DJI's new mini drone is super affordable and looks... very familiar

The Mini SE is just $300 — and it might secretly be an older DJI drone in a new package.

A new entry-level drone from DJI has begun appearing at a handful of Walmart stores this week. The DJI Mavic Mini SE starts at $299.99, according to Twitter users who have seen the drone in the wild, making it DJI’s most affordable drone yet (by quite a bit).

The Mini SE’s appearance is something of a mystery. DJI hasn’t officially announced the drone yet, as far as we can tell, and the Mini SE listing on Walmart’s website says the drone is currently unavailable for delivery or pickup, with no price listed.

Even stranger yet: the Mini SE looks, at least from a distance, a whole lot like an older mini-drone from DJI. Like, there’s an uncanny level of similarity going on here. Drone DJ is pretty sure it’s the original Mavic Mini of yore with a few tweaks.

Last year ended ominously for DJI, with the company’s inclusion on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s blacklist. But DJI’s market domination continues unabated.

What is going on here? — Your guess is as good as ours. DJ Drone’s guess is more educated than both of ours. The site thought the new Mini SE looked awfully familiar and, with a bit of investigating, realized the cheap drone’s specs line up almost exactly with the first-gen Mavic Mini, which DJI released in 2019.

DJ Drone points out that DJI’s comparative silence about the Mini SE corroborates it being a repackaged product. DJI is fairly consistent in making announcements for brand-new products. The company declined to comment on the Mini SE when asked by The Verge.

The reviews are rolling in — Seeing as the Mini SE isn’t available anywhere online, not many people have gotten their hands on it yet. But hey, the only review left on Walmart’s product page so far is glowing — that must count for something, right?

A $299 retail price for the Mini SE would position it as an extremely affordable entry-level drone option. There are a few caveats to the lower price; its wireless range is just 2.5 miles, for example, which is far smaller than that of DJI’s flagship products. As The Verge points out, that probably means it uses DJI’s inferior connectivity software, which would make it less attractive for power users.

DJI is the giant of the drone market, with something like 70 percent of the world’s market share as of March 2020. Bringing a $299 drone to the market is smart — re-using old tech to make it possible is kind of genius.