By Frank Bi and Ryan Mac
Less than two weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration unveiled its proposed regulations for commercial drones, one California-based drone company sealed its latest round of financing.
North America’s largest personal drone manufacturer, 3D Robotics, raised $50 million on Wednesday led by Qualcomm QCOM +0.47% Ventures. A valuation was not disclosed. The round was the largest amount raised by any U.S.-based consumer drone company to date.
The company intends to use the funds to expand its product development in both its hardware and software products. 3D Robotics will also work with Qualcomm to utilize the company’s Snapdragon processors.
“The incredible pace of innovation in the smartphone industry is transforming many adjacent industries, including drones. By working with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., we can bring advanced computing to the skies at an increasing pace” said 3D Robotics’ cofounder and former Wired Magazine editor, Chris Anderson in a statement. “Such multi-gigahertz Linux-based onboard computing platforms, combined with state-of-the-art cameras and other sensors and wireless technologies, will allow us to create next-gen drones that are smarter, easier, and safer than ever before.”
A financial document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, showed that the company was only looking to raise $40 million in the round. According to the document, it had sold just over $32 million worth of shares. It’s unclear how 3D Robotics exceeded the $40 million it originally expected to raise. A company spokesperson has not said how they exceeded their original funding expectation.
The $50 million round, first reported by VentureWire, boosts 3D Robotics’ total funding to more than $85 million to date.
3D Robotics produces a range of consumer drones for photography and mapping. The company also sells drone parts and accessories, including an open source autopilot that’s well-liked with the DIY drone crowd. In addition to hardware, 3D Robotics also maintains a popular drone how-to website.
Anderson and Jordi Munoz founded 3D Robotics in 2009 depite never meeting in person. Munoz, then a 20-year-old Mexican immigrant living in Los Angeles, first met the magazine editor virtually through a forum for drone hobbyists.
Impressed with a prototype Munoz had posted to the forum, Anderson, who is also the creator of the forum, reached out to Munoz to offer advice and ended up funding his prototype. From there, the two regularly exchanged emails and correspondence before starting the company.
Now 3D Robotics has offices in three cities in addition to a factory in Tijuana. The company is expected to reach sales of $50 million this year according to theBBC.
Meanwhile, the drone industry in the U.S. is expected to have an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion in the first three years of integration, but current laws prohibit the use of drones commercially without an exemption, of which a total of less than 50 have been granted thus far.
New regulations proposed by the FAA earlier this month would allow commercial drone applications to exist on the condition that the pilot abides by a set of flight restrictions and other safety guidelines in addition to obtaining a specialized license.