Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones originated in military applications, but their use is increasingly expanding to different commercial areas, hobbyists, agricultural purposes and a wide range of other civilian applications. The drone manufacturer that holds more than 75% of the civilian drone market share, DJI, was founded humbly out of Frank Wang’s HKUST dorm room and personally incubated by his teacher, Prof Zexiang Li.
Their research on UAVs have resulted in drones that can handle complex terrains via pioneering motion control and robotic perception technologies. Prof Li’s vision for innovation and knowledge transfer, coupled with Frank Wang’s lifelong passion for flying devices, were central to the growth of DJI. Today, the company provides employment for more than 5,000 people globally and funds several scholarships for HKUST graduate students to pursue robotics research.
DJI products range from drones, flying platforms, flight controllers for multi-rotors and helicopters accessories, among others.
Prof Zexiang Li is Professor of Electronic & Computer Engineering at HKUST. He is also the Chairman of DJI and an IEEE fellow. Prof Li and Frank Wang were awarded the 2019 IEEE Robotics and Automation Award “For contributions to the development and commercialization of civilian drones and aerial imaging technology.”