Chinese Drone Maker DJI Seeks Silicon Valley Talent

An attendee flies a Phantom 2 drone, developed by SZ DJI Technology Co., during the IFA International Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin, Germany, on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015.
Bloomberg News/Chris Ratcliffe

 

If you are a top-notch engineer in Silicon Valley, Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. may come knocking on your door soon.

DJI, the world’s largest consumer drone maker based in Shenzhen, says it is opening a new research and development office in Palo Alto. The new lab will be run by two senior staff DJI hired this year: Rob Schlub, a former Apple engineer who worked on antenna design, and Darren Liccardo, a former Tesla Motors engineer who worked on autopilot systems. DJI said Mr. Schlub and Mr. Liccardo have already started recruiting engineers, and the office will eventually hire several dozen people.

While competition is intensifying in the market for both consumer and enterprise drones, DJI is to stay ahead by beefing up its R&D capabilities in China and abroad. Out of the company’s roughly 4,000 employees, about 1,500 are R&D staff, and most of them, for now, are based in Shenzhen.

The new Palo Alto lab will also look for opportunities to work with or invest in Silicon Valley startups, DJI says.

The Chinese company has been strengthening its ties to Silicon Valley this year. In May, Palo Alto-based venture capital firm Accel Partners invested $75 million in DJI, valuing the drone maker at roughly $8 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported at that time.

While building up its Silicon Valley lab, DJI is also working with a new strategic partner. DJI has recently agreed to buy a minority stake in Sweden-based camera and lens maker Hasselblad, which is best known as a maker of professional medium-format cameras. Hasselblad’s imaging technology could be useful for drone cameras, but for now, DJI is disclosing few details about their collaboration plans.