As the largest American maker of consumer drones, 3D Robotics Inc. sees big opportunities in selling mini-helicopters with cameras, sensors and whirling propellers that buzz like angry hornets.
The Berkeley company expects to sell thousands of the pizza-sized drones — for about $1,000 each — at home and abroad this year. Tech-savvy customers want them for capturing wave-shredding surfing runs in the Pacific, monitoring oil and gas pipelines in remote regions, and other uses.
3D Robotics is out in front of dozens of California companies jumping into the nascent business of selling drones to consumers and commercial enterprises, just as companies in the state did earlier when the drone market consisted largely of one customer: the Pentagon.
Although military drones were born in Southern California and are still built here, 3D's drones will be built outside the country.