As DJI shrinks, these drone manufacturers are growing

In what’s surprising news to absolutely no one, is that DJI is the biggest drone manufacturer in 2023. But as DJI shrinks, other companies are actually growing.

That’s according to the second edition of the annual Drone Manufacturers Ranking 2023 from Drone Industry Insights (DII), a German-based analytics group analyzing the drone industry. DJI has been (and still is) the best-known brand in drones, but the company size is shrinking. Meanwhile, growing companies include American drone maker Skydio, as well as DJI competitor Autel Robotics.

For the 2023 edition of DII’s Drone Manufacturers Ranking, civil drone companies were ranked on two metrics: brand awareness versus actual company growth. DII then laid out the companies that are increasing versus decreasing on both metrics.

Here’s the visual breaking down the biggest drone manufacturer of 2023 that DII came up with:

biggest drone manufacturer in 2023

If DJI is shrinking in 2023, which companies are growing?

Here are the standout movers and shakers of the biggest drone manufacturers in 2023 for civil drones, based on DII’s analysis:

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The Parrot Bebop 2 consumer drone, which is no longer in production.

Parrot

Interestingly, some companies that marginally grew in size lost some brand awareness, most notably French-based Parrot drones. Parrot arguably deserves all the credit for bringing drones to consumers thanks to its Parrot AR.Drone (which yes, preceded the DJI Phantom) and later the Bebop consumer drones.

Now, Parrot is an enterprise-focused drone maker, with products including the ANAFI Ai, which is designed for photogrammetry on an open software platform. It also makes a model called ANAFI USA that is made in the U.S. and meets critical security standards including being Blue sUAS program approved, NDAA & TAA compliant. Given the enterprise focus, fewer every day people are aware of the company.

But that’s not necessarily bad for business. In the first six months of 2023, Parrot revenues increased by 3.3%, according to its first half of 2023 earnings report.  Those revenue increases were driven by photogrammetry products, which increased by 6.5% in the first half of 2023 versus the same period in 2022. Microdrones increased by a marginal 0.5%.

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Two Autel consumer drones that have mirrored DJI products: the Autel Evo Lite+ (left) and the Autel X-Star (right).

Autel Robotics

Autel Robotics grew in 2023, and the company is known for making products very similar to what DJI offers, starting with the Phantom lookalike drone called the Autel X-Star, and later the Autel Evo line to compete with DJI’s Mavic drones. Autel has stood out particularly as people have sought out alternatives to DJI drones (largely incited by anti-Chinese technology sentiment).

What’s a bit odd about the drone industry’s fascination with Autel, though, is that Autel is still a Chinese company, with headquarters in Shenzhen, China (the same city as DJI’s headquarters). That said, Autel has done an excellent job to position itself as more American than DJI. It at one point had a robust office near Seattle, Washington, and now still has offices in Silicon Valley.

Autel appealed to the Made in USA hype in 2020 by launching USA EVO II Dual Bundles for public sector and enterprise use. Those drones were manufactured in the USA, but relied on foreign and domestic parts and labor (for example, the airframe was from China, IR/thermal cameras came from U.S.-based FLIR, other images came from Japan’s Sony, and the final product was assembled in Bothell, Washington with American labor).  These days, the Autel Robotics EVO II DUAL 640T Rugged Bundle V3 sells for about $6,000 but it’s no longer promised to be made in the USA.

The no-longer-made Skydio 2 consumer droneThe no-longer-made Skydio 2 consumer drone
The no-longer-made Skydio 2 consumer drone.

Skydio

And lest we forget Skydio, a true American-made drone company. Skydio has a similar story to Parrot in that it cut its consumer line to instead focus entirely on enterprise drones. But unlike Parrot, which lost brand awareness, Skydio’s brand awareness is only increasing.

That could be due in part to big events like the Skydio Ascend 2023 in-person and virtual event hosted by Skydio which happened in September. There, the California-based dronemaker launched the Skydio X10 drone, which stands out for its high-resolution cameras that are particularly powerful even at night or in other low-light environments.

Additionally, in early 2023, Skydio raised $230 million in Series E funding.

Other civil drone manufacturers that grew in 2023

Other growing names of note on DII’s list include Flyability, which in June released a new version of its Elios 3 drone that is compliant with FAA regulation on UAS Remote Identification. There’s also JOUAV, which builds a relatively easy-to-use VTOL fixed-wing drone. JOUAV also recently opened a new $50 million drone factory in China.

As far as the biggest countries for manufacturing drones? That title goes first to China, and the U.S. second. On DII’s list of the top 20 civil drone manufacturing companies, six are based in China and four are in the U.S. European companies also have a decently strong presence, with countries represented including France, Switzerland and Germany.

Note that DII has a separate biggest drone manufacturer list specific to Dual Use Drone Manufacturers that produce drones for commercial and military markets which you can see in DII’s full report.

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