3D Robotics Raises $50M To Develop Mobile-Enhanced Drones

Berkeley, CA-based 3D Robotics has raised $50 million in a Series C funding round led by Qualcomm, the San Diego wireless industry giant.

The two companies plan to work together to combine 3D Robotics’ drones with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, which power sensors, wireless communication, and cameras.

“By working with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., we can bring advanced computing to the skies at an increasing pace,” said Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics in a statement. “Such multi-gigahertz Linux-based onboard computing platforms, combined with state-of-the-art cameras and other sensors and wireless technologies, will allow us to create next-gen drones that are smarter, easier and safer than ever before.”

Earlier this month, San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) acquired KMel Robotics, a Philadelphia, PA-based startup that makes high-performance multi-rotor drones.

The 3D Robotics funding announcement follows a recent proposal by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration to “accommodate future technological innovations” by accepting the routine use of small unmanned aircraft systems under 4.4 pounds flying lower than an altitude of 500 feet, and at speeds no greater than 100 miles per hour. People over 17 years old who have obtained an FAA operator certificate could fly these drones. Under the proposal, the operator would not be required to obtain a private pilot’s license. The proposal is open for public comment pending a final decision.

According to a 3D Robotics statement announcing the new capital infusion, the FAA proposal would “stimulate a huge amount of drone innovation by allowing the industry to advance at the pace of smartphones, not airplanes. This means drones that are smaller, cheaper, lighter, safer and in the hands of more users, finding more uses than ever before.”

Among 3D Robotics’ products is the IRIS+ personal drone, (pictured above) which can be used with GoPro cameras for aerial photography.

3D Robotics was founded in 2009 by Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and founder of DIYDrones.com, and Jordi Muñoz, who was building his own drones in southern California and met Anderson through the DIYDrones online community. Muñoz, born and raised in Mexico, is now chief technology officer at 3D Robotics, which operates a manufacturing facility in Tijuana, Mexico. The company also has offices in San Diego, CA, and Austin, TX.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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