Bloomberg reports that the world’s biggest maker of civilian drones could see its products shut out of the U.S. market after a patent-infringement complaint was filed by smaller rival.

SZ DJI Technology Co. (DJI), a manufacturer of popular hobbyist and commercial drones including the Phantom and Mavic series, is being challenged by Autel Robotics Co.

The dispute is over unmanned vehicles used for aerial photography and videotaping, as well as for agricultural purposes. The world’s best-selling drone is the family known as the DJI Phantom, which has a distinctive white plastic exterior and a mount for a camera on its belly.

The Federal Aviation Administration predicted that 1.6 million civilian drones will be sold in the U.S. this year. The Teal Group of Fairfax, Virginia, estimated the 2018 worldwide civilian unmanned aircraft market will reach $4.4 billion.

The China-based DJI is accused of using Autel’s patented features for following a flight path while avoiding obstacles, rotor assembly, and a way to switch out battery packs to minimize lag time between flights.

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Chinese-made Phantom

Autel wants the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban imports of models of DJI’s Phantom, Mavic, Spark and Inspire drones made in China by DJI, according to a complaint filed in Washington on Thursday.

“If DJI’s big market is the U.S., then this is a big deal for them,” said Paul Brinkman of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, who specializes in ITC cases and isn’t involved in this one.

Autel, which says it designs and makes its drones in the U.S., contends in the complaint that excluding DJI drones from the U.S. “is likely to improve competitive conditions” in the market by providing opportunities for others, including Autel, Yuneec International Co. and Parrot SA.

Even if DJI’s products are excluded, “consumers would still have a variety of products from which to choose that would be manufactured by Autel and other companies,” Autel said in the complaint. Continue reading the article here.

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