Teardown reveals the $749 DJI Mavic Air 2 is made from around $135 worth of parts

Sep 3, 2020

John Aldred

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.

Teardown reveals the $749 DJI Mavic Air 2 is made from around $135 worth of parts

Sep 3, 2020

John Aldred

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.

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This isn’t the first Mavic Air 2 teardown we’ve seen, that honour goes to the folks at iFixit, but a new teardown by Tokyo-based research specialist Fomalhaut Techno Solutions in partnership with Nikkei Asian Review certainly seems to be the most in-depth.

The complete teardown doesn’t appear to have been published publicly, but the Nikkei Asian Review has reported on some of its details. Details like the fact that it is comprised of around 80% off-the-shelf parts, and coming in at a total material cost of around $135.

Nikkei, together with Tokyo-based research specialist Fomalhaut Techno Solutions, conducted a teardown of the Mavic Air 2, DJI’s newest lower-end model which is priced at about $750. Disassembly revealed that the vehicle, by estimate, is made of components worth around $135.

The cost of components for the model, at around 20% of the retail price, is less than the 30% to 35% typical for smartphones. “It would cost us twice as much in materials alone as the price of the [DJI] to make a product with the same capabilities,” said an executive with a Japanese drone maker.

According to Nikkei, many of the parts DJI uses in their drones are found inside smartphones, personal computers and other electronic devices. They say that such off-the-shelf parts account for around 80% of the 230 components used inside the Mavic Air 2. Specific parts mentioned include parts of the camera, which are found in premium smartphones, as well as the GPS receiver using parts found in smartwatches.

Given that these are mostly not custom parts, and the kinds of quantities DJI must be buying (after all, they do control about 70% of the global drone market), this is how they’re able to get their margins so low and profits so high. Many of the parts are quite cheap, with the only components costing more than $10 being the battery, the camera and “a few others”.

It’s not much of a surprise, though. I mean, why reinvent the wheel? If there’s a chip or doohickey out there that can do the job you need to do already and you can just buy it inexpensively in bulk, then why wouldn’t you? It sure beats having to go through the whole development and testing phase of creating your own custom chip or doohickey from scratch.

Not all of the parts are made in China, either, despite DJI being a Chinese company based in Shenzhen. The chips that control the battery, for example, are made by Texas Instruments and the radio signal amplifier is made by Qorvo, both of whom are based in the USA. Nikkei suggests that such American-made components might pose a tricky issue for DJI at some point going forward, given the ever-increasing trade war going on between the US and China.

So why such a high price? Well, it largely boils down to the software (as well as the usual business stuff like premises, insurance, R&D, assembly equipment, paying staff, marketing, etc). DJI has some of the most advanced flight control technology in the world for unmanned aerial vehicles (at least in the public sector), owning 185 patents in Japan, according to Tokyo-based company, Patent Result – three times as many as its nearest competitor in that sector.

And it’s also partly based on the Tariff on goods imported from China into the USA. It remains to be seen if the ramping up of the trade war will affect DJI’s supply chain on the US parts, forcing them to seek alternatives from elsewhere in the world. Not to mention DJI’s ability to sell their drones within the US. But if either of those things happen, they will be challenging times for DJI, for sure, as well as those looking to purchase a DJI drone.

[Via DroneDJ / Lead photo: Fomalhaut Techno Solutions]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

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.

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33 responses to “Teardown reveals the $749 DJI Mavic Air 2 is made from around $135 worth of parts”

  1. Safidy Andrian Avatar
    Safidy Andrian

    135$ if you assemble it yourself, find the part yourself, programing the drone yourself and you have to do some 3D printing yourself. How many hours would you spend to make a drone?

    1. Philip La Lumiere Avatar
      Philip La Lumiere

      Safidy Andrian not to mention designing the app to go with it too

      1. Chris Cameron Avatar
        Chris Cameron

        Not to mention R&D on the other 20% plus manufacturing, app development and updates, packaging, shipping, advertising/marketing, administration, customer support (wink), etc, etc, etc.

    2. Giammi Vrn Avatar
      Giammi Vrn

      Safidy Andrian no, you will pay 135$ only if you buy thousands of the same component all together. If you buy one at a time, you’ll pay a lot more.

  2. Philip La Lumiere Avatar
    Philip La Lumiere

    Shocking, a bill of materials is less than the MSRP ?

  3. James Alexander Cassell Avatar
    James Alexander Cassell

    Yeah most of that cost will be part of R&D as well as the software development for the application itself.

  4. Reynardt Badenhorst Avatar
    Reynardt Badenhorst

    Imagine Apple made it. Would have been double that!

    1. Robert Hicks Avatar
      Robert Hicks

      And call the cops if you dared open the body

    2. Reynardt Badenhorst Avatar
      Reynardt Badenhorst

      Robert Hicks and probably even cheaper parts that DJI :)

    3. Camera operator Hong Kong Avatar
      Camera operator Hong Kong

      The real cost of your iPhone: Apple spends less than $500 on the parts and production of the iPhone 11 Pro Max – but charges up to $1,449
      So, they multiply the price by 3 only)
      DJI is multiply by 5.5

      If Apple was to do the same; your Iphone will cost you $2,750

      Is there any point on comparing such product?

  5. Krzysztof Szyper Avatar
    Krzysztof Szyper

    Shocking reveal – million dolar paintings are made of $5 paint and $10 canvas :O

  6. Don Insley Avatar
    Don Insley

    I’m surprised it was that much.

  7. Jason Artiga Avatar
    Jason Artiga

    I wonder how much the wish version cost lol

  8. Robbie Keene Avatar
    Robbie Keene

    Gee….criticism from someone who never invented a single thing or paid employees for R&D, marketed anything on a global scale, coded and trouble shot software and on and on. You know it is the same idiotic argument made by people criticizing photographers prices. How could you want 5 grand to shoot a wedding? That’s a lot of profit

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Criticism? What argument? Didn’t actually read the article, huh?

  9. Ben Hosking Avatar
    Ben Hosking

    Doesn’t factor r&d, ip etc

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      The article does if you read beyond the headline :)

    2. Ben Hosking Avatar
      Ben Hosking

      John Aldred I can’t stand click bait headlines… just unliked the page after following them for ages

    3. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      It’s simply a statement of fact. It’s not “clickbait” and it makes no suggestions of anything. If you inferred it as such, that’s on you.

  10. Christopher R Field Avatar
    Christopher R Field

    The fact they can make it for 135 keeps the cost down for consumers.

  11. Shyam Pindoria Avatar
    Shyam Pindoria

    Kaushik Bhuva haha lets buy the parts and make it ourselves

  12. Michael Estwik Avatar
    Michael Estwik

    And those parts doesn’t run by themselves. It needs software that is both intelligent and can run on hardware that has limitations. That probably costs much more than the board itself.

  13. Prof Paz Avatar
    Prof Paz

    The price has nothing to do with the cost of components and everything to do with what buyers are prepared to pay. What this shows is just how much value you can create with off the shelf components and the ingenuity of software and hardware design.

  14. Staps Avatar
    Staps

    Oooh the cost of R&D. They rip it off the forums alot. It is about marketing and it is a good very overpriced friendly product. Why so defensive? The recent stratification of their drone abilities to higher models cannot be defended.

    1. Thefizzlee Avatar
      Thefizzlee

      The new Skydio 2 has way better active track functionality than any dji drone and it only costs $1000, that’s about the same price as the mavic pro.

  15. M.N. Vijay Avatar
    M.N. Vijay

    Not Surprising. Unlike smartphone industry, they are taking advantage of lack of competition..

  16. Kevin Johnson Avatar
    Kevin Johnson

    And how much was the R&D, manpower, customer service, distribution, etc….sounds like a deal

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      It’s amazing how many people don’t read past the headline and assume it says something that it does not. :)

  17. Jz Aamir Avatar
    Jz Aamir

    And the mind of the genius who put this all together!!!!

  18. youlivingcolor Avatar
    youlivingcolor

    Stupid article. Waste of time reading. Have you ever broken down a Mercedes or Apple product. Software and insurance is a big cost as well as being able to get parts for a DJI drone in Italy like I did. I busted out all four props and had only two spares left, (my bad). As a result, I almost lost a huge contract and was able to buy the parts in Rome at a DJI store in a mall. I made it back to the site to shoot the project and send everyone home by 7pm. 9Time is money). I’m from Canada shooting in Italy. My Mavic Pro 2 and Air 2 are well worth the money. It’s unwise to pay too much, however it’s worse to pay little. You get what you pay for.

  19. H M Sudhakar Avatar
    H M Sudhakar

    It’s high time this thing gets reverse engineered or cloned. Need to give them the taste of there own medicine.overpriced cheap Chinese crap. Why did it take so long to figure this out.

    1. Anthony Plummer Avatar
      Anthony Plummer

      It’s presumptuous to speculate the components are all Chinese, and aren’t quality grade. It also makes you sound foolish…

  20. Karl Pentel Avatar
    Karl Pentel

    “Off the shelf” is GOOD! It is not the price that’s important, it is about tried, tested and dependable components.
    Anything unique and specially made is “risky technology” and much of DJI success must be due to wise and astute choices. Pssst, when can I dump my totally unreliable “SPRY water-drone” and get a predictable DJI that can land and take-off from water? Please?