3D Robotics lifts off with an additional $30M investment

3D Robotics (@3DRobotics) announced yesterday that it had raised an additional $30M in Series B funding, adding Foundry Group (@foundrygroup), with Jason Mendelson (@jasonmendelson) joining the Board, joining the existing investors — True Ventures (@trueventures, co-lead on this round) and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures.

For some interesting personal insight into Jason’s interest in 3D Robotics, see his blog here as well as the original Foundry Group post.

3D Robotics intends to use this funding to concentrate on the development of vertical applications such as agricultural crop mapping and other aerial surveying applications – through the continuing development of an open UAV platform, including the development of a next gen of autopilots, software, and complete ready to fly devices.   It appears that 3D Robotics intends to continue to develop and sell complete devices, but will also concentrate further on platform development – working in the same space as Airware.  In May 2013, Airware (@airwareUAS) took a $10.7M investment from Andreessen Horowitz (@az16), led by Chris Dixon (@cdixson) and Google Ventures (@GoogleVentures).

I have blogged about Chris Anderson (@chr1sa), the CEO of 3D Robotics, before – he is the author of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.  I reviewed that book in the context of my children and their fascination with Minecraft.  If you haven’t read it yet, go out and buy it!

It is exciting to see the continuing validation of unmanned aerial systems development (both devices and platforms) despite (and perhaps in spite of!) the current United States regulatory framework.  There are numerous exciting new opportunities which get unlocked by the sensor fusion of using an unmanned aerial system as a platform to carry such things as say, a 3D scanner.  In my blog post from a few days ago – Unmanned Aerial Systems Global Trends 2030: Part Deux:

I am personally excited about the tremendous potential that UAS platforms will provide for future generations – there are many near term potential opportunities. I am confident that the risks of UAS platforms can be managed and minimized through the smart application of technology, best practices and process, and an appropriate regulatory framework.  It is always important to recognize that UAS devices are not new – individual hobbyists and makers have been flying all types of devices (fixed wing, single rotor, multi-rotor) for many years.  What is new is the potential democratization of this technology through lower price points, broader access to technology (via crowd funding devices like Kickstarter), and the commercial successes of existing devices (like the Parrot AR Drone series).

While the current regulatory framework within the United States has limited the commercial application of UAS in the United States, it is only a matter of time (and very little time at that) before these types of sensor platforms are used and exploited within our borders (as they are used elsewhere in the world).  Precision agriculture (using a UAS for the precision localization/application of fertilizer, insecticide, water management, etc.), first responder/emergency/humanitarian use (deploy a UAS to hover on station immediately upon a 911 call, use in searches, fly and hover to avalanche beacons, etc.), and infrastructure maintenance and management (use a UAS to inspect large constructed assets such as bridges, pipe/power lines) are first among many in book.

I am particularly excited about the use of unmanned aerial systems as a sensor platform coupled with high precision cameras, z-depth cameras or even laser scanners in order to complete real time 3D scene reconstruction.  The combination of highly accurate GPS location with such sensor platforms would allow for the capture of highly accurate 3D representations of real world assets (constructed or otherwise) supporting all types of markets and functions (modeling, inspection, enterprise asset maintenance, etc.).

Let the drone wars begin! 😉

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