The race to build the best drone is on and 3D Robotics is today announcing its latest round of financing that it hopes will enable the company to keep its commanding position in the marketplace. As part of the funding, the drone upstart also found a new partner in Qualcomm. You know, the company that builds the chips and bits inside cell phones, because as CEO and co-founder Chris Anderson explained, the company’s drones are directly modeled after cell phones.
Qualcomm Ventures lead the $50 million Series C and also roped 3D Robotics into participating in the firm’s robotics initiative. The cash will be used to ramp up production of the firm’s upcoming consumer drone along with increasing development of its commercial products in light of the FAA’s recent ruling.
Anderson stated working with Qualcomm was a natural fit for 3D Robotics. The company designed its drones much like an Android cell phone. There are different so-called stacks to the hardware. Some of these stacks, like on Android, can be modified by the owner while others are locked. Since Qualcomm chips run most Android smartphones, the company’s chips fit well into 3D Robotics’ design scheme.
Plus the two companies are practically neighbors.
3D Robotics is based in Berkeley, California, but operate engineering facilities in San Diego, Qualcomm’s hometown. The drone maker’s manufacturing facility is just five minutes away across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. Company employees even has special boarder passes so they don’t have to stop at Customs.
3D Robotics plans to implement Qualcomm technologies in upcoming drones including the chip maker’s popular Snapdragon SoC. 3D Robotic’s consumer drone will use Qualcomm chips; none of the company’s current products use Qualcomm parts, though.
Along with Qualcomm Ventures, Foundry Group, True Ventures, OATV, Mayfield, Shea Ventures and additional investors also participated. This latest round is the largest single funding round of any U.S-based drone manufacturer to date, bringing 3D Robotics’ total amount raised to $85 million from three rounds and eight investors.
“True Ventures was the first investor in 3D Robotics when the company launched in 2012,” Jon Callaghan, founder of True Ventures, said to TechCrunch. “We shared Chris Anderson’s vision for the future of robotics and autonomous vehicles. 3DR is leading this next wave of the manufacturing revolution, using software, open source and networks to empower the hardware of tomorrow. We are thrilled to be a part of the 3DR team.”
Anderson laughed when I pointed out that the form 3D Robotics filed with the SEC showed the company set out to raise $40 million but ended up with $50 million. “This is just the first close,” he said, noting that the round was very oversubscribed and that more cash is on the way. It seems 3D Robotics is just getting started.