Chinese drone manufacturer DJI gets $75M from Accel

Steven Loeb · May 6, 2015 · Short URL:

DJI and Accel are entering into a partnership to help to company expand its global efforts

Drones are a hot topic right now, for better or worse, and they are also starting to get attention from venture capital. Funding for startups in the drone space more than doubled in 2014 growing by 104%, and they are likely to get even more funding in 2015.

Now one of the biggest companies in the space, Chinese drone making company DJI, has raised a big new round with broad implications for the industry going forward.

DJI raised a $75 million round from Accel Partners, it was announced on Wednesday. The investment comes only a year after it raised a $30 million round from Sequoia Capital, bringing its total funding to $105 million. The company is now said to be valued at $10 billion. 

More importantly, though, this is being labeled as one the largest single investments ever made by Accel, and one that "is part of a broader effort between the two organizations to help DJI's global expansion efforts and spur market innovation across the UAV ecosystem."

Founded in 2006, DJI produces commercial and recreational unmanned aerial systems.

Its product line covers the high-end UAV flight control system and ground control system, the professional film and TV aerial photography platform, the top commercial gimbal system, the high-definition long-range digital video transmission system, the professional level wireless remote control and imaging terminal as well as the most intelligent model aircraft products and the high-precision control module which are widely applied to flying toys.

What exactly the partnership between DJI and Accel will look like is unclear, and the two sides say that more details will be released "in the coming weeks," but it seems likely that DJI will go from the front end to the back end of drone technology.

"DJI is quickly establishing itself as the owner of the world's most powerful robotics platforms," Sameer Gandhi, partner at Accel, said in a statement. "The democratization of the skyways is well underway with affordable access to UAVs allowing people and companies to rethink what's possible."

"We aspire for DJI to offer a platform for unbounded creativity and exploration across areas as diverse as filmmaking, agriculture, conservation, search and rescue, energy infrastructure, mapping, and more," Frank Wang, CEO and founder of DJI, said in a statement. "Accel's experience backing some of the world's most iconic technology companies as they built communities around their products will be useful for us as we expand as a platform for innovation."

The funding will be in "ongoing initiatives" that will help accelerate adoption of DJI's products, and to extend DJI's reach into new industrial applications.

This news comes a few weeks after it announced a partnership with smart drone management platform DroneDeploy, which means its software is now offered on the DJI Phantom 2 Vision(+). DroneDeploy also recently raised a funding round, picking up $9 million in order to adapt its software to more drone platforms.

Overall, $108 million was invested in a total of 29 deals during 2014. The number of deals have jumped very quickly in just the last couple of years; a total of just five deals were done in the years spanning 2010 to 2012 combined, while 11 were completed in the third quarter of 2014 alone.

Other drone companies that have raised money so far in 2015 include Skydio, which raised $3 million seed funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz with Accel Partners participating; Skyward, an information management platform for commercial drone operators, raised a $4.1 million round from Draper Associates, Founders Co-Op, Moment Ventures,Norwest Venture Partners, Techstars Ventures, Verizon Ventures, and Voyager Capital; and Clear Flight Solutions, creator of “robird” drones that mimic the flight of peregrine falcons, which raised €1.6 million ($1.7 million) from Cottonwood Euro Technology Fund.

Drones are still somewhat controversial, though, and even more money was spent on lobbying efforts for the industry last year: $186 million in total, up from only $35 million in 2011.

Amazon has been especially vocal about drone regulation in the United States, blasting a decision last month, made by the FAA to allow the company to test drones, saying it had come so late that the technology was already out of date. It also warned that such regulatory red tape was going to leave the U.S. behind.

VatorNews has reached out to DJI for more information and we will update this story if we learn more. 

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