3D Robotics

Announcing the next era at 3D Robotics

3689485855?profile=originalYou 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:

3689550687?profile=originalJordi hand-soldering original ArduPilot shields

3689550760?profile=originalMy 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. 

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  •    I am a little concerned of "putting them into the hands of regular people",  and adding words like "anywhere and anytime",    i have flown and used RC heli's, planes and cars for over 35 years,  and have built a large understanding and experience of this type of machine.       i am sorry to say in my experience so far, i don't think that drones/UAV's  are ready yet for every day folk,   we all know what is required to set one of these machines set up and what level of reliability we expect from them,  and then to operate them safely.  

       The A.I. and radio performance would have to catch up first i guess, with better forms of backup redundancy.

  • Whether you believe in God or not, we are born, and then you die!

    Life is HERE and you just have to live with what you get.

    And like life, 3DR/DIY it is here. As far as I am concerned "God" can do anything he wants!

    You just have to know how to "live".

  • 3D Robotics
    Greg : the red x is just a standard shopping cart icon meaning you can click that to delete the item from your cart.
  • Chris: tried again, adds to cart but flags red X on APM and GPS indicating issue. Will email screenshot now.
  • 3D Robotics

    Greg: Can you try again? I just checked and was able to put both in my cart without problem. If you're still having trouble, it would be great if you could post a screenshot so we can diagnose. 

  • "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."
    @Chris Any chance 3DR can look at their order processing system as part the 3DR new era planning. Still cases of web part levels which do not match actual stock. At the moment the store states items like APM and Ublox GPS in stock. However outbound cart marks them otherwise once selected.
  • I do agree that we are in the Apple II era of autonomous vehicles of all kinds.  These hovering ones I love flying have a huge advantage over land based craft as they live in the 3D world with ease.  I am actively developing solutions for the Real Estate industry and see tons of opportunity to build really smart and useful companions to help us all do our work.  I love what the company is doing and I do hope to see its customer service and design efforts be more forward facing and will pitch in to help where I can.  Very exciting times!

  • Matthew I was not aware that there is two manufacturing locations.. I was under the impression that all manufacturing was moved to Mexico and thus your single point of failure.   Sure the other office probably can do something but isn't the vast majority of the manufacturing operations out of the Mexico location?  It wouldn't make much sense in having some here and some there as you want a consistent product.   If there was two locations than people should be able to pick when they order. :)

  • @LanMark,  Single manufacturing location = single point of supply failure.

    The comparison with apple is interesting.  It was driven by mind bending marketing skills and delivers something that looks amazing but doesn't quite do what you want.

  • Are souls cheaper in Tijuana?  is that why manufacturing was taken out of country?   I can think of quite a few places in the states that would likely be no cheaper to manufacture.   With the 30MM of investment capital, is that going out of country too?  I guess I really don't get why it would make the most sense to push that wedge... was quality so terrible when it wasn't made in Mexico?  is it that much better and cheaper?   Is the plans for everything 3DR just to move to Tijuana as well?    I really don't think the 'designed here' and 'made there' label is all that exciting... to me it speaks volumes in the opposite direction.

    Well it will be interesting to see how capital effects business.  My bet more and more will be closed source and intellectual property rights... just the nature of the beast.

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