Chinese drone maker DJI has been ordered to pay $279m in damages to US aerospace company Textron after a court in Texas ruled that two popular features on DJI drones infringed on Textron-held patents. Textron claimed that DJI's auto-hover and vehicle-following features were based on two patents that were originally held by military rotorcraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter, now owned by Textron. DJI has claimed that it developed these technologies independently and will "vigorously pursue all options" to defend its legal rights.
DJI’s latest product, the world’s first triple optical camera drone, is said to be pushing the boundaries of consumer drone technology. However, the company has been hit with a $279 million jury verdict after a federal court in Texas ruled that it infringed on two patents held by Textron, a US aerospace manufacturer.
Textron, which owns military rotorcraft maker Bell Helicopter, argued that two popular features on DJI drones, automatic hovering and vehicle following, are based on Bell patents. The follow-a-vehicle feature, Textron claimed, is based on a US patent that enables pilots of helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft to follow ships and land on them. This same technology is used by DJI consumer drones to track and follow snowboarders or cars.
Jury Awards $279 Million Verdict Against DJI In Drone Patent Lawsuit
The auto-hover feature, on the other hand, is based on a US patent that allows rotor wing pilots to land their aircraft more safely and easily. Textron claimed that this same technology is used in DJI drones, making it easier for consumers to fly and operate them.
DJI, however, has stated that it has developed these technologies independently with key distinctions from Textron patents. For example, DJI drones only leverage the position of the subject being tracked, not their position and direction like Textron’s vehicle-following tech. Additionally, the automatic hovering feature is simply based on a drone operator using a handheld remote controller, not a pilot in the vehicle controlling it with mechanical and hydraulic systems like Textron’s patent claims.
After the verdict was announced, DJI strongly disagreed with the ruling and stated that it will “vigorously pursue all options” to defend its legal rights. The company argued that there is no commonality between the technologies of Textron, a military helicopter company, and DJI, a civilian drone company.
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