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Is DJI now doomed in the US?


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From DPREVIEW.COM 

 

"On March 2nd, Steptoe, a leading international law firm, secured a major trial victory for Autel Robotics USA at the US International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC's chief administrative law judge found that SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd., the world's largest manufacturer of consumer drones, and 7 related entities collectively known as 'DJI,' violated Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended. DJI has been importing and selling drones that infringe on Autel's US Patent No. 9, 260,184.

 

The ITC's chief administrative law judge recommended barring the following DJI products from importation into the United States: the Mavic Pro, Mavic Pro Platinum, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic Air, and Spark. The judge also recommended a cease and desist order prohibiting DJI from selling any of these products that are already in the U.S. when the exclusion order issues. If upheld, all of these products could be removed from the U.S. market as early as July.

Autel scored another victory with the ITC. DJI was forced to post a 9.9% bond during the 60-day presidential review period following the exclusion order. Autel also filed a petition to prevent other DJI products from being sold including the Phantom 4 and Inspire series of drones. It is worth noting that DJI's Inspire 1 and most of its Phantom 4 line has been discontinued, with the exception of the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. The Spark and original Mavic Pro models are also no longer produced."

 

https://m.dpreview.com/news/5298432342/judge-rules-dji-infringed-patent-recommends-ceasing-sales-and-imports-of-most-dji-drones

 

 

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The legal situation is not very clear at the moment and I don't how it is going to impact DJI. It is effective immediately? Can DJI appeal the decision? So far this seems to be a recommendation only. That being said:

1. DJI was in the same situation many years ago when the relation with their local USA agent (Colin Guinn) turned sour. A decision prevented DJI to sale drones in the USA. The situation was quickly resolved via and out of court settlement (DJI wrote a big check to Colin) and they resumed operation in a matter of days. Colin left to 3DR that wen belly-up before going back to Texas to support its own drone software company.

2. Most likely, Autel is just trying to get a big check from DJI as well. I don't think Autel is strong enough to go head on against a company which is probably 10 or 100 times bigger. Plus Autel has always been very "influenced" by DJI designed (Phantom vs Xstar) and DJI may also start an IP / Patent / copyright war against Autel.

3. However, with the ongoing US-China trade war, thing might turn ugly for DJI if this case becomes political. But Autel is also a Chinese company.

I'll wait for further details about the legal situation .

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1 hour ago, OliKMIA said:

Plus Autel has always been very "influenced" by DJI designed (Phantom vs Xstar) and DJI may also start an IP / Patent / copyright war against Autel.

That is another big reason why companies get patents, so they can hopefully get the "mutually assured destruction" defense against any patent attacks from their competitors. Because they know if they attack, they'll get attacked right back themselves, and their vampire lawyers would destroy them both if they were to launch court cases at each other back and forth. Thus, peace is instead preferable. 

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12 minutes ago, Kisaha said:

maybe Autel will get a big fat check from DJI, and we will go our way.

I suspect this would be the case.

Probably the larger issue would be that in many countries you now need to be certified and lodge flight plans etc before flying the drones above some small weight size (is it 250g?) so all drones except things like Spark have very steep learning curve and initial investment.

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30 minutes ago, kye said:

I suspect this would be the case.

Probably the larger issue would be that in many countries you now need to be certified and lodge flight plans etc before flying the drones above some small weight size (is it 250g?) so all drones except things like Spark have very steep learning curve and initial investment.

that is what he says on the video, that the main issue is not patents and the such, but the difficulty to fly drones in general with all the laws and restrictions that are are roumored.

Also, that the patent is kind of silly, as it is a very simple desing, and probably DJI did it first, but didn't patented!

Autel also, as mentioned, is another Chinese company, it seems like innovation have slipped completely from Europe, the whole continent has esoteric issues right now, if we do not find the middle solution and unite on a Federation, something like the United States of Europe, then we are doomed, on many ways (very old population, few child births, no productive young population to drive the workforce and the insurance system, no significant natural resources, immigration issues because of war and climatic change).

If we lost innovation, we are done. Germans still have some of that, still produce and design cars, cameras, but slowly and steady, everything moves to Asia.

Australia is doing well, though, you just do not want(need) us!

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22 hours ago, Kisaha said:

that is what he says on the video, that the main issue is not patents and the such, but the difficulty to fly drones in general with all the laws and restrictions that are are roumored.

Also, that the patent is kind of silly, as it is a very simple desing, and probably DJI did it first, but didn't patented!

Autel also, as mentioned, is another Chinese company, it seems like innovation have slipped completely from Europe, the whole continent has esoteric issues right now, if we do not find the middle solution and unite on a Federation, something like the United States of Europe, then we are doomed, on many ways (very old population, few child births, no productive young population to drive the workforce and the insurance system, no significant natural resources, immigration issues because of war and climatic change).

If we lost innovation, we are done. Germans still have some of that, still produce and design cars, cameras, but slowly and steady, everything moves to Asia.

Australia is doing well, though, you just do not want(need) us!

It is not that innovation has slipped to China, it is just that it is not economically feasible for European/North American companies to compete in the low end consumer market for the most part.

Plenty of drones are made in Western countries, but they are high end products not available to hobbyists. Usually they are sold to industrial/military/professional clients. That does not mean they don't exist.

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5 hours ago, Mokara said:

It is not that innovation has slipped to China, it is just that it is not economically feasible for European/North American companies to compete in the low end consumer market for the most part.

Plenty of drones are made in Western countries, but they are high end products not available to hobbyists. Usually they are sold to industrial/military/professional clients. That does not mean they don't exist.


In some sectors, Chinese are just closing the gap and sometime, even beating western companies. Drone is one of these sector. Innovation and production cost are two different things. Plenty of consumer product companies do innovate and place their production line in low cost countries.

DJI are just the best at what they do. They did it first and much better than the competition. Initially the French company Parrot had an edge in he drone consumer market but their product were cheaply made. DJI moved up market and proposed higher end drone (Phantom) able to carry a GoPro, then a gimbal  (zenmuse), then they integrated the gimbal and camera on the drone with a nice ready to fly package (Phantom 3). Meanwhile Parrot proposed the piece of crap Bebop which was just an horrible product (I know, I was one of the product ambassador). The Parrot Anafi was better but by that time, DJI became a giant and it was impossible to close the technological gap. Therefore Parrot left the drone consumer market.

The same thing happened with American 3DR: they just designed bad drones (IRIS, Solo, etc.) which were under-powered or poorly tuned. The 3DR production line in Mexico didn't help with cost neither.

GoPro also made the same mistake with the Karma, it took them years to develop, they wanted to do everything in house and meet the market with a drone that was already obsolete by the time it was release. I approached them for technological consulting but they knew better than the rest of the world at the time... GoPro tried to compete with the Phantom when DJI released the Mavic 1. Guess what? The Mavic 1 was sold out for months while the Karmas were crashing out of the sky due to the battery fiasco. GoPro quickly quit this market with massive financial loss.

And unlike the camera or phone industry, DJI didn't copy or catch up with anybody, they create their own market with technological and commercial innovation. They came up with ready to fly bundle in what was a DIY industry. They made everything nice and simple by innovation, improving existing solution (e.g. the controller and tablet integration introduced by parrot with the horrible and massive skycontroller). They didn't fear to cannibalize their on product line and they sunk the competition with extremely fast product cycle (sometime less than a year between each release).

I now believe that DJI is unbeatable due to its commercial and technological advance. At least on the short-medium term.

I've been working in the drone industry since the early 2010s and no one comes close to DJI. I've seen countless drone start up crash. Even Autel is just catching up with DJI and their technology is way behind DJI. They obviously don't master the stabilization issue. DJI R&D department is probably as big as the entire Autel company.
DJI is also the only drone company with a good digital link. Autel radio range don't even come close and they would have to spend millions in R&D to reach that level. A few years ago, a drone company in Asia tried to develop an Ocusync alternative but they quickly abandon due to the cost: R&D alone was in millions, then came MOQ (minimum order quantity) from supplier which were also very large to be competitive.

So no, innovation is what made DJI. Western companies just performed poorly and they lost. It has nothing to do with production cost.

As for the industrial/military market, this is a completely different world. Industrial drone is a niche market which is being tackled by DJI, and they are pushing more and more in this direction because the consumer market is becoming saturated. Incoming regulation are not going to help neither. As for the military, many countries will just exclude a Chinese provider.

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43 minutes ago, Emanuel said:

@OliKMIA Great post, pal!

I am a fan of Skydio 2 anyway... Love their bird concept and HDR outcome : -)

The Skydio is actually very cool. I friend of mine who is part of the beta testing team told me good stuff about the flight model and obstacle avoidance system. It seems very impressive but IQ is average according to him (I haven't checked directly).

That being said:

- The Skydio targets a small part of the market which is smart (useless to go head on against DJI). I don't think they will really threat DJI.
- History shows that DJI quickly tries to kill the competition by releasing product with similar or better features. For instance, the auto flight mode on the Mavic Air 2 is improved but not up to the Skydio level. But what about the next generation of Mavic? If the Skydio slightly threaten DJI monopoly, they will unleash their R&D power to silence the competition...
- They seem to have issue to scale production, last time I checked, it was not available yet and market introduction outside USA is unknown.

But I really wish the best to the Skydio team as we need more competition against DJI.

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6 hours ago, OliKMIA said:


In some sectors, Chinese are just closing the gap and sometime, even beating western companies. Drone is one of these sector. Innovation and production cost are two different things. Plenty of consumer product companies do innovate and place their production line in low cost countries.

DJI are just the best at what they do. They did it first and much better than the competition. Initially the French company Parrot had an edge in he drone consumer market but their product were cheaply made. DJI moved up market and proposed higher end drone (Phantom) able to carry a GoPro, then a gimbal  (zenmuse), then they integrated the gimbal and camera on the drone with a nice ready to fly package (Phantom 3). Meanwhile Parrot proposed the piece of crap Bebop which was just an horrible product (I know, I was one of the product ambassador). The Parrot Anafi was better but by that time, DJI became a giant and it was impossible to close the technological gap. Therefore Parrot left the drone consumer market.

The same thing happened with American 3DR: they just designed bad drones (IRIS, Solo, etc.) which were under-powered or poorly tuned. The 3DR production line in Mexico didn't help with cost neither.

GoPro also made the same mistake with the Karma, it took them years to develop, they wanted to do everything in house and meet the market with a drone that was already obsolete by the time it was release. I approached them for technological consulting but they knew better than the rest of the world at the time... GoPro tried to compete with the Phantom when DJI released the Mavic 1. Guess what? The Mavic 1 was sold out for months while the Karmas were crashing out of the sky due to the battery fiasco. GoPro quickly quit this market with massive financial loss.

And unlike the camera or phone industry, DJI didn't copy or catch up with anybody, they create their own market with technological and commercial innovation. They came up with ready to fly bundle in what was a DIY industry. They made everything nice and simple by innovation, improving existing solution (e.g. the controller and tablet integration introduced by parrot with the horrible and massive skycontroller). They didn't fear to cannibalize their on product line and they sunk the competition with extremely fast product cycle (sometime less than a year between each release).

I now believe that DJI is unbeatable due to its commercial and technological advance. At least on the short-medium term.

I've been working in the drone industry since the early 2010s and no one comes close to DJI. I've seen countless drone start up crash. Even Autel is just catching up with DJI and their technology is way behind DJI. They obviously don't master the stabilization issue. DJI R&D department is probably as big as the entire Autel company.
DJI is also the only drone company with a good digital link. Autel radio range don't even come close and they would have to spend millions in R&D to reach that level. A few years ago, a drone company in Asia tried to develop an Ocusync alternative but they quickly abandon due to the cost: R&D alone was in millions, then came MOQ (minimum order quantity) from supplier which were also very large to be competitive.

So no, innovation is what made DJI. Western companies just performed poorly and they lost. It has nothing to do with production cost.

As for the industrial/military market, this is a completely different world. Industrial drone is a niche market which is being tackled by DJI, and they are pushing more and more in this direction because the consumer market is becoming saturated. Incoming regulation are not going to help neither. As for the military, many countries will just exclude a Chinese provider.

The Autel patent in question was actually from Canadians at a company called Dragonfly. Autel just bought it, they did NOT innovate anything. Most of what these Chinese companies do is based on western tech that has been bought or stolen. Western companies don't compete in these consumer sectors because of production costs, no other reason. The suggestion that "innovation" is slipping from the Western hemisphere is total nonsense. It is not. Stuff may be MADE in developing countries, but the technology underlying it is almost completely sourced from Europe and North America.

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6 hours ago, Mokara said:

The Autel patent in question was actually from Canadians at a company called Dragonfly. Autel just bought it, they did NOT innovate anything. Most of what these Chinese companies do is based on western tech that has been bought or stolen. Western companies don't compete in these consumer sectors because of production costs, no other reason. The suggestion that "innovation" is slipping from the Western hemisphere is total nonsense. It is not. Stuff may be MADE in developing countries, but the technology underlying it is almost completely sourced from Europe and North America.

 

"The Autel patent in question was actually from Canadians at a company called Dragonfly."
The company is actually called Draganfly, not Dragonfly... The patent was granted in 2016 to this company before moving to Autel in 2017 and back to Draganfly last year.

"Autel just bought it, they did NOT innovate anything. Most of what these Chinese companies do is based on western tech that has been bought or stolen."
Obviously, the Patent agreement between Autel and Draganfly directly contradicts your statement... They didn't stole anything, they licensed it. Plus DJI created their own market, there was no one before DJI. How do you steal a tech in a market that doesn't exist? What consumer drone did you use before DJI?

"Western companies don't compete in these consumer sectors because of production costs, no other reason."
This is just a statement not backed by fact. You probably missed it but plenty of western companies successfully compete in consumer electronic market and are doing quite well with their production costs: all the Japanese camera manufacturers, smartphones makers like Apply and Samsung, TV, appliances, etc.

"The suggestion that "innovation" is slipping from the Western hemisphere is total nonsense. It is not."
I don't know if innovation in general is "slipping" from developed countries. All I'm saying is that in many industries, Chinese are as good if not better than modern nations (batteries, solar panels, 5G, etc.). The drone business is one of them where they simply beat Parrot, 3DR, and GoPro to name a few. They did everything right on the technological and marketing standpoint.

"Stuff may be MADE in developing countries, but the technology underlying it is almost completely sourced from Europe and North America."
Depends which industries, but overall, China is becoming more and more self-sufficient. And again, you are contradicting yourself. For the drone market what underlying technology would DJI have source or acquired from Europe and NA? There was no consumer drones before them beside shitty toys made by Parrot. The central element of modern drone is the flight controller.
The CEO of DJI (Frank Wang Tao) started his company in Hong Kong in 2006 by designing and providing flight controllers to industrial drone makers. The reason of the consumer drone boom at this time was directly related to the ability to source cheap acelerometers and IMU sensors that were mass produced for the Nintendo Wii and the first Iphone. Flight controllers are critical to make unstable drones stay in the air as the machine must receive precise attitude data from the IMU and ACC sensors. That what separates RC product from drones.
Colin Guinn approached DJI to distribute their flight controllers in the US before relation turned sour. If anything, as I mentioned earlier, DJI got inspired by Parrot but they did a much better job than the french drone makers. Copying their bad products would have been a waste of time. They turned a toy business into a mass photo/video market and got inspired by Apple on the marketing side with sleek product that work out of the box.

Once again, and like with the Canon 24p thing, you know very little about this industry and your blatant lack of basic understanding of the situation is embarrassing. Repeating imaginary things over and over in bold and capital letters won't help to turn your fairy tales into realities. I'm done wasting my time with your nonsense.

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Japan started like China, and then become Japan, Korea started like Japan, and now it is Korea, China started like Japan, it will be like Korea, and then it will become China, which it would be number 1 in most aspects of global life, because they are a lot bigger than Japan, or Korea, and they will "world dominate".

Obviously we are seeing only the beggining of the "century of China", as I call it.

Another huge factor is, while western life turns to "gangsta trap hip hop" and kids just want to become rich or youtubers, China steadily increases their quality of education, and still Chinese value education a lot higher than western world.

Kids now days want easy money, fast and YOLO.

I freelanced for a Singapore TV station last year, and we did an interview of a Singaporian - Chinese maestro, and he was telling us that the biggest force in Symphonic orchestras right now are Asians.

 

Look how many Asians there are in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra..because they put the effort. Some of them at least. China probably will be education's last stand..

To be fair, India has a lot of students as well. I met a lot of Indian friends at my international universities back in the day, most of them did programming and I.T in general (I know, stereotypical, but true!), but it seems to me China is more focused to dominate.

 

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20 hours ago, OliKMIA said:

 

"The Autel patent in question was actually from Canadians at a company called Dragonfly."
The company is actually called Draganfly, not Dragonfly... The patent was granted in 2016 to this company before moving to Autel in 2017 and back to Draganfly last year.

"Autel just bought it, they did NOT innovate anything. Most of what these Chinese companies do is based on western tech that has been bought or stolen."
Obviously, the Patent agreement between Autel and Draganfly directly contradicts your statement... They didn't stole anything, they licensed it. Plus DJI created their own market, there was no one before DJI. How do you steal a tech in a market that doesn't exist? What consumer drone did you use before DJI?

"Western companies don't compete in these consumer sectors because of production costs, no other reason."
This is just a statement not backed by fact. You probably missed it but plenty of western companies successfully compete in consumer electronic market and are doing quite well with their production costs: all the Japanese camera manufacturers, smartphones makers like Apply and Samsung, TV, appliances, etc.

"The suggestion that "innovation" is slipping from the Western hemisphere is total nonsense. It is not."
I don't know if innovation in general is "slipping" from developed countries. All I'm saying is that in many industries, Chinese are as good if not better than modern nations (batteries, solar panels, 5G, etc.). The drone business is one of them where they simply beat Parrot, 3DR, and GoPro to name a few. They did everything right on the technological and marketing standpoint.

"Stuff may be MADE in developing countries, but the technology underlying it is almost completely sourced from Europe and North America."
Depends which industries, but overall, China is becoming more and more self-sufficient. And again, you are contradicting yourself. For the drone market what underlying technology would DJI have source or acquired from Europe and NA? There was no consumer drones before them beside shitty toys made by Parrot. The central element of modern drone is the flight controller.
The CEO of DJI (Frank Wang Tao) started his company in Hong Kong in 2006 by designing and providing flight controllers to industrial drone makers. The reason of the consumer drone boom at this time was directly related to the ability to source cheap acelerometers and IMU sensors that were mass produced for the Nintendo Wii and the first Iphone. Flight controllers are critical to make unstable drones stay in the air as the machine must receive precise attitude data from the IMU and ACC sensors. That what separates RC product from drones.
Colin Guinn approached DJI to distribute their flight controllers in the US before relation turned sour. If anything, as I mentioned earlier, DJI got inspired by Parrot but they did a much better job than the french drone makers. Copying their bad products would have been a waste of time. They turned a toy business into a mass photo/video market and got inspired by Apple on the marketing side with sleek product that work out of the box.

Once again, and like with the Canon 24p thing, you know very little about this industry and your blatant lack of basic understanding of the situation is embarrassing. Repeating imaginary things over and over in bold and capital letters won't help to turn your fairy tales into realities. I'm done wasting my time with your nonsense.

Yup. I work in high tech, so what would I know.

Licensing IS buying technology, lol, that is how it is done. What did you think it was? A gift?

There is extensive stealing of IP by companies in China. Basically they mostly ignore whatever patents other people have and just go ahead and just make whatever they want. That is a huge issue with the country, in theory there is IP protection but in practice it is rarely enforced, especially if the IP comes from a foreign country. Just because they are producing stuff instead of other people does not mean they are "innovating". Mostly they are simply copying other people's innovations, either through license or just by stealing IP. Often they are producing stuff under contract for some Western company, because it is cheaper to manufacture there. You might see a lot of stuff with "made in China" on the label, but it was actually designed somewhere else in the world. Of course there is some research going on there, but it is no where near the scale of what is happening in North America and Europe. Manufacturing is NOT innovation!

Places like China produce a lot of stuff, that does NOT mean they developed it. Usually that (or the basic principles behind the design) is done elsewhere.

The reality is that most innovation actually comes from North America, and to a lesser extent from Europe. That is not going to change any time soon. Even well developed Asian countries, such as Japan and Korea, are far behind in that respect.

18 hours ago, Kisaha said:

Japan started like China, and then become Japan, Korea started like Japan, and now it is Korea, China started like Japan, it will be like Korea, and then it will become China, which it would be number 1 in most aspects of global life, because they are a lot bigger than Japan, or Korea, and they will "world dominate".

Obviously we are seeing only the beggining of the "century of China", as I call it.

Another huge factor is, while western life turns to "gangsta trap hip hop" and kids just want to become rich or youtubers, China steadily increases their quality of education, and still Chinese value education a lot higher than western world.

Kids now days want easy money, fast and YOLO.

I freelanced for a Singapore TV station last year, and we did an interview of a Singaporian - Chinese maestro, and he was telling us that the biggest force in Symphonic orchestras right now are Asians.

 

Look how many Asians there are in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra..because they put the effort. Some of them at least. China probably will be education's last stand..

To be fair, India has a lot of students as well. I met a lot of Indian friends at my international universities back in the day, most of them did programming and I.T in general (I know, stereotypical, but true!), but it seems to me China is more focused to dominate.

 

They are not Asians, they are Americans.

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