3DR Solo Drone

MSRP $799.99

“Fast, upgradeable and lifeless easy to fly, 3DR’s Solo is an aerial videographer’s dream.”

Execs

  • Easy, intuitive controls
  • Autonomous flight modes
  • Sturdy design survives falls
  • Upgradeable software program, digital camera
  • 55mph high pace
  • Extremely dependable flight

Cons

  • Spotty GPS typically causes drift
  • Requires cell gadget to fly
  • No sense-and-avoid tech (but)
  • Lengthy recharge occasions

Drones have made aerial pictures and videography extra accessible than ever earlier than, however getting professional-looking photographs remains to be pretty difficult. Except you’ve had years of follow, it’s fairly tough to fly a drone and management a digital camera on the identical time.

That’s the place the Solo is available in. 3DRobotics designed this $800 hen particularly for capturing aerial video, and geared up it with a spread of autonomous flight modes that make it simpler to seize these easy, horny, professional-looking cinematic photographs. We took it for a spin to search out out if it may compete with DJI’s Phantom 4 because the newbie’s drone of alternative.

Options

This drone has loads occurring below the hood, so let’s begin with what units it aside from different drones available on the market.

For starters, the Solo is the one drone available on the market proper now that boasts not one, however two devoted 1GHz Cortex-A9 Linux computer systems. There’s one within the controller, and one onboard the drone itself that handles all high-level flight scripting, releasing Solo’s Pixhawk 2 autopilot to focus solely on holding the copter within the air. This configuration makes the drone extremely dependable, as there’s a a lot decrease likelihood of a firmware freeze.

It’s abundantly clear that the Solo is a tricky little toy.

Second of all, you received’t discover a digital camera on this drone. You’ll must deliver your individual GoPro to the celebration, and it’s solely appropriate with Hero fashions 3, 3+ and 4. Clearly, the draw back of that is that should you don’t already personal a GoPro, you’ll must drop an additional $400 or $500 earlier than you’ll be able to movie something from the air. The upside? You’re not married to the identical digital camera eternally, and may improve to a nicer mannequin when higher tech turns into accessible. And should you’ve already obtained a GoPro useful, you’re golden.

3DR didn’t simply bolt a GoPro mount on the underside of the drone and name it good — the corporate truly labored with GoPro to construct a customized drone integration. As soon as your digital camera is plugged in, you’ll be able to management all its settings throughout flight, proper from the 3DR controller. The 2 is perhaps offered individually, however they work collectively like a group.

Third, this drone can fly like a bat out of hell. 3DR doesn’t boast about it very a lot, however Solo can hit over 55 MPH should you take the coaching wheels off. That’s 10 MPH sooner that DJI’s new Phantom 4, and it’ll go even sooner with an excellent tailwind behind it. When you want a drone that may sustain with a automobile, motorbike, snowboard, mountain bike, or anything that strikes quick, Solo can be a improbable alternative.

Solo’s autonomous flight modes, which embrace Selfie, Cable Cam, Orbit, and Comply with, are designed to make it simpler to get professional-looking aerial video. The drone handles all of the flight, which lets you focus solely on capturing the right shot. Cable Cam mode, for instance, lets you select two totally different factors for the drone to fly between, prefer it’s zipping down an invisible cable. Alongside the way in which, you will have full guide management over the place the digital camera is pointing. There’s additionally Orbit Mode, which tells the drone to fly in a large circle across the level of your selecting; Comply with Me, which is self-explanatory; and even a Selfie mode, during which the drone will focus the digital camera on you, then fly up and again to create a dramatic reveal shot.

That’s not all. Along with these autonomous flight modes, Solo additionally has a variety of flight modes that present superior pilots with full (or solely barely assisted) guide management over the drone’s flight. We’ll spare you the gory particulars on all that — all you really want to know is that Solo mainly gives a full spectrum of flight choices. It’s obtained all the pieces from absolutely unrestricted guide management, all the way in which as much as completely autonomous, push-of-a-button flight — and all the pieces in between.

Oh, and should you’re apprehensive about crashing and ruining your GoPro, don’t be. If the 3DR Solo crashes at any time, and it’s the fault of the drone itself (mechanical failure, not pilot error), 3DR will exchange the drone free of charge, and provide you with a voucher to get a model new GoPro (should you had one hooked up, that’s). All flight information is recorded in Solo’s onboard black field, so any malfunctions will likely be routinely logged for proof.

Construct high quality and sturdiness

The Solo is without doubt one of the most well-built drones we’ve encountered to this point. The arms are very sturdy, the props are created from glass-reinforced nylon, and the legs are inflexible with just a bit little bit of give to assist them rebound from exhausting landings. Additionally they jut out in such a manner that they shield the gimbal (and your GoPro) from taking the brunt of the influence throughout a crash.

We all know for a indisputable fact that this drone take a lickin’ and carry on tickin’. Why? As a result of we inadvertently crashed it into bushes on multiple event, and in each occasion, the quad took it like a champ. Throughout the first incident (an encounter with two burly deciduous bushes in Portland’s stunning Waterfront Park), the drone broke all 4 props, however sustained no different injury after tumbling roughly 40 toes to the bottom.

On the second event (this time involving a surly coniferous monster), the Solo bashed by way of a pair branches, did some pruning, and even did a pair flips — however by some means managed to proper itself and regain its hovering skills just some toes earlier than the bottom. This time, the props weren’t even chipped, and the identical rotors served us for the rest of our overview. After these unintentionally brutal exams, it’s abundantly clear that the Solo is a tricky little toy.

Battery life, vary, and cost time

As for the battery, 3DR geared up this badboy with a chargeable 5,200 mAh 14.8Vdc lithium ion battery, which allegedly offers it 25 minutes of flight time with out the digital camera, and about 20 minutes with it. In our exams, we discovered that this 20-minute estimate is definitely a bit modest should you don’t fly the drone very exhausting. We managed to maintain our fully-loaded Solo within the air for practically 22 minutes whereas holding it at only a plain ‘ol hover, however once you fly with a bit extra gusto, you’ll be able to anticipate to get anyplace from 15 to 18 minutes of flight time. After that, it takes roughly 1 hour and 35 minutes to recharge every battery — so we extremely suggest shopping for a couple of of them should you plan to make use of Solo for any type of severe videography.

As for vary, Solo has a max distance of a couple of half mile. That’s positively not large (lower than half of what the Phantom 4 can do), nevertheless it was greater than sufficient for our wants. The drone turns into tough to see after a couple of quarter mile, however the dwell 720p HD video feed will keep intact on the controller for double that distance should you’re flying out within the open. When you don’t have line of sight, nevertheless, the feed will get uneven and cuts out a lot sooner. The excellent news is that should you ever lose contact, the drone will routinely fly again to its dwelling place, and also you’ll regain management as quickly because it comes again inside vary.

Piloting, management, and autonomy

In terms of flying, Solo boasts one of many best, most easy piloting experiences we’ve ever encountered. There are two causes for this. First, the controller was constructed from the bottom as much as look, really feel, and function extra like a online game controller, which makes piloting really feel very acquainted and intuitive for customers which might be new to passion plane. Second, the drone’s quite a few autonomous flight modes assist you to carry out maneuvers that might in any other case take a number of follow and ability.

It is a drone for everyone.

Let’s begin with the controller. Not like conventional controllers that function a dizzying array of buttons, knobs, and switches; Solo is stripped all the way down to the naked necessities. There are two joysticks for controlling roll, pitch, yaw, and acceleration; a “Fly” button for automated takeoff and touchdown; a “Return to Residence” button; a small display for battery and telemetry information, and a knob for controlling the digital camera angle. There are additionally two customizable buttons that can be utilized to activate Autonomous Flight modes like Cable Cam or Orbit, and my private favourite: the pause button, which acts like an air brake and can cease the drone lifeless in its tracks.

All the opposite settings and controls (together with GoPro settings) are dealt with contained in the accompanying cell app, which retains the primary controller interface very uncluttered and simple to navigate. The one draw back? You’ll be able to solely fly should you’re linked to a smartphone or pill, which is yet one more factor that it’s a must to fear about holding charged up. The truth that you usually must hold the display on full brightness solely exacerbates the issue. A few our flying expeditions have been lower quick because of a rapidly-drained smartphone battery, however as long as you’ve obtained all the pieces charged up and operating easily, the Solo is a breeze to fly.

Invoice Roberson/Digital Tendencies

Invoice Roberson/Digital Tendencies

Cable Cam, Selfie, and Comply with mode have been all fairly easy to get the cling of, however we truthfully had somewhat little bit of bother getting used to Orbit, and we practically crashed Solo a handful of occasions due to it. On multiple event, we set the radius too broad (and the altitude too low), inflicting the drone to unwittingly fly right into a grove of close by bushes. Clearly this was an ideal instance of pilot error — however regardless that these incidents have been fully our fault and completely preventable, we nonetheless discovered ourselves wishing that Solo had some sense-and-avoid know-how baked in, just like the DJI Phantom 4 or Yuneec Storm H do. That’s actually the one piece of the puzzle that’s lacking right here.

Digital camera, equipment, and upgradability

As talked about earlier than, you’ll need to deliver your individual digital camera to the celebration on this drone — however 3DR doesn’t completely depart you out to dry. Solo comes with a spread of various attachments to your GoPro — together with a hard and fast mount that’s appropriate with any GoPro case, a vibration dampener attachment, and should you shell out an additional $299, a three-axis gimbal for stabilization.

In the intervening time, that’s all you will get — however 3DR allegedly has much more within the pipeline. An open SDK permits third-party builders to design customized apps and integrations for the drone. And it’s not simply open to new software program both — Solo can also be geared up with an open accent bay, which permits customers to connect aftermarket {hardware} onto the drone as effectively. To be honest, there aren’t actually any software program or {hardware} upgrades accessible proper now (except you construct one your self), besides, the Solo scores excessive marks for upgradability. That is arguably probably the most “future proof” drones available on the market proper now, which provides it an enormous leg up on the competitors.

Conclusion

Whereas it’s positively not excellent, the Solo’s positives far outweigh its negatives. The drone itself may be very well-built and dependable throughout flight, the educational curve for piloting is pretty delicate, and the craft is designed to accommodate a variety of upgrades. The GPS connectivity and most vary could possibly be higher, however these points aren’t actually an enormous hindrance to usability, and 3DR’s improbable autonomous flight modes make you neglect about them in hurry.

Merely put, it is a drone for everyone. Newbie pilots will admire the easy controller structure and delicate studying curve, whereas extra expert customers will have the ability to execute extra technical maneuvers with Solo’s quite a few superior piloting modes. And naturally, for these merely seeking to seize gorgeous aerial footage, 3DR’s improbable autonomous flight modes make capturing video a snap. Regardless of who you’re or the explanations you may want a drone, Solo ought to positively be in your listing of contenders.

Whether or not or not Solo is the fitting alternative for you’ll finally depend upon whether or not or not you already personal a GoPro. When you do, it is a no-brainer — for simply $1,000, you will get your arms on probably the most succesful, sturdy, and future-proof drones available on the market. However should you don’t have a GoPro, the choice turns into a bit extra sophisticated.

For $1,400 (that’s $100 lower than the price of Solo and a model new GoPro) you will get your arms on a Phantom 4 from DJI. For $1,300, you’ll be able to pre-order the brand new Yuneec Storm H. Each of those drones boast related autonomous flight modes, have built-in 4K cameras, and include built-in sense-and-avoid know-how. As such, should you don’t have already got a GoPro at your disposal, it is perhaps sensible to discover these different choices.

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