DJI Airworks 2018 Kicks Off Today – the Big Reveal(s)

DJI’s Airworks 2018 kicked off today in Dallas, and they’ve got a lot of news to share.

You’ve got to hand it to DJI: whatever they do, they do it with style.  From their first conference 3 years ago in San Francisco, they’ve grown to be a major conference, with exhibitors, training, and thought leadership programs held this year in Dallas.  In a packed ballroom, DJI’s keynote speakers  – their top leaders from the U.S. – took the stage.

Jan Gasparic, DJI’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, set the tone by saying that the theme of this year’s conference was the ecosystem – the growing network of users, partners, and developers.   Building on yesterday’s announcement of the Mavic 2 Enterprise – a lightweight, portable, professional tool – DJI laid out a vision of how their company will support growth of the ecosystem and broad enterprise adoption.

Building for the Enterprise: the Mavic 2E

DJI is meeting the enterprise in the field: providing not only the hardware and payloads but the software, the training tools, and the customization capabilities that large enterprise requires.

At a price point of under $2,000 for the universal edition and about $500 for an additional accessory set, the configurable Mavic 2E is a tool designed for large scale enterprise programs.  In addition to the external payloads like an amazing camera, loudspeakers and spotlights; the drone has 24GB of internal, password-protected storage for greater data security.  Local data mode adds an extra level to that security when required.  They’ve added GPS time stamping – which makes the data more useful if needed as part of a larger project.

It’s quiet.  It’s resilient.“This is the safest and most reliable drone that DJI has ever produced,” says Gasparic. And it’s built for the future – features including HD video feed at a range of over 5 miles and 360 degree obstacle avoidance mean the drone is designed for operations beyond visual line of sight when those become possible through waiver or regulation.

The Expansion of the Developer Network 

As energy, transportation, and other large enterprises work to provide technicians across the organization with drones, the pricepoint and portability of DJI’s new offering make it a compelling choice.   Enterprise likes a market leader – but they require specialized tools.   DJI’s evolving vision of providing robust SDKs to allow for customization and development of new tools in every area from new software applications to new payloads are helping them to maintain that leadership position in the commercial space.

Arnaud Thiercelin, DJI’s Head of US R&D, says that the developer network is driving innovation on DJI’s platform. “A lot of people think of DJI as the consumer, flying camera company – but in the last few years we’ve expanded that,” he says.  “We’re giving the our 3rd party community the means to enable customers…When we launched the mobile SDK in 2015, we had 150k activations: in 2016 it was over a million, and today it is 4.7 milion.”

Flight Simulator

Enterprise customers like Cory Hitchcock of energy giant Southern Company are scaling their drone programs quickly.  Southern operates on a “distributed self dispatch model” which puts the drone in the subject matter expert’s hand.  It’s an effective way to grow the program, but it requires that they train UAS Operators from all disciplines in the company.  That’s a scenario that makes DJI’s new flight simulator compelling.  It’s an amazing tool that takes new pilots through skills training and flight modes for specific aircraft, and then offers a free flight mode where pilots can try their skills in a real world environment.  Finally, flight simulator has an applications mode – which DJI can customize for enterprise customers – for applying flight skills to specific applications like industrial and energy inspections.  Flight simulator is compatible with DJI’s full range of commercial products.

Software Developments

DJI announced a slew of software developments: some of the highlights were greeted with cheers and applause.  “DJI Pilot is officially out of beta,” said Gasparic.  “Not only available for Android, but also for iOS.”  They’ve added new enterprise features with the new version: mission planning, integration with FlightHub, and other tools are designed to help businesses operating a large fleet.  There’s a significant update to Airsense.  A new version of Ground Station – GS Pro – allows users to manage a fleet of aircraft, pilots, and data.

With all of the DJI product announcements, the keynote focus was on the community, which DJI says is the engine behind the growth of the industry.  “Drones have such a unique opportunity to have a real impact in people’s lives….without a commnity of users we’re not really able to realize the potential of the technology…”

“We can’t wait to get these tools into the hands of our user community and see what they can do with them,” says Gasparic.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
Email Miriam

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