3D Robotics just announced that they’ll be partnering with drone industry giant DJI to run their Site Scan mapping platform on DJI drones. Initially Site Scan will be available on the Phantom 4, and availability will expand to other DJI drones from there.
As part of this partnership, 3DR will sell a bundled Phantom 4 along with a Site Scan license, as well as selling individual licenses to those who already have a compatible DJI drone.
A Long and Bumpy Road
Not too long ago (though ancient history by drone industry standards) 3D Robotics set out to be DJI’s top North American competitor.
But things didn’t go so well for 3DR when it came to selling drones directly to consumers, and they wound up having to pivot to a focus on software for commercial drone applications.
One of the main contributing factors to 3DR’s failure as a consumer drone company was DJI’s ability to undercut their prices, which hurt efforts to get traction for 3DR’s Solo in the consumer market.
“They were just amazing. I think we just got beaten fair and square.”
– Chris Anderson, CEO and Founder of 3DR, talking about DJI
Not too long ago 3DR bounced back with an impressive Series D funding round of $53 million for their commercially focused Site Scan platform. As things in the drone industry shift more and more toward commercial applications like construction, mining, and surveying, the need for a way to process all the data drones can collect has grown exponentially, and the focus on Site Scan has been a winning move for 3DR.
The only thing holding back adoption for Site Scan is that, until now, its use has been limited by the fact that it can only run on 3DR drones (like the one pictured above).
Now that Site Scan can be used on the Phantom 4, and soon on other DJI drones, we’re sure to see even more rapid growth in its adoption.
What’s in It for Me?
With this new partnership, both DJI and 3DR are getting something valuable.
3DR gets to expand the use of Site Scan, and work to secure a position in the commercial drone sector as the go-to platform for commercial applications.
On the other hand, DJI now gets to sell drones they already make into new commercial sectors without much extra work required, as well as adding additional value for customers who already own a Phantom 4.
Although it’s true that the Phantom 4 might already be used in a limited capacity for commercial applications, the addition of Site Scan will significantly open up the opportunities for use and help secure a position for DJI in this huge and growing market.
“This integration is a significant milestone for the AEC industry. We’re excited that 3DR Site Scan users can now use DJI drones to convert images into actionable data that helps project stakeholders save time and manage costs.”
– Michael Perry, Director of Strategic Partnerships at DJI
Given DJI’s incredible footprint in the drone industry, and the fact that they seem to push out product launches every other week, it’s interesting to see them choosing to partner instead of creating their own competing software.
It seems like we can conclude from this decision at least two things: 1) Site Scan is a pretty incredible platform for commercial applications (because we can only assume that DJI can be a little choosy when it comes to who they want to partner with); and 2) DJI decided it wasn’t worth it to build their own platform.
An image taken from 3DR’s Site Scan platform
The second conclusion is noteworthy, and a good sign for the drone industry at large.
Sometimes, when you look around, it can seem like DJI is taking over the world—so it’s nice to see that DJI does have limitations, and that other companies can grow and flourish in the drone industry despite the long shadow they cast.
Other Partnerships in the Commercial Drone Space
Kespry is one of 3DR’s leading competitors when it comes to software for processing data captured in commercial drone applications.
Back in March Kespry partnered with John Deere, allowing the commercial machinery giant to sell Kespry drones and software to their clients in construction, agriculture, and other related sectors.
In a similar partnership, Airware partnered with Caterpillar not too long ago, and we’re sure to see these more of these partnerships proliferate as drone companies look to expand their reach into existing markets.
Who knows what other old rivals might become new partners next.