You might think of drones as consumer products, but DJI has unveiled a deal that shows where their future sales potential lies. Its commercial division is selling 1,000 custom Matrice 100 drones equipped with Skycatch imaging technology to Japanese construction equipment giant Komatsu. The sale represents the "largest commercial drone order in history," said DJI.
It didn't reveal the total value of the contract, but off-the-shelf Matrice 100s, which are highly customizable, cost $3,200 or so, and the "Guidance" GPS module is another $1,000. That doesn't include the $1,800 per month price of Skycatch's "High Precision Package" used to create surveying maps and point clouds for builders and others.
The potential of commercial drones for business and government is nearly unlimited. On top of the agricultural and industrial sectors where they're already used, they could be deployed for search and rescue, surveying in, say, national parks, and numerous other activities.
DJI is the king of small consumer and commercial drones, with $2.7 billion in sales for 2017. While 80 percent of that was for consumer products, the company is rapidly expanding its enterprise sales. The Komatsu model gives a good idea of how it can do that; by building "white label" drones that it can customize to a company's specifications.
DJI, like other Chinese companies, has been targeted by the US government, most recently the customs bureau (ICE) for supposedly using its drones to spy on sensitive installations. DJI has strongly denied the allegations.