20161202_080737What sort of drone and application do you picture when you think of DJI? Is it a hobbyist with a Phantom, grabbing video footage of their vacation? Or maybe it’s a drone race that pits a DJI Inspire Pro vs. a Jaguar XJ. If so, you’re not alone, and those are just a couple examples of how the company has captured the interest and imagination of the consumer market as a whole. But there’s another side to DJI.

DJI Enterprise isn’t exactly a new initiative for the company, but it’s one that’s really come into focus of late. That focus was apparent at the 1stAirWorks event, which took place in San Francisco on December 1st and 2nd. The event pulled together commercial drone operators, distributors, manufacturers, software providers and plenty others, but what was especially notable was seeing how the company is looking to engage with all of these people and organizations for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

“We’re really focused on what our commercial users are actually doing with a drone,” said Adam Lisberg, Corporate Communication Director, North America at DJI. “We’re not driven by marketing, we’re driven by engineers. We’ve seen how customers have integrated these tools into their projects, and it’s our goal to support them as they grow and at scale. All of the feedback they provide is info we get into our R&D department so that we can create packages that work for different users.”

Alex Tepper

Alex Tepper

Lisberg previously detailed the many ways in which DJI technology was making an impact for enterprise organizations, but that point was driven home for attendees with a presentation by Alex Tepper, Managing Director, GE Ventures. Tepper explained that GE is primarily an infrastructure company, which is why their interest in drone technology is so pronounced. They’ve recognized what it will mean for the organization to use a drone for inspections as opposed to doing them manually, which is how the majority of them are done now. That manual inspection process is subjective, costly and dangerous and one that utilized drone technology can be spread across all of their verticals.

After Tepper’s presentation, Michael Perry from DJI took the stage to announce a major expansion of DJI’s software ecosystem. It allows developers to create drone apps that can be used in an enterprise setting and control drone operations. Users can develop custom solutions for their own businesses or broadly distribute solutions for entire industries.

20161202_102911The desire to serve entire industries was also notable at the event, as a number of specific types of users and uses were highlighted. Separate tracks took place on Day 2 which were respectively focused on agriculture, public safety, infrastructure/inspection as well as surveying & mapping. Presentations by people like Thomas Calvert from the Menlo Fire Department, Ray Asebedo from Kansas State University and Jeff Fagerman with LiDAR USA highlighted the specific ways drones have and will make an impact in these industries.

It’s interesting to see DJI focus on specific markets in this manner, partly because their expertise is really as a “drone” company. DJI might know what it takes to put together a drone that stays in the air, but how is that going to make a difference to surveying professionals that have very precise requirements around what sort of data they need to capture?

“The thing is, we’re dealing with and in many cases working directly with companies that are focused on these markets,” Lisberg continued. “We’re tapping into their expertise in order to get context around how users in those spaces want to leverage the technology. Those communications allow us to develop and customize our solutions in a way that makes sense for enterprise users.”

DJI has formed numerous partnerships with companies like PrecisionHawk and Measure that specifically demonstrate their industry specific involvement. It speaks to the work DJI is doing to develop, improve and expand their line of industrial offerings with airframes, payloads and software that can be utilized across various industries. However, there are and always will be narrow use cases which require a custom solution, but DJI has already engaged with their customers to create solutions that fill very specific needs.

20161202_145706The Wind 1 and Wind 2 were on display at the event, and these are drones designed by DJI to detect gas leaks that were created for specific customers. These custom solutions aren’t just about hardware though, and are intended to be end-to-end offerings that will ensure users have what they need in terms of software, support and more.

As you can imagine, the possibilities here are endless. Who wouldn’t love to be able to connect with the DJI engineering team to come up with a drone solution that will fit a specific need?

Exactly how DJI is looking to engage with customers to develop these sorts of projects is a bit of an open question, and really depends on details such as how many units a customer might need, and what sort of market the product will be able to serve. It’s something they’re more than willing to discuss though, and the eventual expansion of their DJI Care program into DJI Care Pro ensures enterprise customers will eventually be able to tap into relevant resources when necessary.

With the consumer market seemingly saturated, it certainly makes sense to see DJI making a push to enterprise users, and they demonstrated there is a clear interest in figuring out what’s going to be the best fit on both ends. Their focus on showing specific professionals how drone technology can make sense for them in their respective industries is important, because stakeholders are more focused than ever around how a drone can make a real impact, which goes beyond getting something in the air or gathering a bunch of data.

It’s going to be really interesting to watch how this initiative folds out, because if commercial operators are able to go to a single company for reliable drone products that can scale as well as ones that fulfill a specific need, they will. With products like the Phantom and the Wind 1, it’s pretty clear what sort of value proposition DJI is looking to create for anyone looking to operate a drone for commercial purposes.

Stay tuned for plenty more news about how DJI products are making that impact in the enterprise space in early 2017.