Once the province of a sci-fi novel, drone manufacturers have gone from concept to application at a bewildering pace. In recent years, a tech rise fueld by smartphone electronics industry has significalntly influenced the UAV sector of multirotors and accelerated their use in commercial industry. It gave birth to Drone Makers World-Wide.
In this article we're going to cover some of the most recognized drone makers that are pushing drone technology forward. The catalog of manufacturers includes both established companies and new start-ups that have developed particular innovations that have distinguished themselves from their competitors. From aerial photography, fpv drone kits to proffesional and commercial uses.
Here is the list of top global UAV manufacturers that provide the latest and most exciting innovations in a drone technology for commercial purposes.
The most established company at the forefront of the civilian drone industry on this list. Chinese manufacturer founded by Frank Wong specializes in commercial and recreational UAVs for aerial photography and videography. Their signature/flagship drone, The Phantom 4 - is one of the best selling quadcopter on the market for aerial photography and video recording. According to the Economist, “Rather as Boeing did with commercial airliners in the 1930., DJI is today leading the charge into transforming civilian-drone manufacturing from something for hobbyists into a proper business”.
"Our main bottleneck for growth right now is the speed at which we come to realize answers to techical puzzles" Frank Wang DJI
Another company considered by many to be a significant player in electric aviation, Yuneec specializes in easy-use-drones, which is unsurprising seeing as they started out originally as a manufacturer of radio-controlled model aircraft. Their big seller, the Typhoon Q500, was the world’s first ready to fly out-of-the-box quadcopter drone - later updated with a 4K camera and dynamic panning a focusing functionality. This has lead the Typhoon to emerge as a real competitor to DJI’s Phantom in terms of market share.
Originally a French wireless products manufacturer specializing in voice recognition and signal processing, Parrot has started to steadily transition into the drone market, and the impact of this is starting to be felt today. Though DJI has been responsible for significant innovations, Parrot exceeds it in global awareness according to many industry insiders. Easily DJI’s direct competitor in the aerial photography and aerial video markets, their Bebop series is one of the most popular camera drones currently being sold today due to its affordability.
Ehang UAVs are a series of drones developed by Beijing YI-Hang Creation Science & Technology Co. Most known for their Ghost drone series, Ehang tends to innovate in non-traditional ways, such as it’s Ghost series designing the rotors to spin beneath its arms rather than above like most quadcopter drones. It also can be used for aerial photography while being controlled by a smartphone. Even more impressive, Ehang is currently finishing work on the world’s first passenger drone, the Ehang 1848 (which we really want to fly ourself)
Based out of Berkeley, California, 3D Robotics focuses mostly on autonomous drones (like it’s drone SOLO) with GPS point planning, otherwise known as a smart drone. This company mainly concerned with UAV technology for everyday exploration and business applications as well as aerial photography. It has had some recent setbacks, however, as competing with DJI in the consumer drone market has lead to organizational reshuffling and staff layoffs.
Based in Sweden since 2003, CybAero first began making remotely piloted helicopter, but today they have transition themselves into drone manufacturer. Since this refocusing, they have made waves in the industry, responsible for the first public UAV flight demonstration in Sweden and signing a teaming agreement with Indra.
Partnering with Boeing Aircraft before being officially acquired as a subsidiary by them, INSITU has had an inside track on Pentagon Projects since transitioning from naval imaging reconnaissance for commercial fishing boats after the onset of the Iraq war. Their current and most visible military product the Boeing ScanEagle, a UAV that doesn’t require a runway as they are launched via pneumatic catapult and has been serving the US military since 2004. Now the US Navy and Marine Corp have purchased INSITU’s Integrator UAV for use in combat and reconnaissance.
This Canadian firm specializes in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) scout drones that don’t require any lunch equipment. Their signature mini drone, the Aeryon Scout, is capable of high-resolution stills, thermal imaging, and is control via a tablet-PC interface rather than traditional joystick - reducing the amount of training need to operate it - just point on a Google Map interface connected to the unit GPS system.
“When you look at where aviation came from, UAVs will travel that same path in 15 years”
PrecisionHawk specializes in fully autonomous UAV for low altitude data collection for data analysis and management. More of an information delivery company than a company that makes drones, they employ UAVs a part of series of technological tools meant to improve business operations by providing them with information from aerial data gathering. Their main model is Lancaster Mark III, a small plane that can collect extremely high-res, remote sensing data for businesses that is powered by an AI rather than a human operator. Let’s hope the AI never watches The Terminator.
Another commercial manufacturer of aerial imaging UAVs, SenseFlyis unique in that they have recently partnered with one of their competitors, Parrot, to develop their respective markets. Due this merger, Parrot now powers technology behind many of their products, including ther distinctive eBee mapping drone - a fully autonomous micro UAV that can capture high resolution aerial photos that can be transofrmed into accurate orthomosaics (a.k.a. Ridiculosly accurate aerial maps) and 3d models.
Extreme Fliers is a British firm headquartered in London that is gaining a lot of attention recently in the UAV industry for their Micro-Drone. This is a compact UAV that fits in the palm of your hand, the latest incarnation of which is capable of live video streaming. According to Simon Crisp at GizMag “It allows users to get a taste of features more commonly associated with bigger drones, but at a more budget firendly price.” Extreme Fliers seemed commited to creating new iterations of the Micro Drone with each becoming more sophisticated utilizing advancements in sensor technology.
Squadrone System is the company behind the HEXO+. The HEXO+ drone is a self-flying camera with a 3D gimbal that automatically shoot footage of the user while following them around, developed before the Lily. This is especially useful for extreme sports athletes who want to shoot footage of themselves without having to have an independent operator controlling their camera drone. Not much is known about the company behind this revolutionary UAV company other than they’re based in San Francisco and count among their technical team people with more than 20 years of expertise in film production and flight navigation.
A Tel Aviv-based UAV tech start-up, Dronomy specializes in sense and avoid technology - developing drone able to fly autonomously while maneuvering aroung obstacles. This Israeli firm announced last year that it received 1.5 million in investment firm backing due to it’s potential to produce drones that can fly in cluttered outdoor environments. On of their new partners, Itzik Parnafes of the VC firm Battery Ventures was quoted as saying “They have the know-how, and the networks, to build a radically new type of software for drones that could greatly expand the use of this technology in numerous industries.”
One of the newest drone start-ups on this list, Onago Fly and the drone they are developing that bears its company’s name has generated a lot of buzz and they haven’t even been around for more than six months. Attempting to bridge the gap between nanodrones and bigger, beefier commercial models, the OnagoFly can fit in your hand and still offer HD video, obstacle avoidance and has the ability to follow the user. Just imagine that the technology from Dronomy, Lily, HEXo + and Extreme Fliers came together and had a super-advanced baby that you can control from a smartphone and you’ll get the idea.
Headquartered in Zurich, Fotokite also specializes in versatile aerial photography. Their main product is the Phi - a drone on a leash that operated automatially. All that’s required is arraching a GoPro camera to it. According to Josh Constantine at GizMag, ” it could unlock citizen drone journalism in crowded areas like protests where it’d be too dangerous or distracting to fly a free-roaming drone. Its low-torque soft plastic blades with guards reduce the chance of injury if it does hit someone, winning permisssion for Fotokitires to be flown near crowds in Switzerland and France.”
This is a real drone start-up success story. Danvers, Massachusetts - based star-up Cyphy works just recently secured a sum of $22 million in venture capital investment last year and it’s easy to see why. A manufacturer of tethered drones, CyPhy Work’s UAVs are connected to users via a thin filament that enables unlimited flight times, improved flight control and better video processing. It’s PARC (Persistant Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications) vehicle systems can be used both in military an commercial applications.
Those looking for a personal autonomous robot drone might want to look into the offering of a company called Fleye. This drone company start-up has created what Popular Science refers to as “A $1200 floating soccer ball with a camera”. Rather than copy DJI’s Phantom like everyone else. Fleye has utilized a sphere shape to encase it’s propellers in a shell that is much safer for people near its flight path. Handling extremely well, its safe design might be the reason it was able to met its Kickstarter goal late last year.
Aviation company from Phoenix, Arizona that attempting to revolutionie UAVs for commercial applications and the aerospace industry in general. It’s main focus is the Krossblade SkyCruiser - a vertical take-off and landing transforming aircraft/roadcraft. But in the process of developing tis hybrid passenger craft, it’s inadvertently innovated in the UAV field. The drone prototype meant to test the development of its propulsion system - the SkyProwler - is actually a fantastic electrical UAV that could be excellent in a parcel delivery capacity. This company is just waiting with bated breathe for airspace regulations to be lifted - and for Amazon’s own in-development delivery drone to fall flat on its face.
The professional toys and drone manufacturer Cheerson Hobby Technology Company, established in 2011, has received acclamation for being in the forefront of delevoping professional remote controlled unmanned systems in less than a decade. It aslo prides itself for receiving honor in the world for its CXHOBBY ans SH brand of drones. The manufacturer has consistently being producing Cheerson CX drones, whis are affordable, going for less than $300. Most hobbyists and enthusiasts have recommended the use of this drones when gathering experience on how to operate drones in the first place.
The Californian based drone maker was established in 1998, boasts of being the developer of the first civilian drone. Currently, their flahship products under the brand Draganfly, sit in the collection of UAS collected by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Recently, TRACE Live Networks, a broadcasting company, acquired the tech company in its efforts to boost its aerial imaging and data collection exercises. Draganfly drones are common sectors like aerial photography, industrial plant inspections, rescue and relief exercises hence boosting evacuation and public safety.
Founded in 2011 in a team project at Singularity University, Sillicon Valley, this promising drone maker is revolutionizing the medical world, by developing drones that used in delivering vaccines in congested cities in developing countires. Owning two sub-brands; we established two wholly-owned subsidiaries in North America and Europe. Our products are exported to more than 100 contries and regions; bring forth unparalleled enjoyment to the users all over the world. This Counters the inefficient trasport networks common in this economies.
The Guangdong based company has really invested in first person view drones, which has attracted many enthusiasts and hobbyists to buying their products. The company also specializes in making other remote controlled multirotors, expanding their toy products to accommodate the needs of various markets. According to the UAV Systems International, a drone school, JJRC drones are the best drones for beginners as they use them in their training sessions. In addition, they can be used by those with experience and want to specialize in cotrolling smaller quadcopters, both indoors and outdoors.
The startup drone maker was recently acquired by Intel Capital, a US based Software Company in its efforts to intergrate its processors and Real Sense imaging technology to its next wave of connected devices apart from personal computers. Ascending Technology had attracted the attention of many software developers for its accuracy in developing its own software and hardware in its drones. The drones are being used by professionals in the imaging and aviation industry in improving geo-mapping and air transportation.
The Chinese company is a leading manufacturer of quadcopters meant for entertainment. It is located in Laimei Industrial park Chenghai Distric Shantou, Guangdong, producing consumer drones such as X16 Fighter and X121S Nano are used as toys by children. Currently, its products under the name “SYMA” are sold well world wide. Beginners or just anyone can enjoy in the first time fliying using their drones. Through their theme, “Technological Innovation & People Fist”, Syma Toys is continuosly growing and striving to produce original, innovatively engineered top quality products for their consumers.
UDI Drone Factory is a Chinese drone manufacturer, supplier and wholesaler of UAVs. According to a report done by the Ezvid Inc, a media software company based in the US, this drone maker happens to build one of th emost beauftiful drones in the world, hence attracting top drone sales over the years. Their products varies from $41 and are built for aerial photography. UDI also creates larger sized quadcopters and multirotors for consumers in price range less then $100 and feature cameras for aerial droneography.
The Kassel based company specializes in the production of software used in detecting drones. Its flagship product, Drone Tracker helps in tracking civilian drones that may be used for ill intention such as smuggling of contrabands or illegal weapons. The software is attached to exterior walls of buildings, specials masts and rooftops with a combionation of sensors, video and audio hardware to help in detecting drones within the surroundings. It was established in 2014 and has continuously partnered with international organizations to help in fighting crimes and industrial espionage.
The Amsterdam based toy manufacturer and distributer. WLtoys has been developing drones since 2011. It boasts of selling modern quadcopters and spare parts, becoming a game changer in the toy manufacturing industry. In addition, the manufacturer equipes its drones with cameras to help in capturing videos and pictures, hence relaying that information to the drone powers in the long run. The firm is also known for distributing a number of drones to Holland’s security forces and agencies hence helping in surveillance.
The California based drone manufacturer designs and develops drones for sports, commercial purposes and industrial application. In recent years, the company has been receiving growing orders hence building its customers based in Autralia, Asia and New Zealand. In addition to this, it also offers drone training courses to hobbyists and commercial firms, while providing them with new products and drone insights. Its popular product, the Y-6 multi-rotor has been tested in a number of sessions and can be used as a fire copter. It can be equipped with a fire extinguisher to fight fires while in the air.
Based in Guangzhou City, this drone maker is popular for its Walkera Drones brand. The Walkera Scout X4 is among top selling drones on Amazon. The company has other sub brands away from Asia, in North America and Europe established in 2014. The company is continuously bringing forth innovations and improving the performance of its drones, providing consumers with more valued products and customized services. Walkera is also exploring the manufacturing of large scale models for cinematography, agriculture and security.
AMIMON developed the CONNEX drone which is a UAS that allows professional drone users to outfit virtually any rig with long-range full-HD video transmissions capablities, with zero latency. The company was established in 2004 and is privately held. It has a number of offices and distribution networks with in California, Israel, Tokyo, Taipei, and Shenzhen. This ranks it among the top drone manufacturers to compete with many Chinese drone makers in ther doorsteps.
Based in Nevada, Dronesmith Technologies is the brains behind a number of powerful UAS in the US. It recently changed its name from Sky Works Aerial Systems and developed Luci, an advanced drone operating system designed for drone developers and innovators. This unique architecture that helps in flight management and application development has put the company in limelight in the drone making industry. The firm has also developed QKII, an underground UAV platform used by researchers for optimizing algorithm development. Dronesmith Suite provides cloud-connected back-end service for developing drone applications.
Undoubtedly one of the fast growing drone makers is UAV Solutions that has been contracted by renowned manufacturing and engineering dirms to make and supply UAVs that meet a wide array of surveillance and security needs. In May 2016, the firm incorporated 4G LTE modems into its drones, enabiling users to operate the drones remotely using the Internet. “Applying 4G LTE technology for the flight of unmanned systems allows the proficient user to operate from anywhere on the globe with the assistance of technician of the ground and a cellular network,” stated Bill Davidson, UAVS's chief executive officer and chief engineer. “ Future possibilities for this technology include remote unmanned inspections stations.”
These drones are used in action movie photography. GoPro is known for delevoping lightweight cameras used in the filming industry. The company has een in collison with Chinese based drone maker, DJI, when controling the drone market in the first place. The cameras are then mounted on these drone to offer better photo shooting angles for movie producer. Only recently, GoPRo partnered with You Tube to help creators shoot 360-degree panoramic video and hiring Charlotte Koh, Hulu’s former head of original series, to broker deals with Hollywood studio.
Set up in 2010, Hubsan Intelligent Co prides itself in manufacturing drones used by hobbyist and commercial photography. It is also the maker of the world’s smallest drone, Nano Q4 wit a flying weight of only 11.5 grams. Since their announcement that it will be releasing a number of new versions, in the CES show in 2017, Hubsan upgraded its X4 RC Quadcopter drones, adding a number of features such as LED lights to help in aerial photography and easy tracking of the drones especially at night. We featured one of the X4 models in our affordable budget guide.
It is with no doubt that many drone makers are springing up in different economies world wide, marking a vital milestone in the drone takeover. However, many countries are also setting up laws to control the use of drones, and manufacturers are joining forces to communicate industry needs.
In early 2016. DJI, 3DR, Parrot and GoPro formed Drone Manufacturers Alliance: "a coalition that will serve as the voice for drone manufacturers and our customers across civilian, governmental, recreational, commercial, nonprofit and public safety applications. The coalition will advocate for policies that promote innovation and safety for all users of small drones, and create a practical and responsible regulatory framework."
By no doubt, the growing use and demand of these drones will lead to springing up more and more drone manufacturers. Even though this type of information can be very complicated it’s vital to understand the direction this fast growing industry is gravitating towards.
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