French drone maker Parrot said today it would be laying off a third of employees, or about 290 people, in its drone division. The news was announced as part of its most recent quarterly earnings report, and it underscores Parrot’s broader struggles to succeed in the consumer drone market largely dominated by Chinese firm DJI. In its fourth-quarter earnings results, Parrot said it generated sales of about $90 million, coming in below its roughly $106 million target. It now plans to place a larger emphasis on the commercial drone market, including markets like mapping and agriculture.
Parrot’s story is playing out across the drone market, as once fast-growing firms constrict under market pressure and less-than-stellar sales. About 50 percent of all drone sales in North America belong to DJI, while Parrot, Yuneec, 3D Robotics and others hold just single-digit market share percentages. 3D Robotics, like Parrot today, announced lay offs back in March alongside a renewed focus on commercial operations.
GoPro, the most recent and high-profile industry entrant, arrived on the scene with its Karma drone back in September. Unfortunately, the device was prone to mid-flight power failure, causing some Karma units to fall from the sky. GoPro recalled the device and is now working to relaunch it some time later this year. The action camera company has also been forced through layoffs, having cut its staff by 7 percent in January of last year and then another 15 percent, or about 200 employees, in November.
Action cameras, much like consumer drones, have helped balloon small businesses into big-name brands. But it now appears that, with sales falling, it’s hard to sustain growth with expensive electronics that get purchased once for niche industries and upgraded rarely over the next two or three years. So for now — as Parrot’s layoffs make evident — the cool off in the drone industry remains underway.