Japan’s largest drone maker sets its sights on the US

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By Webdesk

This week, decade-old drone company ACSL announced plans to enter the US commercial drone market. The company has already taken a big bite out of the market in its native Japan, with a certification from the country’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, as well as a deal to provide disaster support to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. It says it is the largest in the country by headcount, revenue and market capitalization.

The US is a no-brainer for a company like ACSL. It’s a huge market for drones, but government use has been hampered, in part by blacklists. For example, in October last year, the Ministry of Defense placed DJI on a list of ‘Chinese military companies’. It noted in a release:

The Department is committed to highlighting and countering the PRC Military-Civil Fusion strategy, which supports the modernization goals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by ensuring access to advanced technologies and expertise is acquired and developed by PRC companies, universities and research programs that appear to be civilian entities.

That’s just one of a small list of problems that DJI, based in Shenzhen, has faced in the United States as the US government began tightening restrictions during the Trump presidency. Those problems have only gotten worse for the drone maker, which currently controls more than 70% of the global market.

While DJI drones have remained popular with consumers, government contracts are a whole different story. The bans have proved a boon for US-based Skydio, which reached a valuation of $2.2 billion in February, months after winning several major government contracts.

This news finds that ACSL is building out its US team.

“ACSL has worked hard to establish itself in its home market with a lineup that has consistently proven itself as a reliable tool that delivers results,” Global CTO Chris Raabe said in a release. “We started organizing product demos for potential US customers at the end of last year. With the opening of our subsidiary here in California, I’m making the US my base to be personally involved with our activities in the field, meeting these customers, demonstrating our capabilities and learning about their needs.

The SOTEN will be ACSL’s first product available in the United States. The foldable drone, which hit the Japanese market in 2021, bears more than a passing resemblance to DJI’s popular Mavic line. Exact timeline and pricing have not been announced. The company says only that it will “offer a discounted NDAA-compliant small drone to the US market later this year.”

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