San Diego’s 3D Robotics Raises $5M as Wired Editor Resigns to Be CEO

11/6/12Follow @bvbigelow

Chris Anderson, who resigned a few days ago as the editor in chief of Wired magazine to become the full-time CEO of 3D Robotics, says today the San Diego-based superstore for amateur UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) has raised $5 million in venture funding.

In an announcement posted on the 3D Robotics website and at DIY Drones, an online community of amateur UAV enthusiasts, Anderson says the investment came from two San Francisco venture firms, True Ventures and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV). Proceeds of the round will be used to accelerate the growth of 3DR and expand into new markets.

True Ventures’ Jon Callagahan and OATV’s Bryce Roberts also will be joining 3D Robotics’ board, along with Chris Michel, whom Anderson identifies as an investor, long-time entrepreneur, and former Naval flight officer.

In a blog post of his own, Roberts said he noted that interest in drones was mushrooming among “the alpha geek crowd,” and he alludes to an interesting parallel between the emergence of DIY Drones and the Homebrew Computer Club, Silicon Valley’s early computer hobbyist group.

“Visit any hacker space or Maker Faire these days and you will see drones in all of their varieties,” Roberts says. “And if you’re familiar with our investing philosophy, you’d understand that when we see these flare ups of activity, particularly among hobbyists, that we take note and begin to form our own thoughts around where commercial opportunities might emerge.”

After reaching out to Anderson, who founded DIY Drones, Roberts says it was clear that “this side project had taken hold of Chris and that his heart was set on making it far more than something to fill his nights and weekends.”

As 3D Robotics grows, however, I wonder how federal aviation authorities will react to the rising flocks of robotic planes, helicopters, blimps, and other unmanned flying objects. This was an issue Anderson discussed with me in 2008 while I was at The San Diego Union-Tribune. I hope to reach out to Anderson to ask if this issue was resolved, or whether the skirmishing continues between UAV enthusiasts and federal aviation officials, especially as the size and capabilities of amateur aircraft continue to increase.

In the meantime, Anderson writes, “I’ll be opening an office in the SF Bay Area (“3DR North”), which will focus on sales/marketing and community development,” Anderson says. “Our San Diego headquarters will continue to be the R&D and engineering center, while our Tijuana manufacturing [site] is expanding to handle more and more of our production. My co-founder, Jordi Munoz, will take over the role of President, overseeing operations.”

Anderson says 3D Robotics, which now employs 40 people, also plans to hire more hardware and software engineers in San Diego, and to fill out the ranks of its sales, marketing, and community management services near Berkeley, where Anderson lives.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • V.l. Bridges

    WHAT IS YOUR TICKER SYMBOL???

    • Pablo Juan

      I think its privately funded for now.