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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  • Intriguing point Rob,

    In the linked article, Colin said he knew he was going to be out before the first of the year and clearly the move away from hardware has been on at least that long.

    But Chris has been promising the Pixhawk Mini to show up within a few days as recently as a week ago.

    Not only seems to be a serious disconnect, but completely out of alignment with what were apparently well known facts for over 6 months by those involved.

    Definitely be interesting to see how that finally plays out, but I wouldn't be holding my breath waiting for the Mini - from 3DR anyway.

    Frankly it looks like the hardware (video quadcopters anyway) are simply going to the Chinese in any case, Yuneec and Horizon will probably come out with something to more or less compete with the Mavic and there just isn't much point trying to compete directly with them.

    Specialized stuff maybe, but not what has now become the mainstream.

    There are still plenty of small business hardware multicopter opportunities, but they will be for lower volume specialized copters and capabilities and add on accessories.

    Best Regards,


  • That's a good question Giovanni.  What is going on with Pixhawk Mini?  This has been promised for many months.  Chris said there would not be any disruption in supply, that the Pixhawk Mini (or whatever it's called) would be available before Pixhawk was out of stock.  But then Pixhawk went out of stock, no Mini.  The Mini was promised "soon", but it's been months... who knows?

  • This means that there will not be any Pixhawk MINI? They say no more hardware, and then the Pixhawk (and most of the other producst) are back in stock?

    To me Solo looked pretty good. Presentation video at Virgin Spaceport was stunning. So everything crumbled just because the erratic GPS, buggy software not simple enought for dumb users, poor gimbal performance and late release?

    Maybe they should have allied with GoPro last year and do the karma togheter...when Dji was still behind on the camera. Now Solo stumbled and GoPro just came out with an inferior product (only the detachable gimbal and the hero5 is somewhat better) that will be easily crushed by the Mavic.

    I am not pleased with this but there were too many errors in the last 2 years, starting from the release ot the Solo with closed source software. And now the Dronecode/Ardupilot mess....

  • So sad to read this.
    With its errors and hits, 3DR has been supporting this community and these developers for a while.

    @John selling diy parts does hove to evolve and businesses do have to grow. Anyway, That business was being very difficult with all those Chinese copies sold half the price of a original.
  • Developer

    I never clearly understood why 3DR stopped doing autopilot and DIY parts manufacturing and sales. They always made money doing that. Not VC 'taking over the wold' money, but still decent money.

    If you let a business grow at a natural pace following trends and current demands, it becomes a robust entity. The VC hype train going from zero to fortune 500 in months, pretty much comes with a guarantee to fail.

    So why did they not keep letting the DIY shop grow naturally, and move lateral with the VC Solo stuff?

  • china has harmed so many industries in US and worldwide by keeping the products low priced because of currency being artificially controlled. by vilolating patents. it even declined to honor a international court verdict. once the regulations are clear there is great scope in manufacturing drones for delivery purpose and 3DR can play a major role in complete manufacturing of these delivery drones. 3DR can give complete solutions for agri drones including training and pesticide sprayer. I think there is always light at the other end of the tunnel. Let 3DR sell these prodcuts at premium since it would be made in USA. people still buy rolex watch at $10000 a piece. Let 3Dr be the boeing of delivery drones I love 3DR. I was able to accomplish my dream because of 3DR.

  • Moderator

    I share many of the criticisms of 3DR with others, but the relentless bashing is tough to stomach at times.

    I started using the Solo for my business as a temporary solution to fly legally, as custom builds were tougher to add to the 333 at the time. I know that 3DR was not solely (or even primarily) responsible for the "magic" of Solo, but I ended up sticking with it because I was extremely satisfied and we were surpassing competition that was using other air frames. It's a great machine and I think most will agree, and I'm glad that 3DR was able to enable the talent that brought it to market. 

    I think that 3DR deserves a fair amount of the criticisms offered here, but not without concessions...and not with the contempt I often see associated with it. I don't view their fall from grace as anything other than hubris and the associated follies. I think that any perception of compromised ethics and broken promises will be written as a last ditch effort to save the potential of the business and completely devoid of malicious intent. 

    As is my (annoying) habit, this post was originally much longer and I shortened it down because I don't have any interested in a week long debate. Take it as you will and continue bashing or not, but please consider that there are alternative explanations and reasoning in business that are hard to realize unless you've been between those decisions yourself. 

    I know I've only learned that in the last 2 years. 

  • They're going up against Drone Deploy, Airware, Precision Hawk, and Propeller, who are years ahead in terms of development, and haven't wasted their VC funding on failed ventures.  Additionally, they've abandoned the ArduPilot devs who enabled them to raise the original $126m.

    If you map the scenario out logically, there's simply no way for 3DR to catch up.  The best they can hope for with the current strategy is a buyout, but then they've lost most of their development talent, and the IP developed for Solo is already on the way to being obsolete.

    If they didn't have to payback the debt accrued from the mismanagement of Solo production, a radical pivot would be returning to their core audience.  Start selling the Pixhawk 2, the companion computer, and controller as standalone products that hobbyists and small business can integrate into their products.  If they had stayed on this path, they'd probably be the defacto standard for avionics in commercial drones.  Unfortunately I think the poor - bordering on dishonest - communication with the community, and pandering to corporate interests with the Dronecode project, has well and truely burnt those bridges, and 3DR's brand simply isn't worth anything without the ArduPilot devs who made it.

  • 3D Robotics

    Most of my thoughts have already been voiced:

    I think that had VC founding not pressured 3DR to "scale", the company's time could have instead been spent on developing more advanced diy drone solutions. More open source stuff that is also incredibly powerful; the two things that originally brought me to this hobby/career. However, I am still quite grateful that 3DR did exist in that space when they did, many of my projects would have simply not been possible on my budget.

    I think this late "pivot" of the company is the last death rattle, hopefully another buyout puts them to a more peaceful rest? The $400 solo would be a nice parting gift, but I think I will wait a bit longer for the prices to drop even further. Otherwise, I will continue using what pixhawks I have left from the golden age, before switching to the HK clones which I have not heard too many bad things about.

    As for Mavic vs. Phantom, I really wish I just had $1k lying around for what would essentially be another toy in my life. It certainly would be a convenient toy, though waiting another year or two will probably bring down its price to the $600-$700 range, which is where my toy-spending-budget sweet spot really is. I will be waiting eagerly to test fly my coworkers as soon as he gets his though.

  • @Guy you are correct about the hooded tablet. My feelings is that it will not be long before aftermarket 3rd party accessories permit this with a Mavik. Like days from now. 

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