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The Race to Become the Apple of Drones

One of the biggest technology battles brewing is the war over the flying camera. On one hand, there’s GoPro, the action camera company whose plans to build drones leaked last month. And then there is DJI, the Chinese consumer drone manufacturer, whose easy-to-fly quadcopters have been gaining traction with consumers. The latter recently announced a new platform for people to upload and share aerial photography.

Both bits of news are the kind of developments I have been awaiting for years.

Cameras unquestionably need to fly—you can see the stunning possibilities already with action sports. In the not too distant future, your selfie stick will be replaced by a throwable camera that will hover above you, take a few epic shots and land safely back in your hand. Eventually most video, from a baby’s first steps to weddings, will be taken by a little autonomous flying bot allowing you to stay in the moment.

And while it might seem like the drone wars are just starting and important privacy issues are still being sorted out, I think the winner is already becoming clear. DJI is pulling ahead and has three big advantages: product, technical expertise and talent. I think those will eventually overpower GoPro’s strengths of distribution and marketing.

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I have heard from knowledgeable people that DJI had 2014 revenues that were somewhere between $300 million and $500 million.