Berkeley, CA JUNE 22, 2015
3d Robotics, Inc., the largest American maker of consumer drones, has announced new sky-high expectations for sales of mini-helicopters with cameras, sensors and whirling propellers.
The Berkeley company expects to sell thousands of the pizza-sized drones — for about $1,000 each — at home and abroad this year. Tech-savvy customers want the devices for uses as diverse as capturing wave-shredding surfing runs in the Pacific, monitoring oil and gas pipelines in remote regions, and other uses.
Silicon Valley, and its Berkeley outposts, have become the epicenter of the fast-growing commercial drone business. New players like 3d Robotics differ from the giant contractors who dominate the military drone market, like Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. The new players more closely resemble classic Silicon Valley geeks, developing disruptive technology in garages. “The aerospace industry isn’t relevant here,” Chris Anderson, 3D Robotics’ CEO told the LA Times. “What we do is more like a smartphone with wings rather than a pilot and a plane.”
According to 3dRobotics, commercial sales could surpass military drone sales in about five years. By 2020, global consumer and commercial sales could be $11 billion. Silicon Valley’s deep-pocketed venture capitalists are pouring cash into drone start-ups. So far this year, venture capitalists have invested $172 million in drone companies,
according to CB Insights. That’s up from $107 million for all of 2014.Jon Callaghan, CEO of True Ventures, an investment firm in San Francisco, told the LA Times True Ventures has funded more than $100 million in early capital for companies involved with drones.
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