The Phantom Man

DJI Phantom | DJI Innovations

The name Frank Wang may not mean anything to you but if you are a fan of Aerial Photography, Drones or Quadcopters you will have surely heard of the company he founded whilst studying robotic design under the mentor-ship of Prof Li Zexiang for his Master’s degree at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, DJI Innovations. Wang a twice winner of the Robocon award and a Drone hobbyist had a vision of building an unmanned aerial vehicle that could visualize what birds could see. His first attempts ended in numerous crashes and back then you often had to wait months to get replacement parts. Undeterred Wang, whose grades weren’t good enough for him to get a placement at a USA University, persevered and took a Remote Controlled Helicopter he designed and built on a trip to the Himalayas. The flight control system he had programmed with complex algorithms allowed him to fly the craft to the summit of Mount Everest and capture footage that could have only previously be obtained by traditional aircraft. Spurred on by this he set up the Shenzhen based DJI Innovations Company that now employs over 1,500 staff and has offices in the USA, Europe and Japan. When Wang set up his first 80 square foot office with a couple of friends he couldn’t have foreseen that this enterprise would develop into a company with estimated 2014 revenues of US $131 million. The last three years the company has seen its turnover grow exponentially and this is due in the main to the Phantom range of Remote Control Quadcopters. These flying cameras can capture high definition images and the buyers of today are not just the traditional hobbyist that are often associated with RC Quadcopters but professional photographers who are using them in many industries. They have become extremely popular in Real Estate to capture images of property from numerous angles.


Frank Wang of DJI Innovations
The CEO of DJI Innovations Frank Wang

It has be widely rumored that Sequoia Capital the venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley have considered investing in DJI with Chairman Michael Moritz likening the Phantom Vision 2 as a flying equivalent of the Apple 2. Chris Anderson former editor of Wired and CEO of rival Drone maker 3D Robotics has said that DJI are the first wave of 21st Century Chinese Companies that the Western World are going have to compete with. DJI are as their name suggests a truly innovative company that unlike many of their Chinese counterparts lead the marketplace rather that copying other people’s products. A number of Chinese and Taiwanese companies are trying to emulate the success of DJI Innovations and the industry is waiting for the release of the latest model from Hubsan Technology the Hubsan X4 PRO H109S Quadcopter which even before its release is being hailed as a true Phantom challenger. The use of these flying machines has literally taken ‘Selfies’ to a new height and enthusiast are publishing images of themselves flying these Remote Control Drones spawning the term ‘Dronies’.


One comment

  1. As an owner of a DJI’s Phantom 2, I’d finally achieved my long time dream of a bird’s eye view of my corner of reality. The thrill of the experience has not diminished even after many, many flights. I feel I owe DJI and Frank Wong an eternal debt of gratitude. I don’t take the achievements in the field of UAV’S for granted when I ask this question.
    The advancements in technology in the past few years are staggering and though not an engineer, common sense dictates that the weight to power ratio has to be a fundamental balancing act underlying much if not all factors in design.
    My question relates to functionality of the camera.
    The incorporation of a modest Zoom [7x would be ideal] would no doubt revolutionize the photographic capability of the product.
    Again, weight to power is already probably close to critical and such a system, whether a multi-lens turret devise or motorized zoom might drive this ratio past economically reasonable and therefore prohibitive retail costs.
    I know that there are plenty of larger multirotor UAV’s out there that can mount SLR’s but the cost and expertise required are well above the price range of what most people might invest.
    I’m thinking along the lines of the “Inspire I” in terms costs, although, Phantom Pilots would jump at the prospect of a P3V at about $1500 to $1800 with such a capability.
    As a bird and wildlife enthusiast, the least disturbance associated with actively studying critters is by far the most important condition I personally prize. A 7x to 10x power optical instrument becomes essential for such an endeavor.
    Thanks for sharing by reading this post and good luck to DJI in the future, “They are the Future”.

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