From conception to take off, drones are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that are turning science fiction into reality. In the past year, there have been many technological improvements in this smart electronics field, and drones are leading the way for all smart technologies to really take off. They are playing an ever-increasing role in diverse industry sectors from business, to the military, and civic all having a role and need for drone technology. Drone companies also now present a great opportunity for investors.
The industry is expected to expand from $6 billion in profits annually in 2017 to $23 billion annually in 2022. But before you head sky high with an investment in the drone market, make sure you get to know the companies that are leading the industry so you can purchase the best drones on the market. Read on to learn about the best drone companies on the market that you should pay attention to and potentially invest in.
Drone Company FAQ
1. What Is a Drone Company?
A drone company is a business that produces drones, a part of a drone, the software for a drone, or that serves the growing industry surrounding drones. There are several different types of drone companies. The industry is wide, reflecting the complex combination of hardware, software, data, and people that all come together to operate these unmanned aerial vehicles. There is now everything from drone delivery companies to drone racing leagues, and everything in-between.
2. What Does a Drone Company Do?
A drone company can have many different "mission statements," and they all work on the different aspects of bringing a drone together and helping people operate drones. From hardware companies that manufacture actual drones and their accessories to mapping, processing, and software companies that are giving drones tools to collect and process large amounts of data, to drone platforms that are paving the way for a vast knowledge base for drones and their users to access, drone companies do many things.
3. How Does a Drone Company Work?
A drone company either works directly with the design of a drone, manufacturing it and its accessories, or the company works with the tech behind the drone or potentially manages the marketplaces that have appeared around the drone industry.
4. Where Can You Buy Stocks in a Drone Company?
Most drone companies are publicly traded, and so shares in a drone company can be purchased on the stock market.
5. Why Are Drone Manufacturers a Good Investment?
Put simply, the industry is fast moving and expanding rapidly. With drone industry profits expected to be at $23 billion in 2022, the drone industry growth rate is just phenomenal.
How We Reviewed the Listed Drone Companies
To help you get to know the drone industry better, we've put together this analysis of the top drone companies on the market and the ones to invest in. The overview is diverse, highlighting both established companies and up-and-coming startup drone companies. We've reviewed each one based on the following parameters: the pros, and cons of the company, the size, field, and share of the marketplace.
Overall Price Range of Shares Prices for Drone Manufacturers
Stock prices for a share of a drone company can range from as little as around $5 per share to around $350 per share. Some of the companies we profiled are up and coming or still privately held, so they currently are not listed on the stock exchange.
What We Reviewed
DJI Innovations is a leader in civilian drone manufacturing. They are one of the industries most recognized names. They currently account for 70% of the consumer drone market which allows them to produce drones on a large scale with low costs for the consumer. They are headquartered in Shenzhen, China. They have a huge user base in their home country and have opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to meet demand.
They're also popular worldwide, and they've opened additional offices in Japan, the Netherlands, and South Korea. Drone enthusiasts will know them for their "Phantom Series" that is a favorite of users for its quality, intelligent flight control, and first-person viewing features. While there are rumors every now and then that DJI Innovations will go public with an IPO they are still a privately held company. So keep this one as, "one to watch" because it would be a good investment if they did go public.
Top Product: DJI Spark
The Spark model by DJI features a 12 MP camera sensor that is the same specification as the DJI Mavic Pro. Whereas the Pro model offers a 3-axis gimbal, the DJI Spark only offers a 2-axis gimbal. Although this drone doesn’t turn as easily in the air, it’s mounted from a soft rubber that encourages it to remain intact should the drone fall crash onto the floor.
We’re impressed that this drone captures such high-quality photos and features a 3 fps burst mode, auto exposure modes and numerous interval shooting options. Overall, the sensor just falls short of 4,000 x 3,000 resolution. In addition to photography, the DJI Spark is also capable of producing high-resolution recordings of 1920 x 1080. The camera offers 4K capture and features video stabilization for the best quality footage you can obtain.
While DJI Innovations is an industry leader in the consumer drone space, AeroVironment is definitely an industry leader in the military drone space. They've recently announced their foray into the consumer market with an unmanned aerial vehicle Quantix, a consumer drone with specific applications for agriculture and energy industries.
Their "Raven" drone model is one most used small-scale drones in the world. The company earned $264 million in 2016, and they expected $280 million in 2017 with a 2% growth rate. Their net margin (the percentage of profit remaining after operating expenses) is 17% which is high compared with other companies in their peer group. The stock trades at around $100 currently.
Top Product: Quantix
The Quantix drone is great for commercial use, rather than merely entertainment purposes. This product is all about gathering data, which makes it an ideal purchase for farmers to gather sampling information without having to walk the entire length of their fields. In total, the Quantix drone can cover 400 acres of land while collating high-resolution photos. If you’re in an area with a poor Internet connection, the Quantix enables you to decrease the upload and processing time so you can still collect data. To later analyze the data the drone covers, you can obtain this information from the tablet that is included with each purchase.
The Quantix isn’t designed for expert flyers, which is why the remote control is so responsive to make it easier to operate. In less than an hour, the drone can cover 40 miles, although it’s reported that you should always fly a drone that is within your sight.
While Ambrarella is known for producing the processing chips on GoPro's Action Camera, they are also a top producer of video processing chips for other drone manufacturers like DJI Innovations. They are one of the few processing chip companies out there, which means they have a large market share. Their chips help drones function better in low light and high contrast.
They are constantly updating the tech and specs on the processing chips and will take the videos they produce to 8k with smoother video in 2018 and 2019. The company is still growing. Profits were up by 29% in Q4 2017, even though their total revenue for the year was down. The current price for an Ambarella share is listed at around $35.
Top Product: H3 - 8K Ultra HD SoC
This processing chip allows your drone to video 30 frames per second and produces multiple video streams to reach a high-quality performance. Without a processing chip of this high standard, your drone won’t offer as excellent footage. 4K videos are a thing of the past with this product that produces 8K displays for an exceptional viewing experience for every user.
This chip includes a 10-bit HEVC High Dynamic Range that can handle high-contrast video processing and offer a wide range of colors to accurately portray the scenery you’re trying to capture. Also, by featuring an advanced Electronic Image Stabilization, this chip is capable of producing smooth imagery and video footage even in high winds. Finally, with a supportive panoramic camera design and fish-eye lens, this product makes it possible to capture a wide spectrum of the scenery.
You've probably flown on one of their airplanes, but I bet you weren't aware Boeing is a big player in the medium-sized drone market! Boeing is the largest aerospace company in the world. They manufacture drones through their subsidiary Insitu, and the Boeing ScanEagle, a drone that doesn't need a runway to launch has been used by the U.S. military since 2004.
While most of their drones are marketed towards the military, they've recently expanded into ocean drones by acquiring Liquid Robotics. In terms of investment Boeing's had $90 billion in revenue in 2017 down from $94.6 billion in 2016. The price of Boeing stock is currently around $370.
Top Product: Unmanned Little Bird
The Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) is a hybrid helicopter used by the US Army, and it completed its first flight in September 2006. The overall capacity of the ULB is 50 percent more than the ULB demonstrator by Boeing. It features a glass cockpit, multi-sensor data fusion, digital mapping, KU band communications, and more.
The ULB can be armed with rockets, and its small size and excellent precision that it flies smoothly in terrain and urban areas. It’s a light helicopter air vehicle that’s fitted with a five-bladed main rotor and retention pins that are removed so the blades can easily fold away for storage.
GoPro is a relatively new public company. They held their IPO in 2014, and it was the largest consumer electronics IPO since Duracell International Inc. all the way back in 1991. They currently manufacture lightweight, high definition cameras that are often attached to consumer drones.
They also launched their own drone, the Karma, in 2017. GoPro's best year was in 2015 when they sold $6 million cameras. They haven't been able to match that revenue since then. They've faced increasingly tough competition from cheap Chinese competitors like Xiaomi and have seen their revenue and shares fall. They are currently trading for around $5.
Top Product: GoPro Hero 6
GoPro offers a range of high-quality cameras, but one of their most popular products for a drone is Hero 6. Although this camera presents itself in a compact design, it’s exceptionally durable and waterproof without any need for a case. As the camera doesn’t need a case, this enhances the audio so there’s no muffling during recordings. Its sturdy plastic frame also protects the camera should it accidentally drop on the floor.
Its 2-inch touchscreen makes it possible to view photos and videos and even adjust via the GoPro. But if using this small interface is too much hassle for you, you can also operate the Hero 6 via voice control with directions such as, “GoPro, start recording” or “GoPro, take a photo” etc. With 12 voice commands it responds to, anyone can use this GoPro for professional or leisure activities. Finally, offering a Wide Dynamic Range mode ensures that the processing engine can capture images with great detail, including shadows and highlights. There’s even a night mode option for low-light conditions.
Lockheed Martin is one of the biggest drone companies around today and is responsible for many of the drones used by the U.S. military. This is great because they have a consistent client, but they are also subject to government budgets. Drones are a key part of Lockheed Martin's business, and they recently started manufacturing armed drones, which are expected to help Lockheed Martin's already healthy bottom line definitely.
For the past four years, Lockheed Martin has posted earnings beats, and this year they expect a 5% earnings growth. They are currently traded for around $300 and consistently provide growth for their investors.
Top Product: Indago UAS
The Indago UAS is more advanced than drones for leisure use, as it’s a more capable aerial vehicle with many features. This drone is suitable for military and commercial customers who are looking for a fast flight capability along with an extended hover. Indago UAS is capable of mapping, surveying, inspecting, and everything in-between.
This drone can help firefighters to identify wind, smoke, dust, and flames, as it works in excellent conditions where people would ordinarily be at risk. This product has also been used for natural disasters to provide an accurate mapping and data about the terrain where there’s no accessibility for on-road vehicles. Finally, Indago UAS is also ideal for quick and safe inspections for commercial and industrial projects to limit the costs and avoid putting anyone at risk.
Indago UAS takes less than one minute to assemble, without any tools required, and it can be in the air in less than three minutes.
3D Robotics is a startup drone company that focuses mainly on smart drones that are autonomous and have commercial and personal uses. Their claim to fame is being, "the smartest and most advanced drone company in the world." Their drones are technologically savvy computers in the sky. They developed "follow me" technology that is used in many personal drones today. Unfortunately, they are not a publicly traded drone company but are one to watch out for if they do go public in the future.
Top Product: Yuneec 3DR H520-G
This drone comes in a small and robust design that works with 3DR Site Scan and Site Scan. The Yuneec 3DR H520-G comes with a 20.1MP camera and exceptional landing gear that provides a 360-degree view of your area. Its camera is the drone’s best feature as it offers a 4K video resolution at 60 frames per second. The 23mm lens with low distortion captures incredible moments without any noise distortions or blurs.
This drone enables you to work seamlessly with Site Scan and Site Scan included into the drone’s software. The Yuneec 3DR H520-G is the perfect way to map your sites, plan flights and capture drone data, which you can later process, analyze and save for future references.
Based in Paris, Parrot SA mainly manufactures Bluetooth wireless devices for your mobile phone. But they have recently released the AR. Drone and after selling around 700,000 of those they released the second edition AR.Drone 2.0. Both are commercial and civil quadcopter drones that are controlled by a smartphone. They are a direct competitor of DJI Innovations, and as a plus, they are publicly traded for around $5 on the European market. Their Bebop series is currently one of the most popular camera drones because of it's relatively low price.
Top Product: Anafi
Anafi is a great drone for commercial and entertainment uses that enables you to shoot videos from numerous angles. This camera features a DJI Go 4 app that provides a quick and smooth set-up process, although you can’t perform a multitude of tasks via this app. The Parrot Anafi is a lightweight drone that is targeted toward beginners and is one of the least intimidating products on the market in this industry.
It can shoot 4K resolutions and the digital video zoom is 1.4x a 2K or 2.8x at 1080p, which is highly useful to capture high-quality footage, no matter your experience in video and editing. Finally, this drone has two flight modes, including Film mode and Sport mode, depending on the speed you’re looking for. The drone is capable of reaching 34mph, which isn’t the fastest on the market, but is incredibly responsive at such high speeds.
In the drone world, Yuneec is the Samsung to DJI Innovations' Apple. They are constantly competing and have even gotten into a few legal battles. Their drones are very innovative and have features like watch me, air-ground imaging solutions, follow me, and dynamic home return. They were the first company to release a ready-to-fly drone that was set up when you opened the box in 2014. While the company isn't traded publicly, it is definitely one to keep tabs on if they do choose to IPO.
Top Product: Typhoon H Plus
This robust and powerful drone offers exceptional high-quality imagery and video footage that is suitable for professional photographers. Equipped with a 4K camera, the H Plus can capture still images up to 20 MP. The drone also captures video footage at 60 frames per second, and offers a low-light mode to increase the range and ensure you can still obtain high-quality videos in poor conditions.
As you might be aware, many drones can’t access certain areas. The Typhoon H Plus makes it easier to track when your drone is in a non-restricted area. Built with an automatic switch, it’ll distinguish if the area and redirect the drone out of the area. Another incredible feature we’re a fan of is the 5.8 GHz WiFi signal that is easy to control should the drone lose any signal via its route.
When looking at stocks, you always have to think about the long term. It might matter a little whether you are buying in a bull or bear market, but it matters more what will happen five years down the road. Investing in drone companies now is expected to be highly profitable five years from now.
All of these companies have their good sides, but if you are looking at purchasing just a few, stick with the legacy companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. If you are looking for a drone company which has shares that are a little bit cheaper think about an investment in a company like AeroVironment, which is a newer company with a cheaper price but is still profitable and expected to grow.