Exclusive Lufthansa Enters Market for Drones, Partners With China's DJI

Germany’s largest airline on Tuesday announced a partnership with Chinese firm DJI, one of the world’s leading drone manufacturers, to develop and market drones for commercial use. The news comes after Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr last year signaled his intention to explore the possibilities in the drone market, including certifying drone “pilots” and managing drones for companies. Mr. Spohr is betting that many companies might be interested in using drones but won’t necessarily want to operate them themselves. The airline has created a subsidiary, Lufthansa Aerial Services, which will also take the lead in partnering with DJI. DJI, founded in 2006, has 4,500 employees and a market share of about 70 percent in drone manufacturing. Martin Brandenburg, DJI’s European marketing director, said Lufthansa was an “ideal partner” for expanding the market for commercial drones. Under the partnership, Lufthansa Aerial Services, which operates as a subsidiary of the airline’s consulting arm Lufthansa Consulting, will develop hardware and software to retrofit drones for different types of potential clients, such as monitoring industrial sites. In many cases, Lufthansa would offer to operate the drones for the customers. The business of drones – and running drones as a service for clients – remains a relatively untapped business field. But Lufthansa isn’t the only German company involved. Deutsche Bahn, the German rail operator, is also exploring the use of drones to monitor railway sites.   Picture: The DJI Phantom 3, presented at Las Vegas Consumer Electonics Show. Source: Bloomberg