3D Robotics Solo Drone Review – My First Drone Experience

Gone are the days when drones were a single purpose warfare device with no other duty except for an aerial attack. Today’s drones can deliver pizzas, provide relief during disasters, can help as remote sensor etc. The media industry, however, took its use to a newer level by using drones for media coverage of events, showing the aerial view. Such drones carry an extraordinary camera to capture the footages from above the ground. However, it is quite uncommon to have a personal drone for videography and photography because one may require the practice of years to get professional shots.

Lets Review 3D Robotics Solo Drone:

Keeping in view the problem, 3D Robotics, a well-known name in the name of producing high tech robotics devices, designed 3D Robotics Solo drone. Thanks to its different flight modes, proficient and polished shots can be taken easily. Being the latest iteration from 3D Robotics, Solo comes packed with almost all of the features a newbie videographer needs to have. And the major plus point is that you really don’t have to be professionally experienced to fly it. Yet I suggest you buy some really important add-ons to get the right thing to the work.

Design
So let’s get to the design first. On the first look, Solo seems just like an ordinary video drone but believe me, it more than that. The body of the drone is designed such that it covers the least possible space. This makes the drone small yet heavy. And that’s basically is the key scheme to make it attractive for videographers.

Some quick specifications are as follows:

  • Battery: 5200 mAh
  • Battery Life: 22 min
  • Height: 19 in
  • Weight: 3.35 pounds
  • Rotors: 4, replaceable
  • Speed: 55MPH
  • Flight Modes: Selfie, Cable Cam, Orbit, Follow

So let’s discuss them one by one. A large battery having a capacity of 5200 mAh is fitted tightly at the top of the drone. Expected battery life of the drone ranges from 22-25 minutes which we tested as well. Weight is something that brings the question to the design because it’s almost 0.5 pounds more than the minimum weight. That’s not the weight of drone alone. Installing camera and additional batteries will make it weigh that much.

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On the bottom, we have small LEDs to inform about the status of the device. These LEDs will blink as drone starts the flight operation. An interesting fact about these lights is that they can be used to get information about the health of drone. If there’s fluctuation in the blinking of the light, there’s a problem for sure. So keep in mind about this indicator. Additionally, the drone is equipped with more LEDs to make the visibility sure during flight. Front features a red LED while back has a blue one.

Now, let’s move to the camera holder which resides right on the front. Well, there’s something really fishy that most of you won’t be liking and that’s the camera brand.

Unfortunately, you can not use cameras other than GoPro Hero. And guess what? There’s no integrated camera at all. You have to buy a separate camera for it and that too of GoPro because that’s a GoPro locked drone. Other brands aren’t going to work here. The camera will cost you around $100-500 depending on the specifications. Higher models such as Hero 3+ and Hero 4 are expensive yet super efficient one. Luckily, if you are existing user of Hero camera, you don’t have to panic upon it.

GoPro affiliation isn’t just for no reason, instead, one you have integrated your camera into the drone, all of its setting now have been transferred to the controller. In other words, you can change the setting any time, even during flight and that is obviously a plus point. For instance, with Hero 4, I managed to take footage at a rate of 60 fps in 4K mode. And that’s the best you can expect from a drone camera.

Okay, that’s all for the design. Moving on, we are going to discuss the features. The controller of the drone is a black beauty featuring 8 buttons to control the aerial operation. An OLED is installed on the center which unfortunately doesn’t display video drone is recording. It has some other purpose and that is to display the status of drone such as remaining battery and mode of flight being used. To view the live video from the drone, you need to install the Android and iOS apps of Solo.

Fit your smartphone on the top of the controller on its dedicated place. The controller has movable jaws to adjust your smartphone. However, it has limitations of 5 in which means your devices larger than that size aren’t compatible. Smartphone app gives you live preview as well as the status and controls. You can even change camera settings if you are using Hero GoPro 4. Afterall, going with GoPro wasn’t all wasted.

And then comes the flight operation of the drone. Now that’s something you will be glad to know. This little boy can fly as fast as 55 MPH and its the fastest affordable drone available for the general consumer. Like if you want to record video of your vehicle, this is your cup of tea. Go and grab it.

And last but not the least, the most interesting feature of this device is autonomous flight modes. Actually, there are four modes and all of them perform different functions. I will discuss them one by one.

Orbit Mode
Follow Me Mode
Selfie Mode
Cable Cam

All of these modes are comprehensive and easily understandable by an unprofessional user. There are other flight modes too but they are for the experienced photographer and normally illegible for an average Joe. For your interest, they are Fly: Manual, Stabilize, Drift, Acro, and Sport.

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But what exactly is the basic purpose of this drone? You guess it right, it is Autonomous Flight. Autonomous flight is such a feature in which you create the flight plan for drone by giving it directions through maps. The drone then follows the path, recording the required footage. It’s really helpful in doing surveys of an area or creating 3D models.

As told earlier, the battery capacity of the drone is 5200 mAh which is quite sufficient in most of the cases. It’s enough to fly for twenty minutes along with the camera for a maximum of half a mile at full speed. The drone technology is currently in a state of advancement and more and more efforts are being made to elongate its capacity. But still it’s just a start and therefore you need to charge the batteries for another 90 minutes. What you need not worry about is that even if somehow you lose contact with the drone, the drone will return to its home positions thanks to autonomous flight feature. Solo provides users with the opportunity to replace their broken parts, saving them from buying a new one with such a hefty price.

Comparison with DJI Phantom 4:

Now that is something you really need to see. You see, there are many competitors to Solo in the market and some of them outspeed Solo in terms of performance. So it is quite necessary to compare them to see which one is suitable for yours. Given below is the comparison between 3D Robotics Solo Drone and DJI Phantom 4.

Conclusion:

So the bottom line is that Solo Drone is pretty solid drone in term of performance. The price is reasonable too but if you don’t own a GoPro camera, it is going to cost you some really good chunks of money. May be its rivals are cheap in term of pricing but still, they do not beat Solo at its basic purpose- A drone that everyone can fly without getting so much of knowledge about drone technology. For obvious reason, your ultimate choice depends upon whether you own GoPro camera or not because if you own one, Solo is available on Amazon, for you.

3D Robotics Solo Drone

3D Robotics Solo Drone
9.2

Design

9.5/10

Speed

8.9/10

Battery Life

8.5/10

Easy to fly

9.8/10

Pros

  • Solo has max flight speed of 55 MPH which is 10MPH more than Phantom 4 on average.
  • Spectrum of flight modes in Solo give it upper hand over Phantom 4.
  • If Solo gets crashed, 3DR will replace the drone as well as the voucher for GoPro
  • Includes rubber isolators to control the glitches and stops vibrations to reach to camera.
  • And the last one is, it's repairable. You can replace almost all of your broken parts.

Cons

  • - Needs GoPro camera which obviously is not everyone's cup of tea.
  • Covers half the distance as compared to Phantom.
  • Needs more time to recharge.
  • Lacks Object Avoidance Technology (OAT).
  • There are no third party chargers available and extra batteries aren't cheap.

What do you think?

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Written by Addison Aiken

Addison Aiken is a reporter at GadgetSkull focused on diversity, inclusion and social justice. He previously spent two years at Business Insider covering tech startups focused on the shared economy, IoT and music industry. He is graduated from the University of Southern California in 2011 with a degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism.

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