TechnologyHow DJI has become the largest drone manufacturer in the world: controls 70% of the market despite being on the US blacklist

How DJI has become the largest drone manufacturer in the world: controls 70% of the market despite being on the US blacklist

This is the story of how a company founded in a university residence has managed to be the best seller in its category of technological products despite having the opposition of the United States and being embroiled in the controversy over the war in Ukraine.

DJIan acronym for the Chinese company Da Jiang Innovations, is the great dominator of the current drone market.

According to the latest data, it is estimated that controls more than 70% of the total drone market –in March 2021 its share was 76%–, an indisputable hegemony that is rare in other categories of technological devices.

From humble origins to 14,000 employees

DJI was created in 2006 in the bedroom of a university residence where its founder, Frank Wang, studied. At first, it only manufactured control systems for homemade drones assembled by the users themselves, most of them technology enthusiasts.

But in 2013, the Shenzhen-based company launched its first complete drone, the Phantom 1which made the public of these flying devices expand to new sectors, such as audiovisual professionals.

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Mavic Mini from DJI, the smallest high-end drone on the market that will make you feel like a professional in remote-controlled flight and video for only 370 euros

DJI has grown a lot as a company from its humble beginnings and today it has 14,000 employees Worldwide. Its business focus is on innovation and research, to which 25% of its workforce is dedicated, as Adam Welsh, DJI’s director of Global Policy, has assured. CNBC.

Obstacle 1: America’s blacklist

DJI’s rise to the throne of the drone market has not been without controversy, and the first of these has to do with an ethical minority in China and the United States.

In December 2021, the US government added several Chinese technology companies, including DJI, to an economic blacklist that prevents investment by US companies and citizens.

The reason given was the alleged use of drones by the Chinese company to monitor the Uyghurs in China, a Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region, whose repression caused condemnation by the international community.

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“It is very unfortunate. We have stated unequivocally that we have had nothing to do with the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” Welsh assured the aforementioned media.

DJI often claims that its hardware and software have passed various security audits that show that its technology does not leak any data to the Chinese government.

Despite everything, cybersecurity experts have highlighted that users can install on their own firmware patches to modify the one that DJI drones have as standard and to be able to bypass limitations such as the maximum height or the maximum distance from the operator, which makes it possible to use it for military purposes.

Obstacle 2: Ukrainian war

Another military use attributed to DJI drones is the ukrainian warwhere the Russian army would be using devices from the Chinese company for the necessary terrain reconnaissance for its missile guidance system.

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In March last year, the Ukrainian government asked DJI in a letter to block drones used by the Russian army on the front lines.

The Chinese company’s response was that its drones “do not meet military standards“and that its AeroScope system makes it known when a device is flying, making it unsafe to use for military purposes – unless patched.

He also replied that the company does not access the location of the drones and that it was unable to do what Ukraine requested, although it would work to implement a system of geofencing or digital fencing to all DJI drones in Ukraine to prevent their flight, although this can only work while the product is connected to the Internet.

Since April 2022, DJI discontinued the sale of its drones to both Russia and Ukrainealthough their devices continue to fly over the battlefront to this day.


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