3DR is dead, long live 3DR!
Spreading around the troll sauce.
In recent weeks, forum trolls and at least one blog have been painting a picture of 3DR having failed, shut up shop and closed its door, which even a little research can confirm is far from the truth, in some cases the discussion on 3DR is wishful thinking from fanbois drinking the DJI Kool-Aid; in some cases it’s downright lies and in other cases it’s a negative take on facts that are in the public domain.
The MarketWatch blog.
Recently 3DR’s Chief Executive Chris Anderson was quoted in an article on MarketWatch announcing that there are job cuts at 3DR as they are changing their focus to enterprise solutions where the margins are higher.
Whilst it’s easy to extract negatives from Chris Anderson’s candor, there are also positives especially for investors, focusing on higher margin solutions clearly makes more sense than a battle to the bottom on price with consumer products, a CEO that knows “to hire people smarter than them” will result in a more successful company as trying to micro manage can end up with the wrong decisions being made. The fact 3DR is cutting jobs to reduce its costs to provide financial stability into the second quarter of 2017 means the company is prepared to make hard decisions to ensure its long term success.
Chris Anderson’s message in a roundabout way acknowledges that 3DR have not sold as many Solos to date as they had expected, this was possibly due to a bumpy launch with the gimbal being delivered after the drone itself. This is a shame as the Solo has seen regular updates since launch that have made it a very capable video drone with arguably the smoothest and most human looking autonomous way-point transitions of any drone, furthermore 3DR in 2016 has delivered ahead of schedule for promised updates.
The phony phone rumour.
Some falsehoods that have been posted in recent weeks have included that 3DR has closed its phone lines, when it fact it has simply changed its phone numbers as 3DR has moved phone support to enterprise customers and has provided consumer customers with a live chat option instead.
Facing up to the future with Facebook .
3DR’s VP of customer support, Vu Tran has a track record going back years, of including Facebook interaction with support tasks, both solving problems and updating the community with 3DR’s direction, he had this to say on the change to live chat whilst posting on Facebook.
“Support hasn’t changed. The warranty is still the same. My team is still here. I’m still here. We’re testing out online chat support and in the future in app chat support, if that doesn’t work out, we’ll go back to phone support. You can still get phone support if you really want it, we’ll call you back. ”
Furthermore, Vu’s post provided reassurance that existing Solo owners will be fully supported and will see ongoing improvements and new features.
“Yes, we’ve brought Commercial and Enterprise products to the front burners, but that doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from Solo. We’ve got some cool things debuting at NAB for Solo under the Made For Solo program. We have not stepped back from our commitment to keep improving Solo. ”
Oren Schauble, 3DR’s VP of Marketing who also interacts with users on Facebook acknowledged the facts in the MarketWatch blog but noted these had been sensationalised in some quarters.
“3DR is definitely focusing on the enterprise space, as all our recent announcements state, but it’s easy to see how software features and taking advantage of Solo’s accessory and gimbal bays benefits personal and commercial customers alike.”
NAB 2016 and beyond.
3DR registered the trademark “Made for Solo” at the start of the year for use by official third party accessory developers and we should expect to see Solo specific accessories at NAB.
3DR would seem to have some secrets for NAB and some not so secret announcements, it’s expected we’ll hear more of the parachute from ParaZero and the Infinifly powered tether for Solo which will allow it to fly potentially for hours, so it can become a lighting rig or potentially report on live news features without landing for a battery change which would be a nuisance. There has been more than a hint that Solo will get obstacle avoidance like the Phantom 4, whether or not that upgrade will make it for NAB is unknown.
Earlier in the year 3DR Tweeted that it had Benoit Landry on-board who has been involved in cutting edge drone navigation research and recently a vacancy for a computer vision engineer has been advertised so clearly 3DR is heading towards visual awareness for its drones.
Rumours have suggested future 3DR hardware could be based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Flight, the fact the recent vacancy has CUDA as desired experience may hint that Nvidia hasn’t been ruled out.
Meanwhile, one of the current vacancies at 3DR shows they’re ensuring the current Arducopter software has support as the skill set includes APM/PX4, backing up the reassurances 3DR staff had posted about the Solo continuing to evolve despite the fact 3DR no longer sponsors Arducopter.
Colin “Guinnmeister” Guinn has begun a number of webinars, the first had an allocation of a 1000 that was massively oversubscribed, showing there’s still an interest in video photography with the Solo.
Whilst Solo sales to date have not hit the numbers 3DR desired, it clearly outsold the IRIS, the Solo was 3DR’s first step away from DIY looks and was a true evolution in their product design, 3DR now has sales channels in Europe (and far beyond) that never once existed, in the UK at least one regional fire service is evaluating the Solo and the UK police have been photographed also evaluating Solo. Meanwhile the Solo has a loyal user base, largely due to the fact that 3DR has arguably the best customer support in the industry. The Solo’s software has improved regularly with new features being added and the fact No Fly Zones are information only has prevented the kind of frustration from users that has been seen on other platforms.
So in summary, it’s far too early to write off Solo or 3DR.