3D Robotics

3DR's evolution from micro to mass


As many of you know, Jordi Munoz and I founded 3DR in 2009 as a way to help get drone technology into the hands of the masses.  And it certainly has reached the masses—these days, there’s never a day without many drone stories being published, and interest only continues to grow.

3DR continues to grow and evolve.  Where we were once a company focused on bags of parts and bare boards, we are increasingly centered around integrated products that just work for people, products that allow people to focus on the results rather than the mechanism.  Additionally, we’re placing bigger bets on a smaller number of products, with Solo being the prime example (so far!). Today, we are more than 200 employees and the overall business grew by more than 500% this year. 

Like the drone industry overall, we have evolved from a DIY company to a mass-production company and now compete directly with DJI and Parrot, both of which manufacture in large-scale factories in Shenzhen. We do the same with the Solo family and our future products.

For those of you who are familiar with my 2012 book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, you may recall that this was always the plan. The above is a chart from that book, which shows that as volumes approach 100,000 units a year, economies of scale and a focus on margins require a move to mass production and deep supply chain integration. That's the volume 3DR is now at. For a product that increasingly resembles a smartphone, this scale can really only be done in Shenzhen, the capital of the smartphone industry.

As part of this transition, we are in the process of sunsetting many of our legacy products, which were made in our Tijuana factory.  There are now many great frames available, many supplier of FPV cameras, and many companies focused solely on very specific drone components.  In the process of winding down some of our older products, we’ll do our best to point you to alternatives.  And of course, many of you here already build and release technology that surpasses what exists commercially today!

Going forward, we will focus on the Solo family and other core elements of our next-gen platform. In particular, we will continue to offer Pixhawk-compatible autopilots, with improved versions designed in cooperation with partners. And autopilots continue to be a core focus of 3DR, with exciting new platforms coming in 2016.

3DR will continue to work on making a difference where we can best do so: in providing highly integrated, innovative, and fully configurable complete systems.  Additionally, we will continue to provide tools to enable people to stretch the boundaries of what this technology can do, and to work with true innovators like those in this community to build the core elements of our common drone future.

You can count on us continuing to be VERY active in the DIY Drones community (today, seven years after founding it, I still post and comment every day -- it’s a source of constant joy and amazement for me, and one of my proudest creations).  You all have been a central part of 3DR’s vision and development and will continue to be so—and we will continue to be active contributors back to both this community and the broader Dronecode development project -- indeed, this focus on becoming a much bigger company will allow us to devote even more resources into contributing open source code to the community and recruiting more partners to do so as well.  

At 43 companies and counting, Dronecode has more than doubled over the past year, and we will lead its march as the world’s leading open drone platform by extending the platform into video, the cloud and advanced computing by creating world-class developers tools such as Dronekit and the Solo SDK.






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  • "the overall business grew by more than 500% this year"

    Chris, can you confirm this with some ballpark figures or pointing to a financial pub, etc?

    I don't think there are published figured except many (some based on your quotes) which indicate 3DR wanted to do 20 million in 2014. Other projections state up to 26 million.

    500% over that is 100 million dollars in 2015 Revenue.

    A rough calculation of 20,000 Solos sold - even figuring $900 net revenue each - would be 18 million.

    Adding in 10 million for existing models, parts, etc. - throw 2 in there for slop - and we have 30 million in 2015 Revenues.

    I know you don't share exact sales figures but there are a lot of quotes around and it would nice to see why some are so far off. 

    To put it in a more ballpark fashion, are you willing to state that 3DR is going to have revenues exceeding 75 million dollars in 2015? That would be only 300% or so from 2014 if 2014 figures are correct.

    Or is the problem here that 2014 figures didn't make it to the 20?

    Thanks for any insight - we bloggers like to get things at least close....

  • Jiro, out of interest, where was this stated? Following on from this, has the end-of-sale date for the IRIS+ (and spare parts) been officially mentioned anywhere?

  • I heard that 3DR will stop producing Pixhawk1 by the end of 2015. Pixhawk1 is already bit old flight controller, so that stop fabrication is reasonable decision. However, I want 3DR continue to produce state of the art flight controllers and support of DIY drones community and ArduCopter.

    It could be easily understood that 3DR looks investors for the return of their investment, but DIY community is also represent number stake holders. 

  • Actually. Thinking about this more. What would really help is if you could buy a hobby version of every future 3dr product. I think that would go a long way to appeasing the original support base.

    For example if I could buy a box of parts to build my own solo with no fancy packaging and no 30 day / GoPro warranty that would be fantastic.

    3dr could take out the assembly, packaging and warranty cost and provide a cheaper product to the hobbyists.

    @chris, is this something that could ever be feasible. You would still have the same economies of scale on the purchasing side and it would appease a lot of the people on this forum who give you flack for focusing on consumers.

    You already have to have a spares arm of the business so this would really just be an extension of that function.

    I'm the sort of person who voids my warranty before I have even made the first flight so not having to provide me one in the first place would save money.

    A DIY solo would be awesome and if you could shave a couple of hundred bucks off the solo price it would be like Christmas for DIY drones hobbyists.
  • 3dr faces a real challenge with this transition from a DIY hoobyist focus to a consumer RTF focus.

    How do you make that shift while keeping the people that helped get you there engaged and supportive?

    It's very easy to get it wrong and for all the original hobbyists to get angry that the company appears to just be exploiting all the hard work and support of those early DIYers.

    For example, I used to have no issue posting answers to people's questions on how to assemble, tune or troubleshoot aircraft. Now I do tend to find myself thinking that is 3dr's job for the RTF stuff they sell.

    It would be a real shame for 3dr to abandon the hobbyists. I still rely on 3dr to buy parts and hardware that I know will be of a suitable compatibility and standard so the prospect of losing this while 3dr chases the big money of the consumer market does leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

    I bought a solo and I have to say it's brilliant and it's very cool to see how far these systems have come since the early days.

    I think the challenge now is for the 3dr and the DIY community to help define what the future direction of being a hobbyist means. Maybe it means buying commodity hardware and focusing on software development?
  • Good example of bad ceo and company management. I was a fan of the convept always had problems, from shipping to quality of products. The software and hardware was never up to oar to the competition, but it was obvious once switch. From easy to handle to quality of the interface (the mission planner VS DJI telemetry software was ridiculous) and lately with the quality of the Inspire and 5xR. 3DR is about opportunistic than inmovating. Solo was a joke in the age of Inspire and A2.

    So long 3dr
  • 3D Robotics

    Alex: Absolutely on both counts. As the post above says: "we will continue to offer Pixhawk-compatible autopilots, with improved versions designed in cooperation with partners"

    You can buy them here. The APM:Plane software for it has a very active development community, and the home page for it is here

  • Lots of talk here on the multicopters. I'm still interested in airplanes and photography using that platform. Are the autopilots such as Pixhawk still being developed on and is 3DR still supplying them?

  • Looking forward to seeing 3DR release the design files for the IRIS+ frame parts so we can manufacturer the parts ourselves as there it's a struggle to locate replacement frame parts from resellers here in Europe.

  • Acknowledging 3DR as a pioneer in our field and wishing Chris and the team the very best of luck going forward!

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