As FAA OKs Commercial Drones, 3D Robotics Aims for Blue Sky Market

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use a 3D Robotics Iris+ and DJI Inspire 1 to shoot aerial photos of construction job sites for the architectural, engineering, and construction industries.

Such projects enable 3D Robotics to demonstrate the versatility of the company’s open platform technology, which consists of three primary elements: the aerial vehicle itself, on-board mobile technology, and cloud-based services like data storage.

In recent months, 3D Robotics also has been gradually consolidating its core engineering R&D and software development in Berkeley, CA. Some employees in San Diego, which was once designated as the company’s R&D and engineering center, were able to move to Berkeley, Maximow said. But Tim McConnell, who was the vice president of engineering in San Diego, left 3D Robotics in February. (He recently joined MicroPower Technologies, a San Diego-based maker of solar-powered, wireless security cameras.)

Manufacturing is still done in Tijuana, and the company’s distribution and customer services team remains in San Diego, Maximow said. “It wasn’t a major reorganization sort of thing,” he explained. “We just kind of tweaked it.”

The changes, along with the $50 million in additional funding, have put 3D Robotics in an ideal position to take advantage of the new openings in commercial markets the FAA is unlocking. The fact that San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) led the recent C round of funding is a bonus, Maximow added, “because it aligns really well with our mobility strategy.”

He confirmed that 3D Robotics intends to include Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor and other products in their drones. “But in a spirit of openness, we’ll be working with a lot of products,” he added, including Intel’s Edison processor. By developing auto-pilot software that emphasizes interoperability through an open-platform strategy, 3D Robotics says it can build and tailor its drones to meet specific industrial requirements and execute specific tasks.

Or as Maximow put it, “We want to be the Android of drones.”

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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