IDC: China’s Camera Drone Market Matures amid Challenges

25 Aug 2015

Beijing, August 25, 2015 - According to IDC's "China Camera Drone Market Quarterly Tracker 2015", China's camera drone market is one of the highlights in 2015. Camera drones are now an important tool in areas like film and television, geological exploration, and emergency response. With a growing demand for more sophisticated products, Chinese consumers view camera drones as a trendy and in vogue product. In response to the emerging demand, IDC penned the first official definition of camera drones in July 2015 as a drone for non-military purposes equipped with a camera capable of resolutions no less than 1080p, and priced no less than RMB1,000 or USD156.

Jean Xiao, Research Manager at IDC China's Client System Research Group believes that China's camera drone market boasts significant growth potential and will continue to mature amid challenges. However, many obstacles exist in both the environment and development of the camera drone market, including issues arising from industry chain buildup, market segmentation, competition, and industry regulations. 

1. Industry chain buildup will be an important factor in sustaining the development of the camera drone industry
A fully-fledged industry chain has yet to take shape due to the small scale of the camera drone market and its undersized production capacity. Beyond a handful of large camera drone makers like DJI and Zero Tech, most players in the market are in stages of infancy. IDC believes that drone parts will progressively become standardized as more competitive players and copycats swarm into the growing market. 


2. Coordinated development between commercial and consumer camera drone markets
While drones are primarily used in the film & television industry,  applications in agricultural plant protection, environment monitoring, geological exploration and grid inspection have been on the rise. SF Express has joined hands with XAIRCRAFT to launch a delivery service using drones, and Ehang has announced a partnership with Baidu to allow consumers to order drone-delivered food. These initiatives aim to further broaden the applications of drones in the Internet of Things. 

IDC believes that it is inevitable for the camera drone market to be segmented in order to cater to different consumer demands. In particular, entry-level products with a price point of less than RMB5,000 or USD781 will be a hotly contested market for drone makers. As more international companies with R&D capabilities and Internet platform resources announce plans to develop drones, the global market is expected to see an increase in product diversity. 

3. Shift in sales channel from professional distributors to general distributors
Currently, camera drone makers are still exploring viable business cooperation models with distributors. While user experience, after-sale training, product maintenance and distributor management is in the process of further improvement, sales channels are gradually shifting away from the model drone shops of the past, towards IT general distributors and e-commerce operators. In August 2015, DJI appointed VST ECS and Digital China as general distributors of its drone products, which marked the beginning of the shift in drone sales channels to IT general distributors. 

4. Improving industry regulations expedite healthy development in the camera drone market
In August 2015, the Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs imposed export controls for some types of unmanned aerial vehicles. While these controls seem like they may curb development of the drone market, they are only in place to protect China's high-end drone technologies and military drones. These regulations will not affect domestic camera drone makers such as DJI and Zero Tech. IDC believes that the camera drone industry will embark on a path towards steady and healthy development thanks to improving regulations on fly zone restrictions and flying license issuance, in addition to a series of new policies for low-altitude airspace management that are expected to be rolled out at the end of this year. 

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