Skydio calls it quits – leaves consumer drone market
American drone manufacturer Skydio is calling it quits on the consumer drone market, according to a new announcement from the company. Skydio says that they’ve made the “very difficult decision” to bow out to focus on enterprise clients.
Skydio has often been held up as a true competitor to DJI, which dominates the worldwide drone market. It seems an odd move with DJI products being banned throughout the USA in many government agencies and other organisations.
Who is Skydio?
Founded in 2014, Skydio was the first US drone manufacturer to reach a valuation higher than $1 billion, which it did in 2021. Today, the company is valued at $2.2 billion.
The company released the Skydio R1 in 2018, which is a very consumer-oriented drone. It was marketed as a “flying camera” and had an appearance very similar to 2016’s Hover Camera (albeit much larger). It was essentially a small personal autonomous drone that would follow you and record clips in various flight patterns without the need for a controller.
Unlike the Hover Camera, though, the Skydio R1 brought more professional-level features, like the ability to shoot 4K video and 12 navigational cameras to prevent collisions. On the flip side, however, it was much larger and vastly more expensive than the Hover – or anything DJI had out at the time which targeted the same market.
In 2019, the company released the Skydio 2, a 4K, compact and relatively inexpensive self-flying drone designed to take on DJI. It had the best collision avoidance system out there if you believe Skydio marketing. Skydio certainly believed its own hype, being so confident that it offered to repair or replace your drone for free if you collide with anything, ever. Well, as long as you fly within Skydio’s pretty reasonable guidelines.
As a non-folding drone, though, the Skydio 2 was just a little behind the times when it came to convenience. The DJI Spark had been released two years earlier, in 2017, and it was just a lot more convenient for people to carry.
Targetting enterprise and public sector customers
Despite some success in the consumer market and a lot of people rooting for them, the company has decided to pursue other goals. The withdrawal from the consumer market allows the company to focus on its government and public sector markets.
The company has seen great success in those markets. So, it makes sense for the company to pursue that avenue, especially in such vital industries.
Our drones are making the core industries that our civilization runs on — public safety, transportation, energy, construction, and defense — safer and more efficient. And it’s becoming more and more clear every day that we need trusted, secure drones to meet these critical applications. The impact we’re having with our enterprise and public sector customers has become so compelling that it demands nothing less than our full focus and attentionSkydio cofounder and CEO Adam Bry
It’s not exactly a surprising turn of events. Parrot did the same thing in 2019, dumping all of their consumer drones in favour of enterprise clients. The goal of most businesses is to make as much money as possible. Businesses have to pursue those things that make the most profit.
What about the customers?
This means there will be no Skydio 3, and existing consumer drones will be (or have already been) discontinued. There are some exceptions, however. Companies will still be able to buy the Skydio 2+ Enterprise Kit.
Skydio says that despite any discontinuation of new models in the consumer market, they will continue to provide support and keep updating their software for existing Sykdio drone customers. The company says that they will also still hold onto an inventory of accessories for as long as it can, allowing customers to purchase spare batteries, propellers, and other items.
So, don’t worry, if you own a Skydio consumer drone, it’s not one day going to think it’s a GoPro Karma and come crashing down to the ground.
But, if you like you already have Skydio drones and like them, it might be time to stock up on more propellers than you think you’ll need before it comes time to replace it, just in case you one day find you can’t get them anymore!
What about DJI?
With the USA vs China thing not seeming to budge at all, DJI has faced some tough challenges in the US over the last few years. Americans have been calling out for American companies to produce drones to replace them and many thought that Skydio was that American company.
It turns out that, no, it’s not going to be Skydio. DJI will continue to see dominance in the consumer market for the foreseeable future. And unless another US drone manufacturer pops up to take them on, things will continue that way, regardless of bans from the US government, military and private businesses.
Consumers don’t care. They just want to hand over their cash and fly their toy. They’ll give it to whoever gives them what they need for a price they’re willing to pay. And right now, even within the USA, that’s DJI.
I hope that Skydio (or Parrot, for that matter) decide to return to the consumer market at some point. While I have nothing personally against DJI, a lack of competition just stifles innovation. If DJI is only competing with itself, where’s the drive to innovate?
[via Done DJ]
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.