3D Robotics

3DR's Rise and Fall


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.

Link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanmac/2016/10/05/3d-robotics-solo-crash-chris-anderson

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  • What a shame. Although DIY was not as profitable, it still brought in the $$. Not sure how they will compete in software, not really a core competency I suppose. No point in expanding too quickly if the market is not ready for it. I think drones have a long way to go, the challenge is finding where you fit in as a business.

  • A very sad article to read that 3DR is exiting the hardware scene. They had a better product than DJI at one point and most likely pushed DJI to develop a more refined product at a reduced price which appears ultimately pushed them out of the market.
  • Seems 3DR pulled a Makerbot, despite having an opportunity to learn from Makerbot's mistakes (i.e. alienating most of their established market, over-expansion due to VC pressures, and rushing/underestimating product development).

    With respect to the Phantom 4 vs Mavic debate, the Phantom 4 still has superior image quality, and is better suited to aerial cinematography/photography thanks to being able to use a hooded tablet to view the video stream. If DJI releases a Phantom 5 with a modular payload system (similar to the Inspire 1), I think they'll nail much of the commercial market as well, at least for the next few years.  

    Regulations for commercial operations are simpler for drones under 2kg in many parts of the world, and being able to pick and choose between RGB, multi-spectral, and thermal payloads etc. mitigates the the feature offerings of most competitors.  Until BVLOS regulations become mainstream, VTOL and fixed wing platforms have very few advantages over a a multi-rotor with ~30 minutes of endurance, at least for survey and cinematography work.

    I doubt DJI will experience significant competition until the technological developments start to plateau, or new regulations change market dynamics (BVLOS, heavy agricultural and transport drones).  Even then, they're more likely to be threatened by another Chinese company than they are from a company outside of China.

  • @Crady that is maybe not true at all. The Phantom 4 is over-sharpened digitally (not optically) and the Mavic is not. The Mavic can be focused at a set distance and image quality is actually comparable to a P4 after you sharpen in post -- which is actually preferable. The ability to control focus actually gives some interesting options -- although it is one more thing you can mess up and find out later! The Phantom 4 if anything is actually too sharp and a little unnatural. Quite to the contrary, the early signs are that the Mavic may be a superior camera with a superior radio link to the Phantom 4. We will see. Right now I see little point in a Phantom 4 but I will wait (I have a P3 Pro).

    I think we will see a Phantom 4 Pro or a Phantom 5 with a superior camera.

    And @Gary that is true - if you push flight times in a Phantom 4 or Phantom 3 you get hot batteries. I never go beyond 30% as I find the batteries get too hot.

  • Hi Crady,

    The 170 is a bit heavy, but it has a Nikon lens - a real actual lens, not a piece of glass adapted from a smart phone.

    The 360, is probably the more interesting one for us anyway, Polaroid and Kodak bot have similar ones, but I suspect they are junk in comparison to this one from Nikon and that 360 format is going to be very interesting especially for drone video use. And it's only 7 ounces.

    As for the You Tube videos, I was already aware of those too,

    What we are seeing is people who have had plenty of time to learn how where and when to fly the Phantom for optimal video  being compared to the first few out of the box videos from the Mavic, I strongly suspect that when the dust settles, these initial apparent disparities will mostly disappear.

    It also took DJI some considerable firmware tweaking to get the Phantom right too.

    We will see, but so far DJI has managed to make it's flagships perform superbly.

    As for the 28 minute estimate on the Phantom 4 reality is much less, because they are basically talking about ruining your battery, could be true for the Mavic as well, but the 28 v 27 minute "estimate" is without real significance in any case.

    I personally think the Phantom 4 is a great aerial video tool, but it is pretty clear that the Mavic is the heir apparent and it has huge feature superiority and small size and if it doesn't work out to be the Phantom's replacement it would be the first time DJI has seriously set a foot wrong in a long time.

    I don't even like DJI all that much, I really wanted 3DR and Solo to succeed.

    I also hate Microsoft and Apple and yet I have a ton of their products.

    Right now, for a pure Chinese company, I have to say though, DJI has more in common with both Apple and Microsoft than any other Chinese company I can think of.

    Mao must be turning over in his grave.



  • The Nikon 170 is interesting but it's also heavy. At 134.5g it's roughly 66% heavier than a bare HERO 4 Black.

  • Gary, it's called YouTube. Side-by-side comparison videos between the Phantom 4 and the Mavic shows the image quality of the P4 to be clearly superior.  As for range, I misspoke, while the advantage still goes to the P4 which DJI claims can stay aloft for 28 minutes, the Mavic's claimed endurance is a minute less at 27 minutes.

  • Nikon just entered the serious action cam market with 360 and 180 degree cameras both already at least somewhat targeted at "Drone" market.




    And that might suck in Canon, just hopeful, but who knows.

    At least this is a good year not to be GoPro (as well as 3DR).

    And Crady what superior camera and extended range?

    DJI is actually claiming superior endurance for Mavic versus Phantom and there is no evidence yet to back up that the new Mavic camera although smaller is in any way inferior to the Phantom 4 camera.

    Real world shakeout will verify whether the Mavic is equivalent or superior to the top of the line Phantom, but it's extra capablities and smaller size are going to give it a way bigger chunk of the highish end consumer market than a similarly priced Phantom.

    In my opinion anyway.

    Still should be not a problem for DJI who in spite of having really lax or in many ways non-existent support are easy enough for people to use that they are happy with them.

    (They sort of succeeded in that regard where Solo not so much).

    I doubt that they are making more Phantoms even right now, there just isn't any point, the Mavic is a better design and because it is smaller likely cheaper to produce and transport.

    3DR put it's future in the Solo, But DJI has obsoleted it's own quadcopters many times and never skipped a beat.

    People will happily buy up the old ones, but I would actually bet no more new ones are being made even now.

    I already know a guy locally who has an Inspire and bought a Phantom 4 last month, he will soon also be buying a Mavic.

    I just bought a Solo a month ago for $600.00 with gimbal thinking what a good boy am I and I like my Solo, but this month they are $400.00 from Best Buy and come with both the gimbal and an extra battery.

    Timing is everything, but appartently in this business, getting it right is really just a matter of patience and luck. 



  • The video of the freeclimber in Khao Phing Kan is nuts!

  • I doubt Canon or Nikon would have much interest in drone development although I can see Samsung getting in aggressively at some point.

    As for the Phantom's future, I agree with Rob. While the Mavic is the drone du jour (I plan to get one =) there is still an audience that wants the Phantom's superior camera and extended range.

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