Tencent to Produce Drones with Shenzhen-based Partner

6 Jan

Tencent Holdings is venturing into drone technologies as it announced Tuesday it has signed a deal with a Shenzhen-based hardware maker to jointly develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

Rapoo Technology, which specializes in making earphones, keyboards and gaming mice, said its drone unit Xiro will work with Tencent to boost its market share. Tencent will handle product specifications and assist with marketing and sales channels, according to Forbes. The partnership is valid until May 30, 2018.

Last year, Rapoo set up a joint venture with Xiro, after investing 50 million yuan ($7.65 million) for a 10% stake in the drone maker. Xiro’s four-propeller camera drone series Xplorer sells for about 2,499 yuan ($383).

Smartphone maker Xiaomi is said to be preparing to enter the drone market this year as well. According to the South China Morning Post, Xiaomi made at least two dozen patent filings last year and formed a company in Guangzhou to prepare for its entry into the drone market.

The South China Morning Post cites patent claim documents from China’s State Intellectual Property Office as evidence of the smartphone maker’s plans. The 24 patents filed by Xiaomi cover a wide range of drone technology including structure design, power unit, shock absorber, remote control and image transmission.

China’s drone market is dominated by Shenzhen-based Dajiang Innovation Technology (DJI), whose $1,000 easy-to-fly UAVs have become a global phenomenon. The company, valued roughly at $8 billion based on its latest fundraising round, is launching a foray into the commercial drone space with a $15,000 model designed to spray pesticides. It also opened a brick-and-mortar store in Shenzhen.