DJI drones are everywhere in the world, America and Taiwan fear it

DJI drone
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DJI, a Chinese drone manufacturer, has become ubiquitous across the globe. This article explores the widespread use of DJI drones in both civilian and military applications and the concerns raised by the United States and Taiwan over their potential use in warfare.


Key Takeaways

  1. DJI’s market dominance: Over 90% control of the global consumer drone market.
  2. US concerns: Legislative efforts to ban DJI drones due to security risks.
  3. China’s manufacturing advantage: Economies of scale and political support.
  4. Military use: DJI drones in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict.
  5. Taiwan’s strategy: Developing an independent drone industry with US support.

DJI Drone Sales Over The Last 5 Years

The chart above depicts the sales performance of DJI, a prominent drone company, over the past five years. Each bar represents the total sales in billion USD for a given year.
The chart above depicts the sales performance of DJI, a prominent drone company, over the past five years. Each bar represents the total sales in billion USD for a given year

  • 2019: Sales were 2.5 billion USD.
  • 2020: Sales increased to 3.0 billion USD.
  • 2021: Significant growth with sales reaching 4.1 billion USD.
  • 2022: Continued upward trend with sales at 5.5 billion USD.
  • 2023: The highest sales recorded at 6.0 billion USD.

The highest sales in 2023 are highlighted with an annotation, pointing out the significant milestone for DJI.

DJI’s Market Dominance

DJI controls over 90% of the global consumer drone market. Founded in Shenzhen, China, the company offers relatively cheap yet high-quality drones used for photography, surveillance, spraying, and delivering packages. These versatile devices have also found applications in battlefield reconnaissance and carrying bombs, raising significant security concerns.

Concerns in the United States

The United States has been particularly wary of the military use of DJI drones amidst tensions with China over Taiwan. On June 14, 2023, the lower house of the US Congress passed a bill proposing a ban on the sale of DJI drones in the country. This proposal is now part of the annual defense budget negotiations in the Senate.

The US drone market, valued at around $6 billion by Nova One Advisor, would see a significant impact from such a ban, potentially hitting DJI hard.

Reasons for DJI’s Success

The MIT Technology Review attributes DJI’s success to China’s extensive electronics manufacturing capabilities and political support from Shenzhen. Sam Schmitz, an engineer at Neuralink, notes that the area’s industrial base allows for parts to be sourced at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, Shenzhen’s municipality supports the industry with permits for risky experiments and subsidies.

DJI Drones in Warfare

DJI drones have been used by both sides in the Ukrainian-Russian war for reconnaissance and bombing. Despite DJI suspending its business in Russia and Ukraine, the Ukrainian military continues to build drones from Chinese parts.

Taiwan’s Situation

Taiwan faces significant challenges in sourcing Chinese drones due to potential supply blocks by China. The Taiwanese government recognizes the risks of over-reliance on the Chinese drone industry and aims to become the hub of the democratic drone supply chain in Asia. With backing from the US, Taiwan could challenge China’s dominance in the industry. However, developing this sector could take many years, despite Taiwan already being a global semiconductor manufacturing hub.

DJI’s drones are integral to various civilian and military operations worldwide. However, their widespread use raises significant concerns for the US and Taiwan amidst geopolitical tensions. The future of the drone industry could see significant shifts as Taiwan seeks to reduce its dependency on Chinese technology and the US considers legislative actions against DJI.


Source: technologyreview.com

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