3D Robotics Inc, headquartered in Berkeley, California has been quite popular with US drone operators looking to operate commercially in the United States. According to the FAA N-number database, N-registered airframes listed as being manufactured by 3D Robotics currently stands at 118 aircraft. That places 3D Robotics at number three behind, DJI with just over 1000 airframes registered and Physical Sciences Inc with 148.
So far the 3DR Iris+ multirotor is in the lead between all the N-registered 3D Robotics airframes. The Solo multirotor registrations are picking up and will most likely be the 3DR airframe with the most N-registrations soon, with Chris, CEO of 3D Robotics and former Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine, announcing that going forward 3D Robotics will be focusing on their new Solo family of UAS and Pixhawk-compatible autopilots and that they will be winding down some of their older products. Also, according to Chris, production will be moved from Tijuana, Mexico to Shenzhen, China in order to accommodate larger volumes.
Here is the announcement in a post over at DIYdrones.com on November 2 by Chris Anderson talking about the evolution of 3DR, makes for an interesting read:
“As many of you know, Jordi Munoz and I founded 3DR in 2009 as a way to help get drone technology into the hands of the masses. And it certainly has reached the masses—these days, there’s never a day without many drone stories being published, and interest only continues to grow.
3DR continues to grow and evolve. Where we were once a company focused on bags of parts and bare boards, we are increasingly centered around integrated products that just work for people, products that allow people to focus on the results rather than the mechanism. Additionally, we’re placing bigger bets on a smaller number of products, with Solo being the prime example (so far!). Today, we are more than 200 employees and the overall business grew by more than 500% this year.
Like the drone industry overall, we have evolved from a DIY company to a mass-production company and now compete directly with DJI and Parrot, both of which manufacture in large-scale factories in Shenzhen. We do the same with the Solo family and our future products.
For those of you who are familiar with my 2012 book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, you may recall that this was always the plan. The above is a chart from that book, which shows that as volumes approach 100,000 units a year, economies of scale and a focus on margins require a move to mass production and deep supply chain integration. That’s the volume 3DR is now at. For a product that increasingly resembles a smartphone, this scale can really only be done in Shenzhen, the capital of the smartphone industry.
As part of this transition, we are in the process of sunsetting many of our legacy products, which were made in our Tijuana factory. There are now many great frames available, many supplier of FPV cameras, and many companies focused solely on very specific drone components. In the process of winding down some of our older products, we’ll do our best to point you to alternatives. And of course, many of you here already build and release technology that surpasses what exists commercially today!
Going forward, we will focus on the Solo family and other core elements of our next-gen platform. In particular, we will continue to offer Pixhawk-compatible autopilots, with improved versions designed in cooperation with partners. And autopilots continue to be a core focus of 3DR, with exciting new platforms coming in 2016.
3DR will continue to work on making a difference where we can best do so: in providing highly integrated, innovative, and fully configurable complete systems. Additionally, we will continue to provide tools to enable people to stretch the boundaries of what this technology can do, and to work with true innovators like those in this community to build the core elements of our common drone future.
You can count on us continuing to be VERY active in the DIY Drones community (today, seven years after founding it, I still post and comment every day — it’s a source of constant joy and amazement for me, and one of my proudest creations). You all have been a central part of 3DR’s vision and development and will continue to be so—and we will continue to be active contributors back to both this community and the broader Dronecode development project — indeed, this focus on becoming a much bigger company will allow us to devote even more resources into contributing open source code to the community and recruiting more partners to do so as well.
At 43 companies and counting, Dronecode has more than doubled over the past year, and we will lead its march as the world’s leading open drone platform by extending the platform into video, the cloud and advanced computing by creating world-class developers tools such as Dronekit and the Solo SDK.