In case you missed it, last week Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi announced the launch of its new drone, the Mi. After weeks of teasers and leaks, the world finally got to see what could be the next big thing in the consumer drone industry.
One thing that not many people expected was the impact that the release, scheduled for July, could have on the consumer market. This is because not only have Xiaomi introduced a drone similar in specification to DJI's leading Phantom series, but the company has done so at a price point far below the industry standard.
Xiaomi has made its name producing surprisingly good quality consumer electronics for a fraction of competitors' prices. But how exactly will the Mi Drone stack up against the opposition? Well, it'll come with a 4K camera, - there's a standard version for those who don't want to extend beyond 1080p - a three-axis gimbal that corrects itself 2,000 times per second, and a remote control that connects to your Xiaomi phone. On top of that, the replaceable battery promises nearly 30 minutes of flight time, and the Mi has a bunch of smart software designed to ensure accurate positioning, location tracking, geo-fencing around no fly zones, flight path planning, automatic take-off, landing and autopilot.
Aside from all of that though, the Mi drone costs just $460. And that's for the 4K version. $460! You can pay $80 less for the model with the standard camera. Compare that to DJI's new Phantom 4, which comes in at $1,400, and the $800 Phantom 3 4K, and you can begin to see why this move could make waves in the consumer industry.
However, obviously Xiaomi has none of the reputation and respectability of its established Chinese counterparts DJI and Yuneec. Because of this it's unlikely to fly off the shelves straight away - especially in the US, as the company is yet to confirm that the drone will be sold outside of China. Despite that, the $460 price puts it well in the range of people interested in trying out a drone, but put off by the huge investment required at the top end of the spectrum. If the Mi drone can do everything it says it can do, it's certainly worth a gamble.
Even if the Mi drone disappoints, there are two important consequences its release will have for the industry as a whole. The first is that its very creation proves that it’s possible to make a drone with high-end components and a lengthy feature list for a lot less than you'd think given DJI's pricing structure. Second, other competitors, especially those also based in China, will feel the pricing pressure from this new contender on the block.
And that's assuming the worst. If the Mi Drone proves a success and can do all of the things it says on the box, then it will be a plausible rival to DJI's Phantom series, and could force big changes in the consumer industry.