Xiaomi, one of the leading Chinese electronics brands and the world’s 5th largest smartphone maker in 2015, announced today Mi Drone, its own device in one of the most popular categories of consumer tech – drones.
Mi Drone is a quadcopter with a three-axis gimbal, 4K camera, and a remote control that uses Mi smartphone as its viewfinder. The price for the 4K version makes up 2,999 yuan (just under $460), while the 1080p model cost 2,499 yuan ($380). At the same time, 4K-camera drones produced by DJI and Yuneec retail for more than $1,000. Xiaomi underlined that they focused not only on excellent technical characteristics, but also on the affordability of Mi Drone. “I want everyone to be able to afford good stuff”, said Xiaomi founder Lei Jun.
Mi Drone was officially announced by Jun in front of more than 370,000 live stream viewers. He underlined that it took Xiaomi more than 7 years of research and development and 30 revisions to create the drone. Indeed, it looks impressive. Having the weight of only 140 grams, it has a 3-axis stabilization gimbal. The battery is 5100mAh and it is not complicated to replace it or take additional battery with you.
Mi Drone can fly for 27 minutes which is equal to the best-selling Phantom 3 and Phantom 4 drones from DJI. Xiaomi’s drone has auto-pilot and an auto-homing system so it can return to you with the tap of a button.
Mi Drone has a visual positioning system on the bottom in order to remain stable while flying at low altitudes in environments where it cannot get a satellite signal. Besides, it uses both GPS and GLONASS for positioning. The package of autonomous flights modes is standard: takeoff, landing, return to home, waypoint navigation, and orbit. Xiaomi has also equipped its drone with the ability to create a geofence to limit its movement.
Xiaomi states modularity and serviceability as the main advantages of Mi Drone – the camera module is detachable, as are all the rotors. Xiaomi claims the unit can get 27 minutes of flight time on a single charge, which is at the high end of what most consumer quadcopters offer.
According to Xiaomi, the 1080p Mi Drone “will be crowdfunded on the Mi Home app starting 26 May 2016” while the 4K option “will be available for testing via an open beta programme at the end of July.”
The announcement of Mi Drone is rather important for Xiaomi as it comes at a pivotal moment. Last year the company reached only 70 million smartphone sales although targeted on 100 million. Now Xiaomi needs to come up with something new rather than just sell commoditized hardware products. It can earn more through software (or “services,” as it and other tech companies like to say), not hardware. According to the original business plan of the company, it intended to become the top vendor of smartphones and then earn larger profits from subsequent software sales and deals. It is just time to stick to the plan.