How 3D Robotics is building for America's drone-filled future

Wired’s former editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson, explains the next step for his drone empire

drome2According to Chris Anderson, there are three stages in the evolution of his work with drones. First came the online community, DIY Drones, where hackers and makers swapped tips on how to build and fly all types of unmanned aerial vehicles. By 2009 it was clear there was enough interest from regular people who didn’t want to build a drone from scratch, but would love to fly one if they were for sale. So Anderson and his co-founder, Jordi Munoz, created 3D Robotics to manufacture and sell affordable, consumer-grade drones to the masses. The business grew quickly, and the company was selling $5 million worth of flying robots a year by the end of 2012.

Yesterday 3D Robotics raised $30 million to power phase three. “We created the community, then the product, and the question was, What’s it good for?” says Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of Wired. “What comes next is the platform, the software that makes drones useful to people in the real world. We want a farmer to be able to buy this drone, set it up on his property, and with the push of a button on his smartphone, have it fly around scanning his crops to let him know exactly where he needs to add more water or pesticide.” 3D Robotics recently introduced the Iris, the company’s first ready-to-fly, fully autonomous quadcopter capable of recording high-definition aerial video with a price tag below $1,000.

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