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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  • If you have over 300 employees, you have the capability to develop and market products like the Solo as well as continuing to produce and deliver all DIY Hobby hardware.  Its unbelievable that you would say, the RC hobby market is too small, our revenue of $10m / yr on this sector is too small so we'll just stop with it. 

    They could have sold that part of the business to a competitor or continue selling the products but not invest in anything new until it dwindles down, but instead 3DR got absolutely no return for the years of hard work it took to get that part of their business to that point.

    If they had continued in the hobby market, they could have fallen back on that as leaders in the field, instead they are changing strategy again.  3DR said in the article they don't want to be in hardware, but their hardware was always considered better quality than the Chinese and worth spending the extra money for that quality.  If the pixhawk mini comes out, thousands would prefer to purchase from 3DR than hobby king.

  • Moderator
    I wish we had an ignore feature
  • Hi Swift,

    I have bought a lot of products from 3DR over the years.

    I used to write documentation for a substantial part of my living.

    I rewrote almost all of the Ardupilot Wiki.

    If I have a bias it is that I expect clear and thorough documentation, especially for complex technical devices.

    3DR's approach was for a long time to simply refer people to the ArduPilot Wiki.

    For the Solo, they took all that in house and rather than provide thorough documentation they relied ona few "decent" videos and a tiny little manual that actually required things to be done in a carefully choreographed sequence that they did not even mention. 

    They presented the Solo as basically not requiring any documentation and much confusion resulted where people thought the hardware was faulty when what was really true was that they had not adequately been informed of what it was they actually needed to do.

    Worse, when they called for tech support, the "techs" didn't know what to do either.

    But then, of course 3DR solved that by eliminating phone support in exchange for on line support where the most frequent response was we will get back to you, which for many hasn't happened yet.

    So if you can find bias in the simple fact that I was a documentation writer myself, go for it, to me, bad (or non-existent) documentation is always bad and that is a bias I can gladly live with.

    @ Marc, that would be nice, but the Sharks and the creditors pretty much own 3DR now from what I understand, and they will try to recover, salvage or monetize anything they can so unless they are thinking it is worthless to them I doubt that the Solo will see open source anytime soon.

    Could be wrong on that though, because if they can't get anything out of it, it might be easier to make a clean break.

    Too bad they didn't sell it to DJI when they had the chance, made DJI develop all of it themselves, in house, closed source.

    I would really like to hear an honest appraisal of this whole adventure (debacle perhaps) from Chris, it would make a great book if not entirely complementary.

    Hey Chris see above for great idea for your next book!



  • If 3DR would just fully open source Solo now that would be the right move...since they are out of the hardware biz.

  • Hi Robert,

    I think you have a point, I think the reality was they often had buggy products that needed serious upgrades over time to work as well as inadequate documentation.

    Even though they were often promoted as a really easy to use, reliable and ready to go system.

    The disparity between marketing hype and the true reality frequently caused a marked loss in customer confidence.

    With the Solo they finally did get near to what it was they were trying to claim they had in the first place, but by then DJI and the rest of the world had already overtaken them and to make matters worse they had already accrued a bad reputation from so many previous failures to deliver an easy to use reliable vehicle as promoted and promised.

    This is not 3DR bashing, it is just as unbiased a post mortem of what went wrong as I can determine from the information presented and my own 5+ year history in dealing with them and this community.

    Best Regards,


  • When I started out in RC with multirotors, I bought a lot of gear from 3DR, including frames and flight controllers.  When 3DR abandoned the DIY hobbyist for the ready to fly garbage, they lost my support. All that really meant to me is that I saved lot of money buying clones from Chinese manufacturers.

    It was the DIY crowd that brought the early successes for 3DR and they ware replaced for an unproven RTF toy.  The DIY hobbyist is content to work with a product that has bugs and deal with firmware changes on a regular basis.  The RTF buyer expects a product that is ready for market, free of bugs and lives up to all claims.  I'm not convinced that 3DR understood the differences between these markets.

  • Thanks for the info Ernst,

    Just ordered my backup Solo from Best Buy.

    I know next week they will be $19.95.

    I'll order another one then too.



  • The supply of spare parts for Solo will be a next issue post bargain sales of Solo. Buying battery and spare body parts are things to do now. But open sourcing of Solo hardware and software(?) going to be one of the way. I hope 3DR still has some mind of supporting DIY'ers.

  • T3

    @Jesus, yes that's sad!

    I hope they restructure and start working developing new products with and for the community again. It would be a pity if not. 

  • Wheee! Today's BestBuy price for the gimballed Solo w. spare bat. & props is down to $379! Another hundred off of that and I'll pick up a a pair so as to have a beater with spare parts to back up the Mavic I'm buying.

    I saw this coming years ago when 3DR customer service was abysmal for no good reason, when the hubris of many "Admins" and "Moderators" on this site became insufferable, when this site's Wikis were so far out of date as to be almost dangerously useless and people who put in weeks of free labor to fix that were shown the door because the results were not sufficiently 3DR-centric, and when "business" types started calling the shots. Among other things.

    The most damning thing in the Forbes article has little to do with blowing through 100 million dollars via absurd and/or greedy business decisions. Rather it is the report of 3DR faking a properly working product, the Solo, when they apparently did not actually have one:

    Forbes reports, "A person, who worked for 3D Robotics’ marketing team, also questioned the company’s practices when displaying the drone to the press. The demo with The Verge in the spring of 2015, for example, featured a drone that was “worked over and souped up” and did not feature the typical parts you’d find in an off-the-shelf Solo. “We knew the drone would work,” he said, noting that there was an improved GPS component that wasn’t shipped in regulars Solos."

    That may yet result in some serious bone-picking by anyone who purchased a Solo after seeing that performance (assuming there is anything left on the bones to pick). Where I come from that's called fraud, and all by itself is the sort of unforgivable chicanery that makes sensible folks grab their wallets and run for the door.         

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