You may have seen the news that 3D Robotics has just announced a $30 million Series B investment, led by some blue-chip VC firms, including Foundry and True (investors in MakerBot and other open source companies such as WordPress/Automattic). You can see Foundry's announcement post here.
This is our second funding round (the Series A was November last year), and each round reflects a new era of the company. Because 3DR started in this community, which I created one weekend six years ago, I wanted to take a moment to talk a little about our evolution as a company and what it means for users, developers and the community as a whole.
Our first phase as a company (2009) was led by my co-founder, Jordi Munoz, and it looked like this:
Jordi hand-soldering original ArduPilot shields
My kids packing up Blimpduino kits at the dining room table
Jordi then built up a proper manufacturing operation, taking it to this by 2012:
At this point 3D Robotics was still selling mostly electronics, essentially bare boards and "bags of parts" kits, much like our role models at Sparkfun and Adafruit. But it was clear that the industry was growing up and was ready to go more mainstream. So on the basis of that and our progress so far, we raised our Series A round in December 2012 and I came onboard as CEO nine months ago.
Our mission over the past nine months has been to professionalize the company and our products, and although that's far from done we've made a lot of progress. On the company side, this meant new websites, ecommerce systems, improvements in customer support (still a work in progress but we've shortened response times and moved to Zendesk to track issues better), and most importantly, the opening of our big new manufacturing facility in Tijuana.
On the community side, we've sponsored the software dev teams, the documentation teams and the community management teams here, on the new ArduPilot.com documentation sites and on the GitHub dev repository. 3DR just sells the "atoms" (the hardware) while this open source community creates and gives away the "bits" (the software), but as a company we've worked hard to support the community in every way we can to encourage a healthy community/company partnership. (We're modeled after WordPress/Automattic in this respect).
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the hundreds of developers, editors, moderators, beta testers and other volunteers who have created such an extraordinary thing here: the software teams, the documentation teams and everywhere else where the open innovation model has worked so well to serve a community of nearly 44,000 members. Our commitment is to use our funding to help make this community even better, by investing more in the open innovation model. As we have from the start, we'll continue doing what we can to help people here help each other, following the lead of open source models from Linux to Adafruit and our original mentors at Arduino.
On the product side, the last year has seen the development (with ETH) of our next-gen autopilot, Pixhawk, and the consumer-friendly Iris autonomous quadcopter designed for tablet/phone use, and a suite of software that will be announced soon as part of the Iris Consumer Edition.
That brings us to our third phase, which starts now: not just creating drones, but putting them to work. This means finding new applications for aerial robotics by creating entire systems, from the cloud to tablets/phones to communications systems to more sophisticated aircraft systems and payloads. From Agriculture to Hollywood, this is where the real opportunity lies.
I feel we're like the PC industry in 1983. As an industry, we've come close to taking drones from industrial equipment or hobbyist gear (from the mainframes to the Apple II of the late 70s) to the first Macintosh, making them consumer friendly and easy to use. Now that drones are not just for the technically sophisticated anymore, it's time to find out what they can really do, by putting them in the hands of regular people, from GoPro owners to farmers, and see how they use "anywhere, anytime access to the skies" to discover new applications and markets, much as we did with computers after the original IBM PC and the Mac.
In short, this is just the beginning. I couldn't be more thrilled to embark on our next chapter.
i am shocked by the naive negative reactions of some people on this post; don't you people know that money rules everything in this world? an open source community that could really progress and produce something real is an open dream. There is always an industry in the background this is true for linux, true for any open source project). Thank god 3DRobotics will have the money to continue to actively support financially and by developer's advices this forum.
Why shop at 3DR when you can get APM boards, radios, etc ... much cheaper at, say, US based UAVobjects? Or an hmc 5883 mag for two bucks on e-bay instead of $17.99 + expensive shipping? You'll get the same direct support: From the community.
I’d happily pay some premium if open source volunteers personally benefited and support was first rate. But it does not make sense to me when markups can be in the 1000 of %'s and it’s going to benefit some VCs and a few individuals. Some spreading the myth and trying to re-write history, long after KK boards were doing flips, Mikrocopter had follow-me, DJI had cracked loiter, and sub $100 stabilized multiwii boards from China were selling like hotcakes
btw: I am not a UAV vendor nor am I affiliated with UAVobjects. Just a happy customer.
Great news, but not sure this cash injection will be a god thing for the community
, suppose time will reveal all!
I echo the sentiment of many. There is much room for improvement in terms of customer service and product-to-market reliability. Hope more money means better products and services.
Sorry but the customer service experience, shipping time and just plain confusion has NOT improved. Cannot even get the right shipping cost auto loaded.
I'm a fan but each time I come back, I feel like the customer is last. I truly hope it gets better.
>> 3D Robotics has created the industry’s leading open UAV platform
>I thought it was bought in the beginning?
@Brent: Maybe, but who cares anyways, since one person singlehandedly kickstarted the domestic drone boom! http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/06/ff_drones/
(I generally don't mind mythomania in entrepreneurs, but when it's on the back of an open source community it's scary.)
> In conjunction with Iris, 3D Robotics has extended its exclusive relationship with the PX4 team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH),
Anti open source red line crossed here with “exclusive”. Along with Pixhawk info released a drop at a time.
Cool business model: They develop it, they support it, we make money! Well, I never thought I’d ever say this, but thank god for cheap clones …
Congratulations! I know how difficult is to monetize and get investor. You guys are great on that!
Now, I hope 30M can do what 5M could not... Good shipping and costumer service. Still much better to ship from JDrones in Thailand to California, than from California to California.
There is a USPS Priority shipping available at 3DR. I think it cost me around $6.00 to ship to my place in Florida.
TCIII ArduRover2 Developer
Greg: I think the GPS modules were just out of stock for a few hours. They're back in stock now. Power Modules should be back in a day and the video kit should be back early next week. We've got three pick-and-place lines working with two shifts now to meet demand, so we're staffing up to hopefully put supply chain problems behind us soon.
Please add 'fix shipping rates' to the list.
$11.66 shipping to WA state for a $2 GPS cable hurts!