Drones have made aerial photography and videography more accessible than ever, but getting professional-looking photos is still quite difficult. Unless you have years of practice, it is quite difficult to fly a drone and control a camera at the same time. This is where Solo comes in. 3DRobotics designed this drone specifically for aerial video and outfitted it with a range of autonomous flight modes that make it easy to capture those smooth, sexy and professional-looking cinematic shots. We tried it out to see if it could compete with DJI’s Phantom 4 as a recreational drone. It’s time to share our conclusions with you.
Characteristics of a Drone
This drone has a lot of good things under the hood, so let’s start with what sets it apart from other drones on the market.
For starters, the Solo is the only drone on the market right now that doesn’t have one, but two dedicated 1GHz Cortex-A9 Linux computers. There’s one in the controller and one on board the drone itself that handles all of the high-level flight scripts, freeing up Solo’s Pixhawk 2 autopilot to focus solely on keeping the drone in the air. This setup makes the drone incredibly reliable, as there is much less chance of firmware crashing.
Second, you won’t find a camera on this drone. You’ll need to join your own GoPro to the party, and it’s only compatible with the Hero 3, 3+, and 4 models. Obviously, the downside is that if you don’t already have a GoPro, you’ll have to invest. a bit more.
The advantage? You’re not married to the same camera forever, and you can upgrade to a nicer model when better technology becomes available. And if you already have a GoPro handy, you’re lucky.
3DR didn’t just install a GoPro mount on its drone – the company actually worked with GoPro to build a custom drone integration.
Once your camera is plugged in, you can control all of its parameters during flight, directly from the 3DR controller. The two can be sold separately, but they work together as a team.
Third, this drone can fly like a rocket. 3DR doesn’t boast much about it, but Solo can reach over 90 km / h! It’s faster than the DJI Phantom 4, and it goes even faster with a good tailwind.
If you need a drone that can track a car, motorcycle, snowboard, mountain bike, or anything else that moves fast, Solo will be a fantastic choice.
Solo’s autonomous flight modes, which include Selfie, Cable Cam, Orbit, and Follow, are designed to make it easy to get professional-quality aerial footage.
The drone handles the entire flight, so you can only focus on the perfect shot.
Cable Cam mode, for example, allows you to set two different points for the drone to fly in between as if it were an invisible cable. Along the way, you have complete manual control over where the camera is pointing.
There is also the Orbit mode, which tells the drone to fly in a wide circle around a point of your choice. Follow Me mode orders the drone to follow you in the panties and Selfie mode focuses the camera on you, then the drone flies up and back to create a spectacular shot.
That’s not all. In addition to these autonomous flight modes, Solo also has a number of flight modes that provide advanced pilots with full manual (or only slightly assisted) control of the drone’s flight.
We’ll spare you the details on all of this, all you really need to know is that Solo basically offers a full range of flight options. There is everything from fully unlimited manual control to fully autonomous flight. Oh, and if you’re worried about crashing and ruining your GoPro, then don’t be. If the 3DR Solo bugs, and if it’s the drone’s own fault (mechanical failure, no piloting error), 3DR will replace the drone for free, and give you a voucher to get a new GoPro. All flight data is recorded in Solo’s integrated black box, so any malfunctions will be automatically recorded for proof.
DESIGN AND RELIABILITY
The Solo is one of the best-built drones we’ve come across so far.
The arms are super strong, the struts are made of fibeglass-reinforced nylon, and the dropouts are stiff with just a little slack to help them bounce back on hard landings.
The 3DR is also damn robust. Why? Because we’ve inadvertently crashed it into the trees on more than one occasion, and in each case the drone took off like a champ.
In the first incident (an unpleasant encounter with two trees), four props broke but the drone suffered no further damage after falling about 12 meters from the ground.
The second time around (this time it was a snarling conifer) the Solo broke down a few branches, did some pruning, and even did a few loops but managed to straighten up and hover back just a few meters before hovering. touch the ground. This time, the accessories were not even damaged, and the same propellers were used for the rest of our tests. After these brutal tests, it’s clear that the Solo is a tough little beast.
BATTERY LIFE, RANGE AND RECHARGE TIME
As for the battery, 3DR has equipped this Solo drone with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery of 5,200 mAh 14.8 Vdc, which gives it 25 minutes of flight without a camera, and about 20 minutes with it.
During our testing, we found that this 20-minute estimate is actually a bit modest if you don’t fly the drone very sportingly. We managed to keep our Solo fully loaded in the air for almost 22 minutes while keeping it on a simple hover.
When you fly with a little more enthusiasm, you can expect to spend 15-18 minutes of flying time. After that, it takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes to recharge each battery. So we recommend buying a few spare if you plan to use Solo for any kind of serious videography. As for the range, Solo has a maximum distance of around 900 meters. It’s certainly not huge (less than half of what the Phantom 4 can do), but it was more than enough for our needs.
The drone becomes difficult to see with the naked eye from 400 meters away, but the live 720p HD video stream will remain intact on the controller for double that distance if you are flying in the open.
The good news is that if you lose contact, the drone will automatically return to its original position and you will regain control as soon as it comes back within range.
When it comes to flying, Solo has one of the easiest and most intuitive piloting experiences we’ve ever come across. There are two reasons for this. First of all, the controller has been completely designed to look, feel and function like a video game joystick, making piloting very familiar and intuitive for users who are new to the world of recreational drones. Second, the drone’s many autonomous flight modes allow you to perform manoeuvres that otherwise would take a lot of practice and skill.
Let’s start with the controller. Unlike traditional controllers which feature a dizzying array of knobs and switches, Solo is stripped down to the essentials.
There are two joysticks to control roll, pitch, yaw and acceleration.
There is a “Fly” button for automated take-off and landing, a “Return Home” button, a small screen for battery and telemetry data, and a button to control the camera angle. There are also two customizable buttons that can be used to activate Autonomous Flight modes like Cable Cam or Orbit, and my favorite: the pause button, which acts like an air brake and stops the drone in its path.
All other settings and controls (including GoPro settings) are handled in the accompanying mobile app, which keeps the main controller interface very clean and easy to navigate. The only drawback? You can only fly if you are connected to a smartphone or tablet, which is another reason you need to worry about having battery power.
The fact that you usually need to keep the screen in full brightness only exacerbates the problem. A few of our flying expeditions were cut due to a quickly depleted smartphone battery, but as long as you have your batteries fully charged, the Solo is a cinch to fly.
Cable Cam, Selfie, and Follow modes are pretty straightforward to master, but we honestly had a little trouble getting used to Orbit, and we almost crashed a few times because of it. On more than one occasion, we set the radius too wide (and the altitude too low), causing the drone to unintentionally fly into a grove of trees nearby. Obviously, this is a perfect example of pilot error! But even if these incidents were entirely our fault and totally avoidable, we regret that the 3DR Solo did not sensing technology and avoidance, like DJI Phantom 4 or Yuneec Typhoon H. It’s really the only piece of the puzzle that’s missing here.
CAMERA AND ACCESSORIES
As mentioned earlier, you will need to equip your own camera on this drone.
Solo comes with a range of different accessories for your GoPro, including a fixed mount compatible with any GoPro, a vibration damper, and if you shell out € 300 more, a three-axis gimbal for stabilization.
At the moment, that’s all you can get.
An open-source SDK allows third-party developers to build custom applications and integrations for the drone. And it’s not just the software, Solo is also equipped with a host of open-source accessories, which allows users to attach aftermarket hardware to the drone.
To be fair, there aren’t really any software or hardware updates available right now (unless you build one yourself), but even so, the Solo gets high marks for scalability. It’s arguably one of the most “future-proof” drones on the market right now, giving it a leg up on the competition.
While it’s not perfect, the positives of Solo far outweigh its negatives.
The drone itself is very well built and reliable during flight, the learning curve for piloting is quite smooth, and the craft is designed to accommodate a wide range of upgrades via its open source code.
GPS connectivity and maximum range could be better, but those issues aren’t really a major obstacle to usability, and 3DR’s fantastic autonomous flight modes make you forget about it right away.
Quite simply, it’s a drone for everyone.
Beginner pilots will appreciate the simple controller layout and gradual learning curve, while more experienced users will be able to execute more technical manoeuvres with Solo’s many advanced piloting modes.
And of course, for those who are just looking to capture great aerial footage, 3DR’s fantastic autonomous flight modes make video shooting a snap.
It doesn’t matter who you are or why you might want a drone, Solo should definitely be on your list of contenders.
Whether or not Solo is the right choice for you will ultimately depend on whether or not you already own a GoPro. If you already have a GoPro, you can get your hands on one of the best performing, most reliable, and scalable drones on the market. But if you don’t have a GoPro, the decision becomes a bit more complicated as you’ll need to budget extra to buy a camera.
Direct competitors of 3DR Solo are the Phantom 4 DJI and Yuneec Typhoon H.
Both of these drones have similar autonomous flight modes, have built-in 4K cameras, and come with built-in collision avoidance technology.
If you don’t already have a GoPro at your disposal, it might be a good idea to explore these other options.
3DR SOLO ACCESSORIES AND SPARE PARTS
Intelligent Battery for 3DR Solo
The spare battery lets you ride longer
Rechargeable Smart Battery charges in 1.5 hours
Provides 25 minutes more flight time
During flight, Solo will alert you when the battery is near discharge so the drone can return to the starting point and replace the battery
NAVITECH backpack for the 3DR Solo
Rugged backpack designed to protect your device and accessories.
The main compartment includes additional sturdy padding and a secure strap.
Padded shoulder straps and a hanging handle on top of the bag
Internal dimensions: 40 x 31 x 16 CM
Protective Backpack for 3DR Solo
Protective Backpack for transporting your 3DR Solo Quadcopter
Foam compartment designed specifically for Solo
Essential accessory to carry your drone and accessories safely
Propellers for 3DR Solo
The 3D Robotics Solo Quadcopter Propeller Set includes a pair of self-tightening aftermarket accessories in black, a clockwise (CW) model and a counterclockwise (CCW) model. Please make sure when replacing your accessories that you are using the same rotation pattern as before. Improperly installed accessories can loosen and come loose in flight.
LED light for 3DR Solo drone
To increase the visibility of the 3DR Solo drone
Contains white LED lamp and red LED lamp
Drone battery powered