DJI just got a huge custom order — 1,000 drones to be exact — and they’re headed to the construction industry.
The drones were ordered by Komatsu Smart Construction, a division of Komatsu, which is a Japanese corporation that manufactures construction, mining, and military equipment, as well as industrial equipment like press machines, lasers and thermoelectric generators.
The custom ordered is being fulfilled in partnership with Skycatch, a San Francisco-based commercial drone data company that uses drone data to create 3D maps. The 1,000 drones are manufactured by DJI and outfitted with specialized Skycatch technology, where they will fly autonomously over Komatsu construction sites to come up with maps and models.
The data is intended to augment Komatsu Smart Construction’s new data service that enables robotic earth moving equipment to dig, bulldoze, and grade land autonomously.
The DJI drone will be based on DJI’s Matrice 100 drone, and will be dubbed the “Explore1” drone.
DJI would not reveal the price of the Komatsu deal, but Matrice 100 drones, which are designed to be highly customizable, are available on DJI’s site for $3,299.
DJI had never previously manufactured custom drone orders, but the Chinese drone manufacturer claims the deal is the largest commercial drone order in history.
And while the partnership is a big win for DJI, but it could be an even bigger win for Skycatch, which has pivoted business models before landing on the industrial enterprise software market.
Skycatch launched in 2013 and experimented with strategies including building physical hardware such as a proprietary battery-swapping mechanism, and later as a company that aimed to connect individual drone pilots with other companies in need of aerial data, where they would act as high-flying freelancers. Skycatch has gone through layoffs, and didn’t start beefing up its enterprise software services until 2016.
DJI is king of both the commercial and consumer drone industries, with the wildly popular Spark and Mavic Air drones targeted at consumers, while more advanced drones are used for commercial applications like search and rescue, mapping and farming. Drone software company Kittyhawk recently released a report stating that more than 70% of drones registered on its platform are manufactured by DJI.