Photo: Jordi Muñoz, drone expert
At just 24, Jordi Muñoz is already revered as one of the top experts regarding drones and other such technology.
Born in Ensenada, but raised in Tijuana, Muñoz came from a middle class family. At a young age he was fascinated by computers, electronics and planes. By the time he was a teenager, he was the guy everyone in the UAV online community went to for advice.
Though he had support online, he failed to get any from Mexico City’s MIT-like school, the Instituto Politécnico Nacional. He was denied admission, and spent a year at Ensenada’s Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior, before he married his American-born girlfriend in 2007.
The couple moved to Riverside, California, and while waiting for his green card, Muñoz was unable to work, attend school, or get a driver’s license. To help him pass the time, his mother sent him a poor-flying radio-controlled helicopter. He took the machine apart, designed a new autopilot and in the end had created a sleeker, more stable flying machine.
Continuing his self-lessons, Muñoz looked at online tutorials, spoke with other hobbyists, took a closer look at autopilots, and GPS systems. With all this knowledge, he was able to build and launch his own drone, and all for only a few hundred dollars.
While Muñoz was researching and building, the editor of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson, was starting drone research of his own. He came across a video online of the young wiz controlling a small helicopter using a modified Wii controller to fly it. An impressed Anderson then began corresponding with Muñoz via e-mail.
“Ten years ago, I would have ended up with a recent graduate from Stanford,” Anderson said. “That would have been fine, but we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Shortly after, in May of 2009, Muñoz started 3d Robotics in his apartment when Anderson asked him to make some circuit boards. Using Anderson’s contacts, Muñoz said, “I made 40, and I sold them all in one day.
In the first month, Muñoz made almost $5,000 in revenues. By July, $56,000, and by March $164,000. Now, the company makes enough that Muñoz can afford to employ 11 people, and pay himself $5,000 a month.
And today, Muñoz is considered one of the foremost experts on drones, despite multi-million dollar company making more and charging more for their drones, which have gone to a number of military agencies.
For the future, Muñoz predicts we’ll see drones available in every household, just as personal the computer went from being an exotic idea to a common, everyday technology, and he’s willing to wagering his future on it.
Muñoz has at least one solid supporter.
“He has this almost animal instinct for hot, rising technologies,” said Anderson. “He was onto this way before me.”
Adding, “Autonomy is the future of aviation in the same way that autonomy is the future of cars. We know that computers drive cars better than people do — we use cruise control, and there are systems to keep you in your lane.”