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Xiaomi unveils its first drone

On Wednesday, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi released its first unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone. Its live launch event gathered over 500,000 viewers on the Xiaomi live streaming app.

“Drones are awesome. They give us a bird’s eye view, allowing us to see the world differently,” said Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun at the launch.

The sleek white four-bladed drone is equipped with a ball-shaped camera that shoots 4K video, supporting 3840x2160p/30fps. The holder that connects the camera weighs only 149g, is anti-vibration, and a video that the Xiaomi drone shot at Yadan National Geological Park presented stable pictures in strong wind. A detachable battery allows the drone to fly for 27 minutes before recharging.The controller can attach to smartphone for real-time picture transmission.

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun presenting the drone (photo screened from the live event)

By investing and incubating companies to produce products such as the Mi Air Purifier and the Mi Band, Xiaomi is building an ecosystem while the Chinese smartphone market matures, Xiaomi CFO Shou Zi Chew said on Tuesday, at an interview with Bloomberg.

One advantage for Xiaomi in taking on the consumer drone market may lie in its ecosystem, by having the drone working with its smartphones, wristband, and other devices. The company applied for a patent on simplified drone-controlling last August, making it possible to control the drone with its wearable products. The drone can also interact with Xiaomi’s smart bicycle for auto-follow.

According to Statista, the global market for commercial drones is expected to size at around USD 6.4 billion by 2020. In addition, ABI Research anticipates that 90 million consumer drones will be shipped in 2025, generating USD 4.6 billion, in contrast with the 4.9 million units that were shipped in 2014. ABI Research also predicts that sales of hobbyist drones will surpass that of commercial drones, indicating a future where drones are no longer a novelty.

Xiaomi is bidding RMB 2,999 for the 4K drone and RMB 2,499 for the 1080p version, a lower price than the world’s leading drone maker DJI, whose Phantom 3 4K costs RMB 4,999.

(Top photo screened from the online event)

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