3D Robotics Could Be One Exciting Drone Stock
Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones have caught the attention of the investment community with their rapid adoption. The miniaturization of video cameras along with the increased energy density of lithium-ion batteries has led to strong growth for small drones that target commercial and consumer applications. For investors though, pure-play exposure to drones is hard to come by. There are three manufacturers that dominate this space. The first is the world’s biggest drone company, DJI Innovations, which is privately held and has managed to achieve a “10 unicorn” valuation. The second is publicly traded French company Parrot which is a pure play on commercial and retail drones. The third, is a startup called 3D Robotics which is taking a distinctively different approach from its competitors.
Founded in 2007, 3D Robotics has taken in $99 million in funding from at least 12 different firms. The Company was started by Chris Anderson, a NY Times best-selling author and at the time the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine along with Jordi Muñoz, a teenager in Tijuana, Mexico. 3D Robotics claims to be the smartest and most technologically advanced drone company in the world. In their words, “We’re putting computers in the sky“. 3D Robotics developed the first true “Follow Me” technology in the drone industry through which drones can stay right with you wherever you go, automatically keeping the camera centered on you to capture your every move.
3D Robotics is technologically ahead of its competitors because they have adopted an open-source approach to software development. This means that the source code for all the software used by their drones is free to download and play with. While the disadvantage is that you have no secrets, the advantage is that communities often form around open source projects where the users contribute immense value to the end product and take pride in doing so. This form of “outsourced R&D” is not only more effective in driving real innovation but drastically cheaper than traditional in-house R&D. After all, who better to help you develop a product than the end user? The 3D Robotics open source community is called the Dronecode Foundation and was co-founded by Linux, Qualcomm and Intel. Among the various software platforms supported by the foundation is the APM/ArduPilot which is now one of the world’s leading autopilot vehicle platforms. Here you can see just how easy it is to create “drone missions” using the mission planner:
When the flight is underway, you can even monitor the status of the drone using your smartwatch. 3D Robotics’ flagship drone is called Solo, the world’s first smart drone which leverages cameras, computers, sensors, phones, the web, motors, electrical systems and custom hardware.
The drone comes with pre-configured capabilities like “orbit” which will automatically circle an object for an iconic “wrap-around” shot or “selfie” which will put yourself in the center of a scenic aerial pull-out. The Solo drone is available right now Amazon.com for $380. Rest assured you won’t have to worry about having your questions answered given that you’ll be a part of an extensive community that will provide you support for your new drone. 3D Robotics also sells an “Enterprise” line of drones which are used for specific commercial applications such as mapping.
There is no pure-play drone manufacturer traded on any major U.S. exchange. Should 3D Robotics look to IPO, it would be an opportunity for investors to see inside a very exciting company which has promised to always be at the forefront of technological advances for drones.
Are you paying too much in transaction fees to your broker? Check out a brokerage firm called Zacks Trade that's offering $1 trades for U.S. stocks and options until 2020. After that, you'll pay just $3 a trade or a penny a share, whichever is greater. It's one of the cheapest brokers out there and you can also trade stocks on foreign stock exchanges. Trade US stocks and options for as low as $1 per order until 2020.