Drones are expected to be a hot ticket item this holiday season. Sales have already more than doubled from last year. And now, with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s drone rules intact, operators have much more clarification about where and how to legally fly.
But just as sales should be taking off, two key drone manufacturers are struggling to get their products out the door.
DJI and GoPro, which looked like they were ready to go head to head with their foldable, no-experience-necessary lightweight quadcopters — the GoPro Karma and DJI’s Mavic Pro — have both experienced setbacks.
The companies announced their new drones within ten days of each other in September, pledging they’d be ready in October — easily in time for the holidays.
But GoPro’s Karma drone was recalled after reports of dangerous malfunctions that caused it to fall from the sky. At the moment, the company hasn’t released any statement as to whether a safer, updated version of the Karma will be out by the holiday season. But considering GoPro required all units be returned for a full refund, don’t hold your breath.
Meanwhile, many customers who pre-ordered a DJI Mavic Pro have still not received their drone. According to DJI, those who pre-ordered a Mavic Pro should receive it around the end of this year. Amazon lists the aircraft for sale, noting customers can expect the item to be released by mid-January 2017. Similarly, DJI’s website lists shipping time as six to eight weeks.
Those who are ready to fly and excited to buy a drone this holiday season do have some options. Parrot’s Beebop 2 and Yuneec’s Breeze, for example, both cost about half as much as the Karma and Mavic Four and pack 14- and 13-megapixel cameras, respectively. But neither has the AI that allows the aircraft to follow you around or respond to gesture recognition like the Mavic does.
Right now DJI has a stranglehold on the consumer drone industry, laying claim to about 70 percent of the global market. But consumer drones are still a relatively nascent product. This is only the second holiday season that Americans have been able to use drones with legal clarity, and sales will be indicative of how much people really want flying robot cameras. Another question is whether any rival brands will be able to take advantage of DJI and GoPro’s missteps to capture some first-time holiday purchases.