Some are proving drone-building can be a business. In 2009, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired and a drone evangelist, co-founded 3D Robotics Inc. in San Diego. The firm sells drone parts, such as electronic pilots and sensors. He says it is growing at 50% a year and has multimillions in revenue.
Mr. Anderson likens the community of hobbyists to Silicon Valley’s Homebrew Computer Club in the 1970s, where Apple Inc. co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak showed off their first personal computer. At the time, the future uses of computers weren’t clear, says Mr. Anderson, with the software applications materializing over time. “I think drones will go the same way,” he says.