Chinese Smartphone and Smart Appliance maker Xiaomi, which has been under the spotlight recently for their unbelievably competitively priced smartphones just announced it’s first Done; Which again is priced significantly lower than some of the major players like DJI.
The Mi Drone can fly for nearly thirty minutes and will be available with or without the stabilizer for the camera. Xiaomi plans to sell the Mi Drone with a 1080P HD camera with a 1-KM (~0.6 Miles) range for 2,499 Yuan (~$400 USD/~25,000 INR), and a second version with a higher-resolution 4K camera and 2-KM range for 2,999 Yuan (~$500 USD/~30,000 INR).
DJI, another Chinese company, sells the Phantom 3 with a 4K camera and a range of 1.2-KM for 4,999 Yuan (~$800 USD/~50,000 INR).
Xiaomi Vice President Hugo Barra said that drones were “typically a luxury for the rich“, but Xiaomi wants to make them accessible for a wider audience.
Xiaomi is marketing the four-propeller drone as the best choice for taking aerial photos and videos. Hugo Barra went on to explain that the built-in gimbal stabilizes the Sony-made camera upto 2,000 vibrations per second, which he also said was more than enough to avoid any shake and blur.
Hugo Barra also explained that the drone could fly for 27 minutes using the 5,100 mAh battery. That means an extra two minutes of in-flight time versus the DJI Phantom 3, although the Phantom 4 (which is more expensive) can fly for 28 minutes and as a longer fly range.
Although the Mi Drone will be sold and marketed under Xiaomi’s Mi Eco-system, it was actually designed by Guangzhou Feimi Electronic Technology, a startup that Xiaomi helped fund in 2014. Xiaomi said that they would start testing the drone through an ‘open beta programme’, involving the general public in July, however nothing has been mentioned when the final product might go for sale or whether it would be available outside of China.
Xiaomi has been having a hard time with it’s smartphone sales numbers dropping constantly. They didn’t reach the 100 Million sale mark they set for 2015, selling only 71 Million. To add to that, latest reports show that Xiaomi has been overtaken by two other Chinese manufacturers, Oppo and Vivo.
“Xiaomi’s core smartphone growth is slowing, so the company is expanding into new growth markets as diverse as fitness bands, rice cookers and now drones“, commented Neil Mawston from the Strategy Analytics.
Xiaomi is certainly never going to match the smartphone sector, but they do have the potential to scale to something like DSLR camera sales. There are a lot of potential commercial applications for drones once regulations are set in favor of them.
So, maybe there’s a longer term play here. When Amazon, DHL and other package delivery firms start deploying drones, they might come and buy them from Xiaomi.
For it’s part DJI said it welcomed the challenge. “More competition will spur every company in this industry to improve its technology and DJI will continue to strive to be the market leader“, said a spokeswoman.