3D Robotics (3DR) plays a very important part in the history of the drone age. It was one of the leading companies and a figurehead for open source technology while it fought the giant, DJI in the early years of the industry.
Here’s a not-too-long drone history lesson following 3DR’s footsteps (or propwash
The competitive consumer era:
2013-2016 were the years of peak inflated expectations for the Drone Industry. Media was abuzz with
drone deliveries, drone taxis, and various applications. In the forefront of this hype cycle were two names that were fighting it out in the market. It was the age of DJI v/s 3DR.
3DR was the Silicon Valley startup that started when Chris Anderson met Jordi Muñoz
in the online community DIYDrones
(which Chris himself founded). Meanwhile, DJI was the young startup from Shenzhen, building autopilots and pivoting into drones later on.
Both companies had a history of having launched several drones before. 3DR had the iris,
and the lesser known X8; while DJI had the Phantom 1 and Phantom 2. The final round of this consumer drone competition had the hotly anticipated drones from both companies, the 3DR Solo
and the DJI Phantom 3
. These drones were pivotal to the industry as they represented a significant step-up from their predecessors, which still had a polished hobby-grade quality to them. These were supposed to be the big-league products, the ones to show that the Drone Industry is serious and is going to get big
The competition between the two drones and their companies, was the focus of attention in the industry. Long story short, 3DR lost out. The 3DR Solo was fighting a solo battle against the multitude of drones in the DJI Phantom series. Competition in hardware products is very difficult when your competition is from Shenzhen
. The Solo was plagued with poor reviews, and the Phantom 3’s killer feature of an integrated camera was much appreciated globally.
The rapid manufacturing and vertical integration prowess of Shenzhen’s DJI resulted in 5 drones that could be seen as direct competition to the 3DR Solo - Phantom 3 (Professional, Advanced, Standard, and 4K) and the Phantom 4 in just a span of 8 months
3DR’s defeat in the consumer space was clear. They would later announce that they stopped producing new drones. DJI continues to dominate the commercial drones market
and hasn’t looked back since.