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Chinese drone maker sees sales doubling

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SZ DJI Technology Co, Chinese maker of the drone that crashed on Barack Obama's lawn last month, plans to double sales in 2015 as it pushes for clearer regulations on unmanned flights.

[HONG KONG] SZ DJI Technology Co, Chinese maker of the drone that crashed on Barack Obama's lawn last month, plans to double sales in 2015 as it pushes for clearer regulations on unmanned flights.

DJI is working with the US and China governments on rules for commercial and recreational uses of its aircraft, Chief Executive Officer Frank Wang said in an interview on Thursday. The company, which mostly sells online, plans to open its own store in Shenzhen this year before expanding across China.

Mr Wang wants to capitalize on growing demand for drones to monitor public safety, shoot film footage and search disaster areas. The company he founded in 2006 now has about 2,800 employees, including in Beijing and Los Angeles, and is worth "significantly more" than the 10 billion-yuan (US$1.6 billion) valuation it received last year, he said.

"We want our consumers to say, 'Wow, this is a product that I've never seen,'" Mr Wang, 34, said at DJI's Shenzhen headquarters. "Our goal is to make products that can override the 'Made in China' label." DJI is in talks with new investors for funding, Mr Wang said, declining to elaborate. He prefers keeping the company independent, and holding an initial public offering is a long- term goal.

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The company generated 2013 sales of US$130 million, a figure it said at least tripled last year. Mr Wang declined to give an estimate for this year's revenue.

DJI offers drones for about 3,000 yuan to 17,999 yuan, with about 30 per cent of sales coming from the US and 20 per cent from China, Mr Wang said.

"We want to improve our products' safety and functions so they can cater to entry-level users," said Mr Wang, who started DJI while studying for his master's degree in computer science at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology.

The global market for unmanned aerial vehicles is expected to almost double to US$11.4 billion during the next decade from US$6.6 billion in 2013, according to the Teal Group. Obstacles for drone makers include government concerns about clogged airspace and potential terrorist attacks.

Mr Obama stressed the need for rules governing drones after a pilot lost control of his DJI-made Phantom and crashed it on the White House grounds Jan 26. DJI released a software update it said would prevent drones from breaching the no-fly zone above Washington.

Alibaba, Amazon Separately, Amazon.com Inc. said it would begin testing drone deliveries overseas while awaiting approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration for trial flights in Washington state.

Authorities in Beijing also are considering new drone rules after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and partner Shanghai YTO Express Logistics Co delivered ginger tea packets to customers there, people familiar with the matter said. Before the Feb 4 promotion, Alibaba and YTO said they believed the deliveries complied with the law.

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