Parrot, an old competitor of the Chinese drone giant DJI, is one of the six companies selected by the US Department of Defense to build short-range reconnaissance aircraft for the US military. The deal, which includes five other companies but not DJI, represents a strategic front between American and European commercial entities, such as Parrot, in view of the increasing dominance of Chinese companies.
DJI is by far & # 39; the world's largest and most popular drone maker, with Parrot and other smaller companies such as 3D Robotics and Yuneec, a colleague who has existed in the shadow of DJI for years. (3D Robotics has since left the drone hardware market, while GoPro & # 39; s short-lived Karma effort failed.) But with increasing pressure from the US government on Chinese companies in the midst of President Donald Trump's trade war, which is now when most aggressively focused on Android phone maker Huawei, it seems more American and European alternatives to major Chinese brands could be selected for lucrative government contracts.
Although the commercial drone market is expected to continue to grow steadily, the overall size of the commercial drone industry pales in comparison to the size of military contracts. According to analyst Envision Intelligence, military drone applications make up around 70 percent of the market, with consumer applications only 17 percent and non-military applications such as filmmaking and climate modeling in the commercial domain only 13 percent.
"The United States has always been an important market for the Parrot Group, whether it is our well-known consumer assortment or our advanced professional offering," said Henri Seydoux, CEO and founder of Parrot in a statement. "We have always been at the forefront of developing advanced, user-friendly, compact and reliable drone-based solutions. We also understand perfectly how small unmanned aircraft, such as the ANAFI platform from Parrot, can potentially become an important part of the immune system "
For Parrot, the contract is a big win. The company has always played the violin for DJI, with its Anafi line falling short in almost every way compared to DJI & Phantom, Mavic and Spark models. Although the contract for Parrot as a company is not so lucrative, it opens doors for the French company to work more closely with the US Army in the future as a reliable DJI alternative.
Parrot receives an unnamed amount from a $ 11 million fund from the DOD for prototyping the next generation of reconnaissance drones that "can fly straight for 30 minutes at a distance of up to three kilometers", "weigh three pounds or less" and " take less than 2 minutes to assemble and fit into a soldier's standard backpack. "