Tough Market

“We exited hardware and we exited consumer partly because it was a tough market,” he said. “DJI is an amazing company and lots of people got pounded.

“It was just brutal.”

"We’re a Silicon Valley company and we’re supposed to be doing software and there are Chinese companies that are supposed to be doing hardware.”

Can't say I agree with some of these statements, but alas, this has all played out already. Other interesting tidbits relating to a previously proposed acquisition by DJI are also in the article.

Describes one of the last chapters of the 3DR history book fairly accurately though.


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Comment by Jason Franciosa on October 5, 2016 at 11:37am

Truly sad, I've seen multiple statistics that show that the more VC money poured into a company, the greater chance of failure. I was rooting for 3DR for a long time as they supported opensource, US Based, and the functionality of the opensource software was much greater than DJI. But, simplicity and making it just work seems to always prevail as Apple and DJI can contest to. It's too bad they put all their eggs in the Solo basket, with the release of the Mavik Pro at $1000 full retail and the amazing amount of features it has, plus simplicity of use and portability, I doubt any consumer drones will be able to compete in this market. I fear GoPro will be out of the drone market shortly as well.

Comment by Gary McCray on October 5, 2016 at 12:04pm

As they said in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" when Death showed up at the door "Well that's cast rather a gloom over the evening".

Most of us here have been largely unaware of the magnitude and scope of the forces at work with 3DR and that Forbes article is really the first time we get to see it for the mess it really is.

I have a Solo and I will keep it and happily use it as long as it can be reasonably held together.

Then I will retire it to live next to my collection of Nolan Bushnell "Petsters" which commemorate a great man and his forward thinking vision who didn't always get it quite right either.

I must say, in light of this though even though the $399.00 Best Buy price on a Solo with gimbal and extra battery is really tempting I do not think that buing a Solo with the necessity or intention of using it commercially is a reasonable option.

Even though they say they will continue to support it, even in the best of times, support was never looked at as adequate, and I am sure it will get worse.

Solo, is, I am afraid, now truly an orphan.

Our flight controller development (ArduPilot) was never about making a wildly successful commercial product, but rather about DIY hobbyists with more than the normal amount of technical savy getting to do something really interesting.

That really hasn't changed, and with the current and upcomming advances in vision and ground and object relative navigation, both UAS and Robotics are really just getting started, So: Damn the Torpedoes and Full Speed Ahead!

Best Regards To You All,

Gary McCray 

Comment by Hugues on October 5, 2016 at 12:26pm

I am stunned after reading this article. Although cards were clearly on the table since SOLO launch, I could not imagine such a quick fall of 3DR.

I do not like to brag that "I was right" but I remember a skype call I did in dec 2013 with Chris & 3DR's head of service dvision (Max), about a specific project & vision for 3DR which would have put 3DR's business on the track of added value services, not in hardware (=a commodity, with no more value). At the time I received a polite refusal saying I was too soon vs the market. What an unfortunate lack of vision !

However it is never too late, I'm glad 3DR finally understands the point about services and I just hope it won't be too late.

And I remain ready to help.

Comment by Cala on October 5, 2016 at 12:38pm

What's a pitty :( ....but lost a battle isn't lost the war, for shure there are other ways to explore like agricultural robotics that stays in diapers from a long time and chinesses don't looks interested in that market, etc.

Good luck. :)

Comment by Karl Truemann on October 5, 2016 at 12:57pm

I also heard that GoPro had sniffed their best engineers. The fact that no articles were published about the karma is the best proof.

Comment by Jerry Giant on October 5, 2016 at 1:04pm

I love the design and production quality, although i have found some flaws for daily users. Maybe some day i could gather enough time and knowledge to build solo firmware and app in fully open source, and i am doing it.

The yocto image on stock solo and initramfs has been proved a good project for QA and expansion. I have seen DJI A2 have too many wired software issues, but solo is solid. (although my stock TF card i think it's a crap)

And now people in china is copying solo for just HDMI video link... (i have their product disassembled and fs analyzed.) too bad solo could not reach it's full potential.

I still believe that open source will be the driving force for unmanned aviation, as Linux kernel have resides in virtually everything and everywhere. Linux Flight Controller, Nodejs message breaker, UAVCAN actuator network, I am persuading capital to invest these things with my prototypes, and making these design free for study and fun in open source hardware.

DJI have been pushing it too far too fast, like Japanese CE companies, the technology will reach a peak for some application, and doing moors law for the last is choking your own throat.

For the last two years, ArduPilot has lagging behind too far from now what consumer product have

* Linux kernel mode sensor data acquistion

* PREEMPT_RT priority optimization for altitude and control

* Sensor metering and sensor technologies

* GIS integration

* Camera Integration

* SDR radio

These are mature technologies for DJI or Bebop, especially DJI have 3 generation of SDR modules, even have propriety ASIC RF front end. And for visual robotic sensing from movidius.

It's not saying open source is not for serious people with capable skills to compete with now day top company, in the contrary communities like Hack a day, element14, intel IoT are getting popular, and some time you will see some master piece of old CE parts repurpose project which was done by very genius engineers.

I think it's time for a change, forget about how you can sell your next re-layout FC hardware and prevent from copied from Chinese, think about do you really need such a code base no one can learn in a week to involve your dev? I am so occupied for this thinking, and beginning my new project based on Linux now.

Comment by Jason Franciosa on October 5, 2016 at 2:27pm

3DR Going after the commercial market, especially with something like their site scan, may prove to be another failure as well as the market is much more saturated than a couple of years ago. Looking at 3DR's offerings for construction vs. Kespry I don't see how they are going to compete? Especially if the Solo is their offering for commercial applications.

Comment by Jack Crossfire on October 5, 2016 at 2:29pm

Well, it's not like the diydrones commenter pool didn't jawbone him to sell 3DR as soon as possible.  The current boom is fueled by buyouts, not insanely great products.  "buyouts are the new bits" as Janet Yellen would say.

Comment by Marc Dornan on October 5, 2016 at 3:21pm

GoPro carrying drones are not the really going to cut it. I think Karma will join Solo as another consumer GoPro drone crushed by DJI. But Mavic also seems to be cannibalizing DJI. You cannot give away a Phantom 4 now, let alone a Solo. 3DRs downfall was happening in full view of anyone that wanted to connect the dots. The pity is that Solo was good, if flawed. One feels that it could have been done on a smaller scale for a fraction of the cost. The absurd over production and ramping up of scale seems to be what did the damage.

Comment by Gary McCray on October 5, 2016 at 5:15pm

Hi Marc,

I agree that 3DR didn't have timing right on big production, but they also didn't have the consumer market primed and marketed to right either and their documentation and support for the Solo were also all way less than stellar.

I suspect the real driver was that they had so much venture capital that they really had to come up with a spectacular capital recovery plan to make the investors feel they were going to get a return on their Shark bucks.

The Solo is a really nice product but it took too long with too few in house engineers and had too many early bugs.

Kind of a classic post mortem for a whole lot of companies, especially ones with a meteoric initial rise.

Kind of like a rocket, took off really well but fizzled out before it reached orbit.

There is no way that 3DR can recoup the investments made let alone become a top tier competitor in the "software" market, after all the layoffs and venture capitalists abandoning the ship like rats what they have left is already eclipsed by smaller less wasteful companies that have thoughtfully carved out a share of the commercial markets.

If 3DR does anything at all it will be because qualcomm and especially Intel think it would be a good idea, but Intel is already at the forefront of vision based flight controller development and Qualcomm can certainly just do it's own thing however they want to.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the "DroneCode" alliance now, I suspect even the Platinum members will soon alchemically turn to dross.

DJI certainly scuttled future full price sales of their own Phantom with the Mavic, but they also once again took over the very top of the consumer market with a quadcopter with even more capability and probably cheaper to mass produce than the Phantom (and also with a smaller, friendlier and less public and politically threatening form factor).

All the left over Phantoms will get sold off at a discount too and at the end of the day it will be DJI win and 3DR lose.

Processor Technology, Godbout, Northstar, Morrow, Osborne, Next, 3DR - Maybe some body should play taps.

Best Regards,



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