.
“From 2015 – 2017, DJI was investing in a variety of activities across the globe,” writes Benowitz, citing drone photography exhibitions and contests as well as high-profile media blitzes. Since then, DJI has pivoted to a greater number of online product launches and events, including simulcasted product launches.
“DJI has not held a physical, large-scale launch event for a drone product since its Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom products in late 2018.”
The COVID-19 Drone Bump
Despite consumer drone market stagnation, DroneAnalyst found a “COVID-19 Bump” – consumers are expressing more interest in drone purchases as the global pandemic widened.
“After the WHO declared COVID-19 was a global pandemic on March 11, we saw a dramatic increase in search frequency for [drone-favorable] keywords, albeit lagged as the pandemic took a few weeks before its impact was felt. If you look at Google Trends global data around keywords that suggest high purchasing intent such as ‘best drones’ and ‘buy drone,’ we are able to get a proxy for real-time interest in consumer drones. COVID-19 will be seen as a key event that didn’t halt the decline of consumer drone sales, just delayed it.”
Benowitz attributes a reduction in travel, which in turn fuels more localized excursions, as a possible reason for the short-term spike. As more consumers take shorter trips closer to home, transporting a drone may seem less cumbersome (especially when considering airline rules), opening up new opportunities to capture the precious moments afforded to them in the world of New Normal.
Friendly Drone Skies Ahead?
Although the COVID-19 Bump may provide temporary relief for consumer drone makers, other market factors may still cause turbulence.
“This [bump] is a great sign, but when you zoom out, this is only a blip in a longer trend towards disinterest in consumer drones that peaked in 2016,” Benowitz said. “Unless we have a new value proposition for consumer drones, and a new way to communicate it, this won’t change.”
Earlier this year, DroneAnalyst released a study identifying the top three drivers for the drone industry in 2020 – increased hardware competition, rising global tensions and improved autonomy.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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