HobbyKing is now selling much cheaper versions of some 3DR products:


(*This is an update of my old post which only referred to the two products available at that time.)

The latest addition to the list is especially well-timed because the 3DR Radio Telemetry Kit is currently out-of-stock, making HK the only place to get this item at any price right now. This could bring a welcome change to the tone of the DiyDrones Twitter feed as buyers stop venting their frustration with shortages and simply buy elsewhere.

HobbyKing changing strategies?

Even as HobbyKing is adding more ArduPilot accessories, the MultiWii and MegaPirate autopilots which they were selling are now being liquidated or have already been removed from the site entirely. It is easy to imagine that this pullback is the result of the rather infamous support nightmare they suffered when the entire run of MegaPirate boards shipped with an unworkable voltage regulator installed.

This shift in autopilot lineup could mean that HobbyKing has decided to get out of the autopilot business, sticking with accessories and staying away from complicated autopilots which have so many parts that can fail. A more likely explanation is that HobbyKing just wants an autopilot solution that works, and they're clearing the shelves to make room for something else, maybe ArduPilot, but probably DJI.

Personally, I like to imagine that somebody at HobbyKing is a rabid ArduPilot fan who clones a different 3DR part every time 3DR goes out of stock, just to make sure he can always get his fix.

Your ideas?

Last time I posted on this topic, I was expecting a rather dry discussion of the effect of clone manufacturing on the 3DR business model. That suggestion was rightly ignored, so this time I'll just ask: Do you plan to buy any clone hardware yourself?

For myself, I think my next purchase will be a 3DR PX4 with HobbyKing's telemetry and GPS. Frankly, buying the autopilot feels like enough of a donation to the developers without paying double for the accessories, as well.

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Comment by Will Snodgrass on December 29, 2012 at 12:32am

All the APM clones Ive seen thus far have been within $25-50 of the 3DR hardware...which is really not enough of a discount to outweigh the risk. Add that with 3DR's ever dropping prices as they increase volume, not to mention the evolving platform....I don't think 3DR has anything to worry about. Besides, allot of the money that 3DR makes from the sale of autopilots (and misc items) goes right back into developing new tech. Whereas the profit from the clones just goes into their pockets, since there not developing anything.

So Ill be keeping my money with 3DR.....and if you want to see newer and better hardware you should consider doing the same.

Comment by Tim - Arduino for Visual Studio on December 29, 2012 at 1:26am

Hey guys, let's stick to interesting discussions. All the suppliers are commercial companies that care little about you and care much about profit. All have built product based on a collection of experiences and requests from their paying customers. ALL rely on the open source community to avoid significant r&d costs. So none of the suppliers need be protected or championed. They are just suppliers! buy from whichever you feel most meets your needs.  

I've just had an email from HK. This item is now in stock and is at an offer price of $35. WOW! That's a damn good arduino board for the money. They say they will have a 10hz gps for it soon. 

Comment by Joe on December 29, 2012 at 8:51am

That Hobby King AIO board actually has a well documented manufacturing fault confirmed by many who have received that board.

see WARNING bad batch ** Hobby King Multiwii and Megapirate AIO Flight ...

Hobby King's reaction, none for over 7 days while they continued to sell their faulty board, then they lowered the price and continued to sell it without ever mentioning it has a manufacturing fault which Hobby King is well aware of.

Does anyone need a clearer example of Hobby King's ethics ?

Comment by Tim - Arduino for Visual Studio on December 29, 2012 at 11:03am

Wooo! This is turning into a silly conversation. Let's be clear about this. Everyone is surely happy paying a little extra and owning genuine kit. The question is how much extra.

It's obvious from almost every comment that everyone has already invested heavily, not in clones but in genuine kit. As far as I am concerned, what the clones do is to give us a clear idea of the real hardware cost of our investment. This doesn't give us a clear difference in price between a copy and the r&d required to produce the genuine product but allows us to form our own judgement as to the real value of our purchases.

Everyone deserves to feel good about the purchasing decisions that they have made. If we buy some hardware and look at it a few months later and feel disappointed, then the reasons for that should be discussed and explored in an open, honest and unemotional manner. Right now it's a difficult because disappointed or angry people can't help holding back the emotion and the happy folks can't help being protective of the community. 

Chris announced that 3DR will soon have their own web site. This might be the solution, allowing people to discuss/complain in the manufacturers forum without upsetting various parts of the community. Everyone needs a place to shout at one time of another and everyone deserves to enjoy their hobby without interruption.

Comment by Will Snodgrass on December 29, 2012 at 9:55pm

I just wish we could talk about this without all the smartass comments. It's worth discussing the pro's and con's don't you think?  Unfortunately whenever someone states their opinion (and we are talking about our opinions here) There words are simply quoted and dissected. This comes off as a little hostile, and serves no purpose other then to degrade our conversation.

Anyone that has been in the computer business realizes that hardware is usually obsolete as soon as it's purchased. This may frustrate some, but we all know it. The Ardupilot units are inexpensive enough, that buying a newer version when it comes out (if it has features you would like) is not too big a deal. Allot of company's will only release a new product once a year......even though they have newer tech already developed. That way they can maximize there profit and wring every last set out of there current design. Thankfully were getting new tech much faster then that, which I think it is a very good thing.

I'm not throwing my money behind 3DR out of some misplaced loyalty, (or because I'm a fanboy)I do it because they are the innovators of this tech, and supporting them assures a steady stream of innovation and newer and better products. And they have proven track record of doing exactly that.

I'm also not against the clones.....Were working under an open source model, and I wouldn't want to change that.Hopefully it will lead to some novel designs and features. At least that's my hope.......however just making exact copies is unappealing to me., and does not contribute to the overall development of tech.

Comment by John Campen on January 2, 2013 at 8:35am

As much as I dislike the thieving , really though, we use Chinese manufacturers to produce many of our products so we can make huge profits. How is this really that much different? We exploit them and they exploit us. same same mate.

Comment by Tim - Arduino for Visual Studio on January 2, 2013 at 11:13am

I don't agree with clones unless the company producing the "originals" is grossly over pricing. The Arduino community, which is much bigger than DIYd, is created by a number of people contributing for free. So, in my mind, there isn't any place for overly commercial companies which, over time, will destroy many of the free/community elements of our hobby.

The "new sensors" on APM were discovered and openly blogged by Fabio, the creator of the FreeIMU, http://www.varesano.net/topic/freeimu. 3DR wanted to be the first to release boards using the new sensors, so, as usual rushed out designs that quickly became redundant and/or over priced.

The concept of making an all-in-one AP grew from a number of different peoples designs but was probably first packaged as William Premerlani's UAV Dev Board http://code.google.com/p/gentlenav. 3DR copied the design with some modifications such as using Arduino (mainly for marketing purposes)

Arduino and quadcopters were not designed by 3DR, but by various international teams.

The 3DR IMUv3 was announced at a much lower price than the price it was released at. We gathered that a new marketing strategy by 3DR involved moving to a distribution channel so additional margins were required. Chris was openly confronted about this at the time and his response was that it is all open source and if we can make it cheaper then we should do so. 

The hobbyKing board I mentioned above is not a clone. It includes a better processor and more sensors than the 3DR IMUv3. In my opinion the HK board is a much more powerful and friendly design. The IMUv3 is $70 the HK board is $45 (recent special offers excluded for continuity reasons).

In terms of technology that is fast discontinued? In 3 years we have seen a huge number of different variations from 3DR which has bloated and confused an otherwise fantastic wiki. Many of the product changes were due to poor design rushing to market too quickly. With this in mind, many have spent well over $1000 on what some people using this site claim to be a well price AP for between $100 and $200.

The mediaTek gps was hailed by Chris as required for quad copters, the older gps systems were either too slow (1hz) or too expensive ($70). At least they did the job they were advertised to do! 3DR sold thousands of mediaTeks’ on the basis that they were fit for quad usage. Yet 3DR have recently stated they are not practical for quads so everyone should buy the new 3DR gps systems instead.

Let's not forget that companies such as LiquidWare managed to use the mega1280 and 2560 chips on their open source boards (non ap) many years ago. In the meantime 3DR managed to release their first board with the mega328 which is too small and restricted for most UAV & NAV purposes. So where is the great technological advance in that?

I guess I am a little different because often I buy boards just to test with the community software that I have so far produced for free. I am like many others who do the same. I never get to use the boards for actual projects so the price is important and from my own pocket. If not for users of my software, I look for projects that I can recommend or share with friends and family. I hoped DIYd would be at the centre of this but as it turns out it is not on my radar because I don’t feel that 3DR can be trusted.

I still love what this community has achieved but let’s not get too pumped up thinking 3DR has cutting edge, well priced and unique products.  As I have said before, if the clones force 3DR to price product in a more sensible and more loyal manner then I will be happy.

Comment by Tim - Arduino for Visual Studio on January 2, 2013 at 11:37am

Thanks. I have fallen into the sarcasm hole before. It happens when someone with a completely different view point comes along and tells you that you are complaining about nothing. It's very annoying and only serves to make people angry.

As I have said before, normally a manufacturer has a web site of their own. People can then complain without having other unaffected community members chip in with their irrelevant points of view.

The manufacturer would normally respond in a professional manner to either say sorry or to explain in a mature manner their point of view.

In any event a professional customer services response would normally calm the anger and leave people feeling they had had their chance to speak publicly and that they had been heard.

In marketing, unhappy customers who feel they had been listened to and handled professionally by a supplier often become the most loyal customers :)

Comment by Gary McCray on January 2, 2013 at 11:53am

In reality, Open Source is Open Everything in our truly anti-establishment World.

Everywhere else, intellectual property, hardware and software and designs are regarded as God given rights for big Corporations to exploit and license as they wish.

Note, NOT the designers, inventors or programmers.

This stuff immediately becomes the property of a Corporation that will exploit it for the benefit of the Stockholders and CEO's.

Open source is truly a breath of fresh air in a decidedly selfish and depressing state of affairs.

Intellectual property is basically given away and we as individuals often actually try to help the Inventors, Developers, Programmers and Designers realize some return by purchasing from them the products they manage to make.

Kickstarter is also largely under the influence of this truly altruistic influence.

3DR and DIYDrones seem to me to be primarily about trying to make available the fuits of so many peoples labors at a cost where they can still make a reasonable income and not about exploitation as is the norm.

One of the problems that greedy American outsourcing has produced is mega production capability in China which means that China now has state of the art modern factories sitting idle without sufficient goods to produce.

In this regard, our very "openness" makes us vulnerable to those we would really rather not do business with.

In the end it is by innovation and cooperation that we move ahead and even manage some small profit.

I buy some Chinese stuff too as do we pretty much all, but the fact of the matter is that the APM is the target we actually support and the Chinese clones when they do come out will be static and problematic.

The APM will continue to evolve and we will continue to program to take advantage of it so we will continue to buy it.

As for the other stuff like the peripherals, the Chinese will copy them if they think they can make a buck and you might as well figure it in the normal commodity chain.

3DR and DIYDrones is not an easy business in the face of this, but the reality is they primarily serve us and if you can occasionally spend a bit more to get something from them, you really help us all in the long run.

Comment by Tim - Arduino for Visual Studio on January 2, 2013 at 12:09pm

One little point to be clear about. "Trust" covers many areas, so before my words get taken out of context...

I do certainly trust 3DR to deliver a professionally made product to the published specification :)

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