Undoubtedly, unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as UAVs or drones, have become the must-have item for enthusiasts and professionals alike. Their use is widespread, and people use them for a variety of reasons. This may range from aerial photography, GPS mapping, oil and gas pipeline monitoring, surveillance, product delivery, and even just for fun. Units range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
UAV vs. UAS
Often, the term UAV and UAS (unmanned areal system) are used interchangeably. While they are related, they do not hold the same meaning. So what is a UAV vs. UAS? The UAS (system) is comprised of three main components: (1) the control element; (2) the operator or human factor; and (3) the UAV or drone. The UAV is just one component in a larger system.
Numerous companies have broken onto the UAV scene that has created a market with fierce competition. DJI has become one of the most aggressive competitors in the market, and they have dominated the competition with drones for every application. To say other drone manufacturers are jealous is an understatement.
In a legal battle dating as far back as 2016, the American drone company Autel Robotics sued DJI for U.S. patent infringement and violation of the Tariff Act of 1930. In the suit, Autel claimed that DJI vehicle designs closely resemble its patent. DJI largest drone manufacturer in the world, as well as the largest drone importer in the U.S. In the court’s ruling, DJI was ordered to pull its most popular models from U.S. shelves by the end of July 2020. These included:
- Mavic Pro
- Mavic 2 Pro
- Mavic 2 Zoom
- Mavic Air
- Phantom 4
However, in a recent win, an appellate court ruled that DJI may not owe any relief to Autel. An appellate judge found that various patent claims made by Autel were not actually infringed upon, thus making all claims invalid. Before the verdict, DJI also indicated that it had no intention of pulling its product from U.S. shelves or ceasing its imports. DJI stated that while there may be some similarities in design, Autel’s patent was not infringed upon, and the company was not entitled to any relief.
The Battle Drones On
This most likely will not be the last time this case makes headlines and one that will need to be monitored. As companies continue their efforts to dominate the market segment, and ultimately the skies, we may soon see others come forth with similar claims in an attempt to gain that competitive edge.