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Before we get into the DJI Mavic 3 Pro and Inspire 3 rumors, let’s take a step back and reflect a little on what has happened with DJI in 2019. Over the last few weeks, a lot of attention has been given to the DJI Mavic Mini (from DJI or Amazon), and rightfully so, as this new sub-250-gram can surely hold its own among the other DJI Mavic drones. But why is it that this capable mini-drone is all we got from DJI in 2019? What happened to all the other DJI drones that were rumored to be released, such as the DJI Phantom 5, the DJI Spark 2, the DJI Inspire 3 and even the temporary return of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0? Where are they? And, maybe more importantly, what does this mean for 2020? What can we expect from DJI next year?

DJI Mavic Pro

2019 was a tumultuous year for DJI

Last year around this time, 2019 looked like a very promising year for drone enthusiasts with a lot of new DJI drones expected to come to market. We wrote about a DJI Phantom 5 with interchangeable lenses, a project that, unfortunately, but understandably, has since been abandoned. A DJI Spark 2 drone that was supposed to be launched before the summer (this turned out to be the DJI Mavic Mini), and the DJI Inspire 3 that was expected to hit the market in the second half of 2019.

Lastly, there had been confirmed rumors that the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 would make a temporary return to the stores this fall. But, as you all know, that has not happened yet either. Even though the new and higher prices for the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 have already been announced on the official DJI online store. Instead, we only saw the DJI Mavic Mini being released by the Chinese drone maker. What happened in 2019 and what does this mean for 2020?

DJI battled three major challenges in 2019

Well, 2019 has been a rough year for DJI as the Chinese drone maker battled three major challenges:

  • The $150M fraud situation that was admitted to by DJI late last year and disrupted their supply chain.
  • Data security concerns from various U.S. Government departments and officials concerning Chinese-made drones and specifically DJI drones.
  • The ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China that resulted in tariffs on drones imported from China.

How did these three challenges disrupt DJI’s plans to release new drones in 2019?

$150M fraud situation

Well, let’s start with the $150M fraud situation. Officially there has been very little information both about the actual size of the fraud and the impact it might have had on DJI’s business. What we do know after talking to many DJI employees, retailers, and industry insiders is that the $150M likely was only the tip of the iceberg and that the real fraud might have been substantially bigger. And, that it disrupted the company’s supply chain to a much larger degree than DJI has admitted.

One area, that was especially hit hard, is DJI’s gimbal and camera technology. Apparently, it left DJI scrambling to find new suppliers and manufacturers that the drone maker could work with going forward. Insiders told us that DJI did work with some new manufacturers, but that they failed to live up to the drone makers’ requirements. The two immediate victims were the Inspire 3 and the Phantom 4 Pro series. The Inspire 3 plans were shelved and the Phantom production has been severely disrupted resulting in the iconic drone being sometimes in, but mostly out-of, stock without any clear timeline as to when this might get resolved or plans for a possible successor, such as a Phantom 5.

We do not know whether the fraud situation has impacted the development of the DJI Phantom 5 with its interchangeable lenses but it might have. Ultimately the P5 became irrelevant when DJI decided that the Phantom design was inferior to the much more popular, foldable Mavic Series.

The fraud case might not have killed the Phantom series but it surely didn’t help. The only area where, at least for now, the Phantom 4 continues, is the Enterprise market where DJI is selling the Phantom 4 RTK and the P4 Multispectral. The latter is really a Phantom 4 drone even though the company simply refers to it as the P4M. For the consumer and prosumer market, however, the Phantom series is dead and we expect that ultimately the same will hold true for the Phantom in the Enterprise market.

Data security concerns

In addition to the fraud case, the ongoing and increasing data security concerns expressed by U.S. Government officials. It started with the U.S. Army that stopped using DJI drones in 2017, citing the risk of vulnerabilities.

Then in May 2019, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to companies that Chinese-made drones might be sending sensitive data back to China or sharing it with third parties. And most recently, bipartisan lawmakers introduced the National Security Drone Act that aims to stop federal funds being used by government agencies to purchase Chinese-made drones, including DJI’s. And lastly the temporary grounding of the fleet of drones of the Interior Department amidst a review.

All these developments have forced DJI to defend itself and come up with solutions quickly. Earlier this year, the drone maker started by saying that “your data is none of their business” and the company explained how you can prevent any information from your drone making its way online. Both messages have been repeated by various DJI officials in the media and during company events such as DJI Airworks. In addition, DJI created a special ‘Government Edition’ of their drone that locks down all data on the unmanned aircraft. And, DJI proposed to move part of its production capacity to the US and to start assembling drones in California.

Lastly, DJI stepped up their lobbying game. The company got actively and more closely involved with the US Government in an effort to respond quickly to the data security concerns and come up with solutions. Apart from the question of how effective DJI has been in addressing these concerns, it must have been a major distraction for the company and possibly left them wondering what the future would hold in their largest drone market. So you might say, that 2019 was not an ideal time to make significant investments in new products and major product launches.

The ongoing trade war

Lastly, the trade war. DJI has become a victim of the ongoing, and hopefully soon to be resolved, trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The implemented tariffs forced DJI to choose between 1) absorbing the tariffs at the expense of their profit margin to avoid price hikes or 2) pass on the tariffs in the form of a price increase to consumers and protect their profit margins.

It seems that the lack of any real competition for DJI both in terms of drones that can compete on spec as well as competitors that can bring such drones to the market in large quantities quickly, has made it easy for DJI to decide to simply raise the price of its product and pass the tariffs on to the U.S. consumers.

Yes, of course, there is Skydio with their amazing self-flying quadcopter, but their Skydio 2 drone announcement came only late in 2019 and their production capacity apparently can not keep up with demand as the third batch of drones will not be delivered to customers until mid-2020. It doesn’t seem that Skydio was enough of a threat to DJI to keep them from raising their prices in 2019.

Ok, back to DJI. Industry insiders have informed us that the trade tariffs have prevented the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 from making its return to the market as the drone simply got too expensive, and the profit margins became too slim. Apparently, DJI has decided it would be better off to focus on the new and improved DJI Mavic 3 Pro, which is just around the corner.

Rumors: DJI Mavic 3 Pro and Inspire 3

So, this brings us to the expectations for next year, 2020. What do we know and what are the DJI Mavic 3 Pro rumors and Inspire 3 whispers? Well, let’s continue with the DJI Mavic 3 Pro. This drone is expected to be released at the end of January next year. It will include ADS-B as DJI announced earlier, and it will have a much-improved camera. Even though we do not have any information as of yet about the sensor size and the type of shutter DJI might use, we fully expect foldable unmanned aircraft to have a 1-inch sensor that will provide much-improved video quality over the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, and even better than what you get out of the current Phantom 4 Pro V2.0.

Do the DJI Mavic 3 Pro rumors include a Zoom version?

In the DJI Mavic 3 Pro rumors, there is little information on whether DJI will continue with its dual Mavic line-up and will launch a Mavic 3 Pro and a Mavic 3 Zoom. We do know that they are currently testing the camera for the Mavic 3 Pro. But will there be a Zoom version as well?

One solution might be that DJI would combine the Pro and the Zoom and simply call it the new Mavic 3 with a better camera and zoom lens. Even though this is a tempting idea, we think this is unlikely. We believe it will be more realistic that DJI keeps the Mavic 2 Zoom and positions the new Mavic 3 Pro above it.

Actually, we would not be surprised to see DJI continuing both the Mavic 2 Zoom and the Mavic 2 Pro, while launching the new Mavic 3 Pro. Just like they kept selling the original Mavic Pro after introducing the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom. DJI would basically be taking a page out to the Apple iPhone marketing playbook where older models are still available at lower prices, while new phones are being introduced. To mimic this strategy would be a smart move fro DJI, we think.

DJI Inspire 3 rumors

Then lastly, the DJI Inspire 3. Will we finally see a successor to the Inspire 2 in 2020? Yes, rumors indicate that we will. Industry insiders tell us that the Inspire 3 will be launched mid-2020 with an improved Zenmuse camera line-up, a slightly improved flight time by three to five minutes because of new batteries, ADS-B (of course), a redesigned body, and a new remote controller.

So, after a disappointing 2019 for DJI, all eyes are now aimed at 2020 and we believe it will be a big year with some big drone announcements from the Chinese drone maker. Expect a new DJI Mavic 3 Pro and a new DJI Inspire 3, but forget about the DJI Phantom 5

and…

In the meantime, put a DJI Mavic Mini (from DJI or Amazon) on your holiday shopping list!

What do you think about the DJI Mavic 3 Pro rumors and Inspire 3 information? Let us know in the comments below.

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