By pushing the boundaries of creativity, DJI is redefining the entire drone industry
Frank Wang, CEO and mastermind behind DJI, the world famous manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), built a drone empire from humble beginnings. Founded in a dorm room at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, what began as a 20-member company transformed into an industry leader with more than 8,000 global employees. In just 10 years, DJI opened up branches in 17 different cities with key offices in Shenzhen, San Francisco, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Seoul.
Last year, the company opened its first overseas flagship store and the first DJI Arena in Korea to foster the local drone culture among the public. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect—South Korea’s trade ministry announced that it would throw its weight behind the promotion of 12 new industries in 2017, especially drones. Most notably, the country will invest an impressive KRW 500 billion (USD 428 million) to foster the industry by 2019.
In a recent interview with KOTRA Express, Moon Tae-hyun, Country Manager of DJI Korea, talked about why DJI opened up its first overseas flagship store and drone arena in Korea and the company’s efforts to spearhead the industry.
What makes DJI rise above the competition?
Throughout the past 11 years, the key differentiator that sets DJI apart from other companies is that it has made flight experience as effortless as possible. Our key product lines include the Phantom, Inspire and Matrice. At the end of the day, our value in developing our products is to make the UAV technology more accessible, reliable and easy to use to the mass public.
Today, DJI is more than just a drone manufacturer; it’s a pioneer in the gimbal market that boasts unrivaled technological expertise. We brought our smooth video technology to the ground with the Ronin and Osmo series, giving creators wider options to implement their creativity.
Why did DJI choose to do business in Korea?
The DJI Korea flagship is our first overseas store which opened in March 2016.
Korea is a highly digital and mobile-first market, fueled by the influence of K-pop, Korean dramas and locally produced content, among others. And with more and more people consuming video content on their mobile devices and the growing community of photographers and content creators, DJI sees Korea as a very important market with strong growth potential. In fact, Korea is known for having a mobile internet penetration rate of 88 percent, with 50 percent of people in the country watch videos online. Every second, more than 400 people watch a video on their smartphones.
In your opinion, why do you think drones have experienced explosive popularity in the country?
The growing interest in drones is the result of two important factors – drones are becoming increasingly easier to use and every day, people are seeing more possibilities of drones in different industries.
While the trend is the same globally, we’ve learned from the Korea flagship store that local customer interest spans across different demographics—from teenagers to the elderly, and from recreational users to those seeking to start their own business using our aerial technology.
At this stage, educating the public is an important aspect to any kind of technological advancement/adoption. As the leading UAV manufacturer, we strive to educate consumers with safety guidelines, best practices and video tutorials which can be found on our social media channels, website (http://www.dji.com/flysafe) and in our product packaging. We also have a global education and safety program called the NPE (New Pilot Experience) at the DJI Arena and flagship store, which aim to provide new pilots the technical knowledge, operation skills and best practices before they lift off. We will also organize workshops for those in Korea who are interested to learn about different industrial applications, products and app usage.
DJI is working closely with the aviation authorities around the world to promote the development of UAVs in ways that won’t compromise the growth and adoption of the technology. DJI is an active participant in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s UAV policy committee in Japan as well as the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S., where we provide recommendations on best practices and advocate for policy outcomes to ensure safe UAV flights and innovative use of our technology. As we continue to strengthen our brand in Korea, we look forward to exploring strategic partnerships with local content partners, other brands, the public sector, and together, explore the future of possibilities with our aerial technologies.
Were there any challenges that the company faced while trying to expand its business in Korea?
What DJI is doing now no one has really done before and because UAV development (both hardware and software) is such a new and niche category, we have to look harder to find the right talent. We want to go after people who think critically and do things differently—people who are able to push boundaries.
But overall, there are more possibilities than there are challenges as this is one of the most interesting industries to be in right now. We are already changing the way people see the world and we are seeing huge commercial implications with the use of our aerial technology.
Some of these local trends in commercial applications include search and rescue, surveying and mapping, real estate and construction, inspection, agriculture, sports events and broadcasting, all of which will create positive economic and social impacts.
What are some of the goals or vision that your company has for Korea?
Our focus still remains on our flagship store and the DJI Arena to provide a good experience for people who want to learn how to fly. In both places, we’re offering workshops for different audiences (from creators to industry experts) to use our space for creativity.
We’ll continue to explore news ways on how our technology can be used for various industries and businesses, such as expanding the use of DJI’s SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) and GS Pro (Ground Station Pro).
GS Pro is an iPad app designed by professional operators to plan and control autonomous flights for DJI aircrafts. Through the app’s concise and easy to use interface, complex flight missions can take place with just a few taps. GS Pro was designed to improve workflow and dramatically increase efficiency in a wide range of industries, especially those in aerial mapping, architecture, precision agriculture and electrical inspections.
DJI’s SDK has opened up new business opportunities globally, and we look forward to seeing the same in Korea. For example, a logistics company in South Africa used the SDK program to automate DJI’s developer’s drone ‘Matrice 100’ to autonomously scan products in the warehouse, flying through the programmed path. This not only saves time but cost.
With the SDK platform, drones and industries have become even smarter and easier to fly, and they’re playing a key role in building the UAV ecosystem.
By Esther Oh (email@example.com)
Executive Consultant/Invest Korea