3D Robotics (3DR) is releasing their most advanced consumer drone till date called the Solo drone and it is being touted as one of the best in the market right now.
Unlike the other quadcopters and drones available in the market, the Solo is equipped to directly stream video from a GoPro camera (Hero3+ and up) to your smartphone or tablet due to its new 3-axis Solo gimbal.
The drone can fly for about 20 minutes when using a camera and gimbal, while it can go around 25 minutes without them. It is equipped with a 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor inside the drone along with another identical one fitted inside the controller. It also has 3DR’s new Pixhawk 2 autopilot.
The controller for the Solo Drone is a masterpiece in itself. Apart from its processor, it also has a ton of features that make it very easy to fly the drone and record amazing footage simultaneously. It is equipped with an adjustable arm that can fit a smartphone or a tablet and a number of button options to adjust and fly your drone, along with a controller screen to check your settings.
It also has complete control over your camera options and is equipped with a HDMI port so you can attach it to any media system. The controller can also be considered a sort of “black box” for your drone due to its dedicated Pause button that immediately halts the drone midair. The onscreen color display can relay any information about the drone’s flight and will even alert you incase of any problems.
The Solo has the ability to log the flight data on to the controller as opposed to logging it just on the drone. This is necessary and important because if you for some reason lose or damage your drone, you cannot find the data log. On the other hand, with this new system the 3DR support team can easily consult with the present log on the controller and find out the reason for the crash.
Since the controller uses a smartphone or tablet to monitor your drone’s movements, the iOS and Android application that has been created for compatibility has some pretty great features. Its streamlined mobile interface is easy to understand and use and it even has auto updates.
It also offers custom control that will allow you to change the drone’s speed, agility, maximum altitude and assign controller button presets. You can choose from multiple viewing options and pick the live camera view from your GoPro camera or an overhead satellite map view.
It has most of the automatic modes that 3DR’s former drones had and can follow you around, circle around a spot or even follow a preset track. It also has the standard convenience features like automatic takeoffs and landings and return to home. Their ‘Smart Shots’ are labeled as Cable Cam, Orbit, Selfie and Follow.
Another feature that sets this 3DR drone apart is its ability to update the drone’s firmware wirelessly, making it so much easier. The company hopes to see the Solo drone as a platform and it has an accessory bay. Because of this, third-party developers can make different hardware options to be attached to the drone.
You can also use third-party gimbals on it and it has swappable motor pods, making them easy to replace or upgrade.
The Solo has the ability to log the flight data on tothe controller as opposed to logging it just on the drone. This is necessary and important because if you for some reason lose or damage your drone, you cannot find the data log. On the other hand, with this new system the 3DR support team can easily consult with the present log on the controller and find out the reason for the crash.
Partnership with GoPro
A big step for 3DR is their partnership with sports action camera giant GoPro and they are the first in the world with in-flight access to GoPro controls. This has resulted in creating a quadcopter that is equipped with full in-flight camera control and live HD streaming directly to smartphones and tablets.
Talking about their newest consumer product, Chris Anderson, 3D Robotic's CEO and co-founder said, "What Solo introduces are two new technologies for deep integration with GoPros. The first thing, is because it has an on-board Linux computer, it's capable of running apps for computer vision for object tracking and artificial intelligence and other things. And because it also has a long-distance broadband connection, it's able to transmit not just the HD video, but flight data and telemetry."
This helps with overcome the Wi-Fi's inadequacies. "People love their GoPros, and they're great cameras," said Anderson, "but there aren't a lot of good ways to control it from the air short of its Wi-Fi, which is limited in range."
To resolve this, the 3DR Solo gimbal utilizes the Hero port located at the back as well as GoPro's Micro-HDMI port. "We're able to let you have the GoPro that you want, but also have the control over that camera."
Due to this combination, you can now control the camera from almost 800 meters away! You can also switch on and off the camera and adjust its shooting modes and options.
The 3D Robotics Solo Drone is priced at $999 minus the gimbal and you can buy the gimbal separately for $399. It can be purchased in the U.S. in May and in June and July worldwide.