From conceptualization to actual application, drone manufacturers have taken the theories of sci-fi movies and books and turned them into real-life applications, giving birth to the phenomenon of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Drone makers worldwide have been significantly influenced by the accelerated technological developments and advancements in the field of smart electronics.
Predicted to play significant roles in business, civic, and military affairs, drones are at the forefront of a smart-generation technological shift. They capture the fancy of many, from hobbyists to surveyors, tech leaders, tech-savvy enthusiasts, tech investors and business and decision leaders worldwide.
Drone stocks are massive opportunities for companies and investors alike. The commercial drone market is expected to skyrocket to $23 billion annually by 2022, up from just $6 billion right now.
In this article by Business Insider’s premium research service, BI Intelligence has covered some of the most recognized and famed global drone makers. It includes both established and startup companies, giving you an all-inclusive overview of the diverse, trending, and explosive industry of Miniature Pilotless Aircrafts.
Below is a list of public and private companies that are the current biggest players in the drone industry.
List of Companies
Most of the top players in the drone industry are publicly traded companies, providing investors and hobbyists worldwide an early opportunity to dive into the rapidly budding mega-trend before the phenomenon reaches mass adoption. However, the biggest and the most recognized player in this industry is DJI Innovations, a privately held firm. Every drone enthusiast is waiting eagerly for the company to go public, and strong rumors of an IPO pop up every now and then.
The buzz around this industry regarding its impact and future prospects is what keeps the masses involved and waiting in anticipation to be able to get a slice of the pie.
1. DJI (Dajiang) Innovations (Privately held)
With its headquarters in Shenzhen, China, and offices in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, DJI Innovations is the current leading name in manufacturing civilian drones by capturing an approximately 70% share of the drone market.
Their Phantom series is popular worldwide amongst professionals and hobbyists for its wireless technology and services such as GPS First Person viewing.
DJI also launched the Hover Camera in 2016, as well as a pocket-sized drone. More recently, it debuted the Spark, a mini drone that features all of DJI’s signature technologies, such as intelligent flight control options, a mechanical gimbal, video stabilization, and a camera with incredible image quality. These products have give DJI deep global reach in the drone market.
2. AeroVironment (NASDAQ:AVAV)
AeroVironment is a world leader in the military drone space. It builds drones for video surveillance, as well as for tactical purposes. The company is now venturing into the commercial market with the announcement in 2016 that it would bring a new UAV called the Quantix to the market. The company is designing this drone for commercial applications in areas such as agriculture and the energy industry.
AeroVironment earned $264.1 million in revenue in fiscal 2016, up just 2% year-over-year, and expects revenue between $260 million and $280 million for fiscal 2017. AeroVironment is probably the purest play option for those looking to invest in drones as it is a profitable, small-cap company that has both military and civilian client. Furthermore, its Raven drone model is the most widely-used small-scale drone in the world.
3. Ambarella (NASDAQ:AMBA)
Ambarella is best known as the manufacturer of the chips in GoPro’s action cameras, but the company also produces video-processing chips for other drone-makers. The company is a key supplier for DJI.
Ambarella’s product announcement at the 2017 drone marketplace of the Consumer Electronics Show provided deep insights into the direction of the drone industry towards 8k and smoother video in drones in 2018 and beyond.
Ambarella managed to grow its fiscal 4Q 2017 revenue by 29% and its GAAP earnings per share by 253%. Although Ambarella’s fiscal 2017 revenue was down year-over-year to $310 million from $316 million, the company expects fiscal 2018 revenue to be up by 3% and venture into its own drone production in the near future, which makes it a stock to watch.
4. Boeing (NYSE:BA)
Through its subsidiary Insitu, Boeing is a big player in the medium-sized drone space industry. Although most of its drone are targeted towards the military market, Boeing recently ventured into the ocean drone space with its acquisition of Liquid Robotics last year.
Their current and most visible military product is the Boeing ScanEagle, a UAV that doesn’t require a runway as it is launched via pneumatic catapult/ This drone has been serving the US military since 2004.
Boeing reported revenue of $94.6 billion in 2016, and expects a slight revenue decline in 2017 to between $90.5 and $92.5 billion. But given the company’s global reach, century-old widespread brand awareness, and the rapidly evolving drone space, Boeing is definitely one of the top watches for drone investors.
5. GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO)
Formerly known as Woodman Labs, Inc., GoPro develops, manufactures and markets pocket-sized, high-definition cameras often used in extreme action video photography. The lightweight cameras are commonly mounted to consumer-level drones. GoPro’s Karma Drone series has been the most popular product line they have ever introduced.
Given the company’s HD camera popularity amongst enthusiasts and extreme sport lovers, GoPro drones are geared towards hobbyists, professionals, and adventurers.
6. Lockheed Martin LMT (NYSE: LMT)
One of the biggest aerospace and defense giants today, Lockheed Martin is behind many of the drones used by the U.S. military and continues to put its drone business front and center. Lockheed is venturing into manufacturing armed drones, which could prove to be a big boon to its bottom line, especially if the Department of Defense continues to support the sale and use of them internationally.
Lockheed posted an earnings beat for the past four consecutive quarters. For the current quarter, the company expects year-over-year earnings growth of 5.43%.
7. 3D Robotics (Privately held)
Based out of Berkeley, California, 3D Robotics focuses mostly on autonomous drones (like its drone SOLO) with GPS point planning, otherwise known as a smart drone. The company focuses on products for everyday exploration and business applications, as well as aerial photography.
3D Robotics claims to be the smartest and most technologically advanced drone company in the world. In their words, “We’re putting computers in the sky“. 3D Robotics developed the first true “Follow Me” technology in the drone industry through which drones can stay right with you wherever you go, automatically keeping the camera centered on you to capture your every move.
If 3D Robotics looks to go public in the future, it would be an opportunity for investors to be part of an exciting company that has promised to always be at the forefront of technological advances for drones.
8. Parrot SA (EPA: PARRO)
Parrot, headquartered in Paris, is a new entrant into the UAV/quadcopter market. Its main specialty is manufacturing wireless devices for mobile phones and automobiles (i.e. Bluetooth hands-free kits).
In a short amount of time, Parrot has seized a large part of the commercial and civil UAV/quadcopter market with the AR.Drone and its successor the AR.Drone 2.0, a mid- range hobby drone with integrated FPV system controlled by a smartphone app.
Easily DJI’s direct competitor in the aerial photography and aerial video markets, the company’s Bebop series is one of the most popular camera drones currently sold today due to its affordability.
9. Yuneec (Privately held)
Headquartered in Kunshan Jiangsu, China, Yuneec is the world leader in electric aviation. With offices in North America, Europe, and Asia, Yuneec manufactures more than one million units per year sold under its OEM and ODM brands.
In 2014, Yuneec introduced the world’s first ready-to-fly, out-of-the-box drone: The Typhoon Q500 quadcopter, This made the company and its products very popular amongst professionals and hobbyists.
In 2015, Yuneec improved the Typhoon by adding a 4K camera and introducing a SteadyGrip that turns the Typhoon into an “Air and Ground Imaging Solution.” Innovative features such as Watch Me, Follow Me, and Dynamic Return Home make Yuneec a company striving to improve, perfect, and innovate amongst quadrupling competition.
DJI Innovations and Yuneec collectively are known as the Apple and Samsung of the drone world, and have been in a few public tech battles and legal proceedings.
10. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC)
Northrop Grumman is a legacy aerospace company that has long been a key drone player in the industry. Its Global Hawk UAV was used in U.S. military operations shortly after 9/11 and became a regular part of procedures after that.
For 2017, earnings are expected to grow nearly 12%. Northrop has beaten earnings expectations in the past four consecutive quarters.
For a more extensive list, UAV Global lists almost 450 manufacturers (civilian and military) from around the world, along with their country, region and links to their respective websites.
More to Learn
The drone mega-trend is here to stay and evolve. Almost every industry and field will be impacted by the presence and usage of drones in one way or the other in the coming future. That is why BI Intelligence has spent months compiling the greatest and most detailed collection on drone technology called The Drones Report: Market Forecasts, key players and use cases, and regulatory barriers to the proliferation of drones.
You can also purchase and download the full report from our research store.