The firm, in many ways, exemplifies the rising tide of collaborative ventures between US and Mexico entrepreneurs – which extends well past the classic model of IT and back-office nearshoring and opens a new vista into the region’s role in the transformative “maker movement”. The firm was founded in 2009 by young Mexican entrepreneur Jordi Muñoz and British-American journalist Chris Anderson, the founder of DIYDrones.com who spent years at The Economist before serving as editor-in-chief of Wired magazine from 2001 to 2012. At FutureSource, 3D Robotics’ Director of Engineering Tim McConnell will present in the “Advancing Mexico at the Core: Live Case Study” on Nov. 6th.
Headquartered in Berkeley, California, 3D Robotics has engineering facilities in San Diego and operates a factory and call center for customer support in Tijuana, Mexico. The company produces drones for commercial use in multiple industries around the world, including agriculture, photography, construction, search and rescue and ecological study.
Having raised over $35 million in venture capital, 3D Robotics now has some 200 employees and more than 28,000 customers worldwide. That rapid growth has been reflected in the transformation of the manufacturing center that started out in a corner of General Manager Guillermo Romero’s Tijuana apartment and then grew into a nearby space of 250 square meters, only to be expanded again to the current 1,100-square-meter building.
Priced from just US$750 to $5,400, 3D Robotics’ unmanned planes and helicopters are capable of capturing breathtaking aerial imagery for consumer enjoyment and data analysis, enabling mapping, surveying, 3D modeling and more.
The drones are equipped with open-source autopilot software, which presents a number of advantages. “Our active developer community provides ongoing, responsive product innovation,” 3D Robotics states on its website. “Our vibrant community is constantly developing new features, making our platform highly extensible and configurable.” Moreover, “once you invest in a vehicle platform, software downloads and updates to flight software are free.”
3D Robotics is now the world’s second largest commercial drone manufacturer, after China’s DJI, and its success is further evidence of the “Maker Movement” – an innovative DIY manufacturing boom in fields such as electronics, robotics and 3D printing – going mainstream. Although the use of drones for commercial use is currently prohibited in the United States, 3D Robotics’ location and experience mean it is extremely well positioned to prosper when this potentially lucrative market inevitably opens up.
The presentation by McConnell is one of two ‘live case studies” scheduled at FutureSource. The other one comes on Friday, Nov. 7th when Vladimiro de la Mora, General Director of GE Mexico, talks about the type of global-standard innovation rising from GE’s center in Queretaro. Registration for the conference closes November 1st.