Drone manufacturer Parrot on Monday announced Parrot Professional — Parrot’s consumer drones (the Disco and the Bebop) repackaged as commercial enterprise products through add-ons like Pix4D and thermal cameras.
Parrot’s new products include the $4,499 Parrot Disco-Pro AG — Parrot’s $899 Disco drone packaged with Pix4D and access to the Airinov online mapping platform and the $1,100 Parrot Bebop-Pro 3D Modeling — the $595 Bebop 2 quadcopter with Pix4D capture and Pix4D model software.
The drones target enterprise use cases; the Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal could enable inspection and thermal detection companies, roofers, plumbers, building workers, and also firefighters, to get thermal and radiometry information. Parrot-Pro 3D Modeling could target real-estate agents and architects who want to create promotional videos or interactive 3D models.
Amid a long line of consumer drone companies struggling to stay afloat, Parrot is the latest drone company to repackage what are relatively inexpensive consumer drones as professional products. (Parrot in January cut its drone team of 840 employees by 290 people — about one-third. 150 positions would be cut from its headquarters in France, along with other positions around the world, according to its most recent earnings report.)
Besides layoffs, Parrot reported fourth-quarter revenues of $89.8 million, below its target of $105.7 million.
Berkeley-based startup 3D Robotics famously re-positioned itself as an enterprise-focused company. It now sells its Solo drone for upwards of $12,175, repackaged now as an enterprise drone that comes with a Sony R10C camera, gimbal, and one year subscription to Site Scan, a piece of software that calculates and flies a flight path, integrating with Autodesk to create 3D models. 3DR originally positioned itself as a consumer drone company in competition with DJI. The company’s “$100 million blunder based on ineptitude” caused massive layoffs. The once $1,000 Solo drone can now be found on Amazon (without Site Scan of course), for just $260.
Autel, which also is currently going through layoffs, is now selling its consumer X-Star drone as an enterprise product by allowing users to substitute the existing camera and upgrade to a FLIR camera. Though in Autel’s case — that was seemingly in the cards all along. The removable camera was one of the biggest appeals of the X-Star Yuneec made a similar move to Autel, dressing up its Typhoon as the H520 — the same drone body repainted orange but with an improved camera capable of thermal imaging.
But the re-positioning of Parrot, 3DR, Yuneec and Autel is not necessarily a bad move. Parrot has made a number of strategic acquisitions of drone enterprised-focsed companies including Airinov, MicaSense, Pix4D and Sensefly. It’s mixing those technologies with its relatively basic and cheap drones.
It’s also proof that drone hardware is increasingly being democratized. An engineer needing to map a piece of infrastructure or a surveyor looking to analyze their land doesn’t need a drone that costs thousands of dollars. In fact, the drone they’re using might as well also double up as their child’s toy.
Drone software companies like Drone Deploy and Skycatch rely primarily on DJI to carry out their projects, while fewer companies are needing expensive, custom-built drones to do aerial work.
And the pivot seems to be working. 3D Robotics, which burned through $100 million in venture capital funding announced on April 28 that it raised $53 million in a Series D round of funding including new equity funding and conversion of debt equity led by Atlantic Bridge and joined by Autodesk Forge Fund, True Ventures, Foundry Group, Mayfield and other undisclosed investors.
What do you think? Is repackaging a consumer product a smart move? Or a sign of an industry struggling to compete with DJI?