The world’s biggest maker of civilian drones could see its products shut out of the US market after a patent-infringement complaint was filed by smaller rival.
SZ DJI Technology Co., a manufacturer of popular hobbyist and commercial drones including the Phantom and Mavic series, is being challenged by Autel Robotics Co.
The dispute is over unmanned vehicles used for aerial photography and videotaping, as well as for agricultural purposes. The world’s best-selling drone is the family known as the DJI Phantom, which has a distinctive white plastic exterior and a mount for a camera on its belly.
The Federal Aviation Administration predicted that 1.6 million civilian drones will be sold in the US this year. The Teal Group of Fairfax, Virginia, estimated the 2018 worldwide civilian unmanned aircraft market will reach $4.4 billion.
The China-based DJI is accused of using Autel’s patented features for following a flight path while avoiding obstacles, rotor assembly, and a way to switch out battery packs to minimise lag time between flights.
Autel wants the US International Trade Commission to ban imports of models of DJI’s Phantom, Mavic, Spark and Inspire drones made in China by DJI, according to a complaint filed in Washington. “If DJI’s big market is the US, then this is a big deal for them,” said Paul Brinkman of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington.