Venture-Backed Xiaomi To Launch Mi Drone

Source: Tecent Technology

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. is adding an important gadget, the Mi Drone, to its already impressive product line of smartphones, wearables and smart home devices, according to Chinese media reports.

The Mi Drone is reportedly going to be priced at RMB999 (US$153), continuing Xiaomi’s strategy of providing quality products at low prices.

The Mi Drone could likely be connected to Xiaomi’s fitness tracking wristband, so that the drone can follow the user around by pinging the Mi Band.

The global consumer drone market is expected to grow to US$5.6 billion in 2023 from US$2.8 billion in 2014, according to estimates by the Teal Group Corp.

But the market is still relatively small, with 570,000 consumer drones sold in 2015, up from 378,000 in 2014 and 150,000 in 2013, says data from EVTank.

The projected market size is especially tiny when compared to Xiaomi’s main smartphone business.

Nomura estimates that Xiaomi’s smartphone sales may have reached US$9.94 billion in 2015, even if it missed its lower target of selling over 80 million smartphones for the year.

Xiaomi is making the move hoping to capture rapid growth in an emerging and promising market. Its low prices may attract more users and open the sector for even faster expansion than previously expected.

In China, there have been a lot of investor interests in the drone market.

In September 2015, the world’s largest drone maker by a large margin, Shenzhen-based DJI, reportedly raised approximately US$500 million at a valuation of U$10 billion.

A month earlier, Beijing-based drone maker Ehang Technology Co., Ltd. completed US$42 million series B round of financing led by GP Capital.

At the same time, Intel invested US$60 million in another Chinese drone maker, Yuneec International Co. Ltd.

Xiaomi last raised US$1.1 billion new round of financing from DST Global, All-Stars Investment Ltd., Yunfeng Capital and others at a US$45 billion valuation in December 2015.

Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s founder, has previously said that his dream is for the company to be worth as much as US$500 billion. The entry into the drone market is another step for the Chinese tech firm to inch closer to its goal.

In April 2015, Xiaomi, Shunwei Capital, Sequoia Capital and WestSummit Capital, invested US$80 million in Chinese personal transportation firm Ninebot Inc., which acquired Segway PT.

Last November, the company launched the Xiaomi Ninebot Mini in China priced at RMB1,999 (US$315).