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A Major Drone Manufacturer You’ve Never Heard Of

A Major Drone Manufacturer You’ve Never Heard Of

You know DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision+ drone. You’ve likely heard of the Blade Nano QX or FPV. You may have even heard of the Dromida Ominus UAV Quadcopter, the Walkera QR X350 PRO, the DEVO F7, the Lumenier 250, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 GPS, or the 3DR IRIS. But you may have never heard

You know DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision+ drone. You’ve likely heard of the Blade Nano QX or FPV. You may have even heard of the Dromida Ominus UAV Quadcopter, the Walkera QR X350 PRO, the DEVO F7, the Lumenier 250, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 GPS, or the 3DR IRIS.

But you may have never heard of the up-and-coming AEE line of consumer drones. Keep reading for our interview with the industry’s most up-and-coming drone manufacturer’s founder and CEO.


 

Andy Zhang Has a Dream to Change the World

Andy has a vision to create first class products to change that world. But like all dreams, it took a while to bring Andy’s vision to life.

AEE technology Co., Ltd. was born in 1999. Starting with a focus in the wireless A/V real time transmission technology space, the company first operated out of an abandoned factory that Andy and his seven partners dubbed the “dream factory.” At the start, Andy lived and breathed his work; he literally made the factory his home. Despite initial failures, Andy worked around the clock until he succeeded with his first module. In no time, they captured the wireless security market, and the industry has never been the same.

Today, Andy’s tackling the question: “What if we could take photos from the sky?” Applying their core technology, flight control technology, and their action cameras, AEE’s F-Series commercial UAV and AP-Series consumer drones have taken center stage. Today, their F50 UAV is widely used in surveillance, earthquake rescue, forest fire prevention, traffic control, and other professional fields. Shipping this fall will be the new AP11 with 3 axis gimbal and S61 HD camera. What’s more, Andy is driving AEE to deliver more education support and customer service benefits along with top quality products to serve growing markets.

 


DF:

Most people don’t know the brand AEE. How long has AEE been manufacturing cameras and drones?

AEE:

We started to manufacture cameras in 1999. At the time we saw growing demand in various market niches around the world and we wanted to become market leaders in those specific niches. We have been manufacturing small, HD video cameras for law enforcement and the military since the very beginning. Those products were well received all around the world, enabling us to grow and expand our product line. In 2008, it was an easy transition for us to enter the action camera market given our experience and manufacturing capabilities. Again, we saw an opportunity in the commercial drone market as a way to use our top-of-the-line cameras on an aerial platform. We launched our first commercial drone in 2012 followed by our first consumer drone in 2013. We now have a full line of consumer drones launching in June of 2015.

We have a long history of developing cameras to meet the needs of law enforcement and the military. The variety of optical devices that can be included on the AEE aerial platform is considerable if you think about infrared, night vision and radar related applications. In the long run, AEE will deliver greater value to the business community in the US by manufacturing a wide variety of tools to be used by businesses and entrepreneurs.

DF:
Are you better known for cameras or drones? Why is that? What is the focus of the company today?

AEE:
We are best known for our cameras. We have been selling small, HD video cameras all over the world for many different applications with aggressive pricing. In the US, we are just starting to build our brand. In the U.S. we are just starting to build the brand. Ultimately AEE will be recognized as a leader in the camera and drone marketplace. We will provide the best value offering for consumers. That means we will use our ISO 9000 manufacturing skills to deliver top quality products that meet the needs of 85% of the marketplace while also providing great customer services that help grow the market.

Check out AEE’s core products:

DF:

How would you compare AEE to GoPro in terms of camera quality and innovation? What is an innovation you could describe that sets AEE apart from others?

AEE:

The main chipset of AEE and GoPro camera are both from Ambarella, so we share the same image processing abilities. Over the years we have innovated to create many new features required for law enforcement and military applications, including the 100 meter waterproof case, extension mic cable, 10x optical zoom, and G-sensor which recognizes movement to start the camera. These are the differentiating benefits we have that others do not. Because we are the manufacturer, the consumer gets the same high quality as our best competitor at a lower price with more features.

Take S71 as an example. These are the additional accessories we provide over and above those offered in GoPro’s Hero H4 Silver package:

  1. A remote controller
  2. Standard water proof housing and display cover, good to 100m
  3. Bag pack
  4. Anti-fog inserts
  5. Camera tether
  6. Thumb screw with nut

David pointed out that to purchase the same number of accessories and mounts from GoPro.com, you’ll pay an extra $147.95, while AEE provides them for free.

AEE-S71-vs-GoPro-Hero4DF:

I understand you will be launching a new line of drones in the summer of 2015. What is unique about these drones?

AEE:

We will launch AP9, AP10+ and AP11 one after another. Each of the new units are based on the same platform enabling users to start at the lowest cost unit, the AP9, with no camera. You can then add an AEE or GoPro camera, and with our upgrade kit go to 3axis gimbal 1080p 60 all the way to a 4K solution. With this upgradeability built right into our systems, a consumer can upgrade as they improve their skill set using the same base design. Our competitors don’t offer anything like that.

Read a full review of AEE’s new drone models: the AP9 and AP11.

DF:

DJI is the leader in the drone marketplace in both product innovation as well as marketing. How will AEE compete against a powerhouse like DJI?

AEE:

When we look at their product line, we acknowledge their focus on the most innovative features and associated higher costs for the consumer. For those who would buy the designer brand the moment it hits the store, DJI could be the best choice. We believe there is a market for consumers who want top quality, easy to use, durable functionality at a price point that is better suited to meet their needs. We want to be well known for high quality, durability, and excellent functionality.  Before entering the U.S. market, we setup a call center and repair center in LA which serves the local customer more efficiently.

DJI does not have anything similar at this time.

DF:

Ok, so let’s talk a little about upcoming features with the new AEE drones. Why don’t you start by talking about why potential consumers should choose the AEE AP11, given that it is priced similar to the DJI Phantom 2.

AEE:

AP11 is perfect for users wanting a quality aerial photography platform with low cost of entry and potential to upgrade to pro quality in the future. The AP11 ships with a 3-axis gimbal and the S61 cameram delivering 1080p 60 crisp, stabilized images in a ready-to-fly unit for what we expect to be considerably less than the Phantom 3 advanced similarly configured. We will be aggressive on price while providing our dealer base with the support they need to provide their customers with the best possible option.

 

DF:

Now let’s look to features to come. One of my biggest pet peeves is the loss of a drone – a flyaway quad due to an unknown GPS malfunction. Do AEE quads have a method for avoiding this?

AEE:

We always try to protect a person’s property, which is why we have developed this new iOS and Android app for the AP10+ and AP11. The app will display the distance, satellite signal, height, speed, and remaining battery life and other info of an individual’s drone.. Additionally, the drone will return home if the battery is low, or the satellite signal is lost, or communication between the drone and remote is cut off.

DF:

Flyaway drones are one thing, but what about sending a UAV out of sight on purpose – do the AEE drones have a method for setting waypoints to enable autonomous flight using GPS like the DJI Phantom?

AEE:

We will release the waypoints software later this year.

DF:

And in the case of emergency, would adding a retractable parachute to future AEE drones be a possibility? Do you think such a solution would work?

AEE:

The retractable parachute is better for commercial UAVs, not for drones. Unfortunately there’s no space for installing a retractable parachute. Additionally, the added weight would shorten the flying time of drone so it’s not likely very practical.

DF:

On a related note, what about plugging into augmented reality tools. Is there a method for connecting the Toruk AP11 to FPV goggles such as a Fatshark?

AEE:

That is good idea, and we are talking with some augmented reality tools companies now. If you’re a developer of such items [speaking to the readers], please contact us to discuss in greater detail.

DF:

Now here’s something I’ve been wondering for a while: who makes the flight controller used by AEE drones? Can they be replaced with aftermarket controllers for added flexibility?

AEE:

As a high tech company, we make all of our own flight controllers.

DF:

Along those lines, what about solving for obsolescence. What are AEE’s plans in terms of upgradability?

AEE:

We’ve developed a brand new airframe designed to be upgradable. The upgrading functionality can be found in our AP9 which allows you to start small from the beginning, and then upgrade and get more features if you want. It’s perfect for first timers wanting a quality tool with low cost of entry and potential to upgrade to pro quality.

This unit will ship with mounts for either AEE or GoPro cameras in static configuration. Millions of GoPro owners can have an upgradeable platform.

We provide the firmware on our website for download for further upgrades.

DF:

What about individual parts such as batteries. Will they be directly available for the AEE quadcopters?

AEE:

Home Depot and all of our authorized dealers carry the full line of AEE accessories.

DF:

Speaking of batteries, doesn’t the internal charging circuit for the battery add avoidable weight to the drone?

AEE:

There is an internal charging circuit inside every battery no matter who manufactures it, but AEE has balanced the battery weight and flying time with our excellent industrial design.

DF:

So we’ve talked a lot about where AEE is heading, but what about the drone industry as a whole. What do you think is coming next?

AEE:

In the US, the devices are still evolving, but consumers are expected to spend an estimated $103 million on drones in 2015, up from $69 million in 2014 according to the Consumer Electronics Association. New drones will be launched with more features, such as 360 degree rotation camera, batteries with longer lives, easy shareability, augmented reality tools, and a lot more. It’s a really excited for UAV enthusiasts.

Maryruth
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