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Can 3D Robotics shake up the consumer drone market?

Its fully equipped flagship unit, long delayed, is finally available for purchase

3D Robotics has always known how to project itself to the press. Its CEO, Chris Anderson, is the former editor-in-chief of Wired and a wordsmith of the first order. But while it was saying all the right things, the Berkeley, California startup was moving in a direction that didn't exactly match the evolution of the market.

Anderson created a company that was always in touch with drone hobbyists and the DIY community, but chose to focus almost exclusively on creating units for professional applications. It created a suite of flexible software meant to help drones specialize in different tasks, from farming to oil field inspection. But over the last three years, sales of simple consumer-facing drones like the DJI Phantom have exploded, and as we learned from our drone database, most commercial operators decided it was easiest to simply use those same basic drones for doing business.

That means 3D Robotics has to play catch-up. It hired Colin Guinn, the former CEO of DJI North America, and set about creating its own powerful yet approachable drone, the Solo. With GoPro integration and a wide selection of Hollywood-style shots that can be executed with the tap of a button, the Solo hopes to win over the growing number of realtors, directors, and insurance agents using drones to make their jobs easier.

We wrote about the Solo back in April, and it's been available to purchase for several months now. But the company struggled with elements of manufacturing, and initial versions lacked the gimbal and GoPro integration, meaning it couldn't pull off its most impressive autonomous filming tricks. The company shifted its manufacturing from Mexico to China, and two weeks ago began shipping them. With its fully equipped product now on the market, we'll see if the company can make a meaningful mark on a business currently dominated by China's DJI.