Drone investment gathers pace as 3DR raises $50m

3D Robotics raised the Series C round from a range of angel and VC firms as investment into the technology surpassed $80m in 2014.

3D Robotics, the California agtech start-up company known for pioneering advanced and easy-to-use consumer drone technology, raised $50 million in a Series C round of fundraising last Wednesday led by Qualcomm Ventures.

Investment into drone technology reached $86 million in 2014 across 19 capital raising deals and 18 start-up companies, according to AgFunder, the online fundraising platform.

Other investment firms in the round include Mayfield, Foundry Group, Shea Ventures, True Ventures and seed stage investor O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures also contributed to Series C.

3D Robotics has now raised a total of $86 million including an undisclosed amount from Richard Branson, an English businessman and the founder of the Virgin Group, last year. The most recent capital raise was a $36 million Series B round in December 2013.

The $50 million raised will be used for product development as 3D Robotics plans to include technology which will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, a platform for smartphones and tablets.

“The incredible pace of innovation in the smartphone industry is transforming many adjacent industries, including drones. By working with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., we can bring advanced computing to the skies at an increasing pace,” said Chris Anderson, 3D Robotics’ co-founder and former Wired Magazine editor, 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.”

Regulation of the drone sector was further developed last month when the Federal Aviation Administration released a proposal for revised commercial drone rules. The proposal suggests drones must not fly higher than 500 feet above ground level, must remain visible to the licensed operator, must weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kg), must not fly over people who are not directly involved in operations and cannot exceed the maximum speed of 100mph (87 knots). The regulations are expected to take effect in 2017 or later.

3D Robotics was founded in 2009 by Chris Anderson and Jordi Munoz, who also serves as the company’s chief technology officer. Its technology is used in a wide range of industries around the world including agriculture, infrastructure, construction, search and rescue and ecological study.

Qualcomm Ventures is a venture capital arm of Qualcomm Inc. The VC firm currently has 122 investments in its portfolio including companies in North America, Brazil, China, Israel and India.