3D Robotics

3D Robotics announces VC funding, expansion plans!

3689485855?profile=originalLast week you may have seen the news that I'm going to be leaving Wired to lead 3D Robotics full time as CEO. Now I'm delighted to announce our other exciting news: last week we closed a $5+ million funding round with two premier firms, which will allow us to accelerate the growth of 3DR and expand into new markets.


The round was led by Jon Callaghan at True Ventures and Bryce Roberts of O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. Both of them will be joining the 3DR board.  These are two of the most far-seeing VCs in the Valley, and both are part of the "hardware is the new software" trend, including investments in Fitbit, Makerbot, Littlebits and Instructables. And they share our vision of the power of open source, the Maker movement and personal robotics. Chris Michel, an investor and long-time entrepreneur (and former Naval Flight Officer) will also be joining as an investor and board member.


I'll be opening an office in the SF Bay Area ("3DR North"), which will focus on sales/marketing and community development. Our San Diego headquarters will continue to be the R&D and engineering center, while our Tijuana manufacturing is expanding to handle more and more of our production. My co-founder, Jordi Munoz, will take over the role of President, overseeing operations.


With me joining as CEO and the funding round, we'll be growing the company quickly. We're now at 40 people, but will be hiring more hardware and software engineers in San Diego and sales, marketing and community management people in the Bay Area (probably in the Berkeley/Emeryville area).


The aim of this ramp-up is simple: more cool stuff and a great customer and community experience. As part of this, we'll be launching a new 3D Robotics site/store, new product sites, manuals and tech support communities and a expanded customer support team.  And of course a wave of exciting new products, focused on making drones and other aerial robotics technology easier, more powerful and cheaper than ever before.


This is going to be fun ;-)

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  • 3D Robotics



    We're committed to open source.  As for the rest of your questions, obviously we're not going to comment on internal business and financial issues nor disclose all of our company strategies, but you should judge us on our actions, both the more than five years we've already spent building this community and in the future.

    I've written a whole book on this, so my views and philosophies on the advantages of open innovation should be pretty clear by now.  Not all VCs are alike, and the ones we're working with are some of the biggest backers of open software and hardware out there.  Please keep an open mind, and keep the feedback coming as we evolve. 


  • Chris: Since I see you're monitoring the discussion here, I find it curious that your interest is sufficiently piqued to comment by a complaint from a frustrated user/customer, but not a philosophical question about the direction of your company and this community from a former/would-be contributor.

    Kindly, can you provide some more details about the vision of 3DR going forward?

    Yes, we all realize you're intending to position yourselves as something like AR.Drone or DJI -- providing RTF hobby devices/toys in retail outlets for the masses... hence the need for a new marketing and sales office. And with the introduction of the PX4, I presume you've also grander ambitions of being some sort of multi-product drone manufacturer.

    But if you please, I (and I'm sure many others) would like clarified a few key questions: 

    1. How does this VC funding affect your commitment to open-source? Are you committed to *not* closing off both the software AND hardware of the platform? Are you intending to offer closed products in the future that are based on this (or other) open-source work?
    2. If you're ramping up production and accepting investment and taking serious profit, are you going to pay the non-3DR developers for the essential time and innovation and support that they've put into this -- or does the community benefit by just getting "lower prices" and "more cool hardware"?
    3. How much equity to date has been handed out to contributors of ArduPilot? (Is this on the site somewhere? I can't find it.)
    4. Is 3D Robotics going to continue to be "managed" to have "no profit"? (I realize this has been generously-defined from the beginning, but I think it should be clear and specified.)


    • Is this forum intended to be a community for the advancement/discussion of ALL "DIY Drones" (as it purports), or is the intent now to primarily promote and provide (free) product support for 3D Robotics hardware? And if it IS for everyone, why are there no links to the other projects, nor any choice of hardware vendor?

    If my phrasing seems provocative, I apologize -- it's not my intent to stir the pot unnecessarily. But I do not share the optimism displayed by some others here, especially as we're a few years into this game of VCs-and-open-source... and the track record is decidedly mixed.

    But to be honest, more than just the VC's themselves, I have to question the management thinking that went into seeking them out in the first place. If this was the plan from the get-go -- build forum, promote forum in Wired et al., crowdsource development and support, sell product back to forum; repeat until VC's come -- well, I'm not sure that's kosher. There's a certain cynicism to a startup outsourcing much of its overhead while keeping all of its profit, and this was fine IMHO as long as it wasn't intended to be for-profit in the traditional sense. But VC's don't get involved in things that don't make them money, and quickly--in the traditional sense.

    Would appreciate some thoughts from management (and of course fellow members). I've probably asserted myself too much at this point :>

  • +1 for public shares....... Good work on the VC investors!

  • T3

    Congratulation.  I wish you and your team great success.

    But like John Arne Birkeland, I'd like to see better documentation. 

    Again, Good Luck!

  • 3D Robotics

    Kernal: Absolutely. Upgrading customer service is one of the investments we're going to make with the financial backing. It's not cheap, but robotics is still somewhat bleeding edge technology, so better individual help is the sort of service that's essential to providing a good experience to a larger, less technical audience. 

  • Chris, if you did not already know, the AMA (model A/C) did an about face this week and gave approval for members to use drone technology in their aircraft (with a few limitations):


  • T3

    Hi Chris,

    The best of luck, I wish you every success. Personally, I think this is a great idea.

    Hi Marc,

    UAV-DevBoard (UDB) is also alive and well. It is presently listed under the MEMBERS tab. It used to be under an OTHERPROJECTS tab, but Chris dropped that tab. I contacted him when the link disappeared, I think the reason he gave was that the contents of the tab was stale and he was not up-to-date on what was going on with other projects. He moved the UDB link to another tab, which eventually disappeared. I contacted him again, he cheerfully created a link under the MEMBERS tab.

    I think Chris's intentions are good, I consider him a good friend and I continue to work with members of the Ardu team such as Jonathan and Tridge.

    That said, I think that DIYDrones is becoming a Ardu-only community, if it has not already done so. That is fine with me as far as UAVDevBoard is concerned, we have our own community and website, with our own interests. UDB specific discussions are carried out there, but whenever any of our members have something of interest to the wider community, they continue to post on DIYDrones.

    The bottom line is that I am optimistic about Chris's announcement, I think it is good news. From the hardware point of view, the UDB project has only one UDB specific board, an IMU/autopilot board which is sold by Sparkfun. For other accessories, such as opto-isolators, magnetometers, barometers, etc., UDB users (myself included) often buy from 3D robotics. For myself, I am glad that 3D robotics offers a complete line of gadgets that have been specifically designed with this community in mind.

    Best regards,


  • Paparazzi is alive and well and growing all the time. The core is ENAC which can't profit from Paparazzi. If are "hard core" open source there you go. If you are just hard core 3DR then this is your greatest dream. Even more bling, more advertising, more marketing and more global tours by 3DR to spread the word. Everyone at least still has a choice. There are other projects out there. 

  • Great news, Chris!

    Ever thought about expanding your market in Brazil?

    Please, let me know if it's possible...


  • @MarcS

    Thanks for the "missing other projects" hint

    I wasn't aware of this up to now. Interesting.

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