The Solo is seen as the best quadcopter model of 3D Robotics. It comes with an amazing feature, and a strong engine offers aerial tools for photographers to get stunning shots with a GoPro camera.
If you are searching for a drone for beginners, then this drone is perfect for you; keep reading 3Dr Solo Drone Review, Staaker will show you all details about this drone to consider; is it worth a buy?
3D Robotics Solo Review
3dr Solo Drone Specs:
- Rotors: 4 (2 blades per rotor) replaceable, 10-inch diameter
- Battery Size: 14.7V 5200-mAh Li-ion, removable
- Battery Life: 20/22 minutes (claimed/tested)
- Camera: GoPro Hero 3+/4, up to 4K/60P resolution
- Smartphone Controlled: Yes
- FAA Registration: Yes
- Size: 18.5 x 1.8 x 0.7 feet (rotor tip to rotor tip, height inc. rotors)
- Weight: 3.35 lbs.
- Gimbal stabilizes and powers GoPro.
- Repeatable Smart Shots.
- Capable of smooth, automated gimbal tilt adjustment.
- Return-to-home safety feature.
- The control app works with iOS and Android devices.
- Short battery life.
- Spotty GPS.
- Drifts when hovering.
- Quality and durability
Solo is one of the best-built drones that we have seen. The Solo’s arms are strong, and the props are made of glass-reinforced nylon.
The legs are stiff with just a bit of giving to allow them to rebound from hard landings. The legs also protrude out so that the gimbal and your GoPro are protected from the impact of a crash.
We know that the drone takes a licking and keeps on ticking. How come? We accidentally crashed it into trees more than once, but the quad handled each occasion like a pro.
After falling approximately 40 feet to its death, the drone broke all four of its props in the first encounter.
The Solo blasted through some branches, pruned some, and did a few flips. However, it managed to regain its hovering ability and was only a few feet from the ground on the second occasion.
The props were not chipped this time, and the same rotors were used for the rest of the review. These unintentionally harsh tests have made it clear that the Solo is a very tough toy.
The Solo is an excellent example of industrial design. The drone’s black frame pops against the blue and gray sky. Bright lights are placed under each strut to allow you to see through it if you fly it at night to achieve that magical hour look. The body has four landing struts with gray rubber feet that protrude slightly from it.
The aircraft measures approximately 10x18x18 inches (HWD) and weighs in at 4 pounds. The hubs of props are marked in Black or silver to correspond with the marks at each motor’s tip.
The Solo battery is a departure from other drones with batteries that slide into their chassis and lock into place at its top. The battery completes the Solo’s top.
It is marked with the 3DR logo and contains the power button for the drone. One press turns on the LEDs, which indicate the amount of charge in the battery. A second, longer press turns it on.
You may need to install the gimbal by yourself depending on which configuration you choose and from where you purchased the Solo.
This is a simple job that can be accomplished with a Phillips head screwdriver. Before installing the GoPro mount, remove it and connect the power and HDMI cables to it. Finally, secure it with three screws.
It is easy to lock the GoPro in place once the gimbal has been installed. The GoPro slides into place with no difficulty, and the rear data connector port locks into the gimbal.
The flap at the side connects the GoPro’s micro HDMI port to stream video to Solo. To remove the GoPro, pull down on the green tab and disconnect the HDMI flap. As with the Blade Chroma, you don’t need to use thumbscrews or thread cables to move the gimbal.
3D Robotics provided a Solo Kit for review. It includes the 3DR Backpack For Solo. The backpack is a moderately priced case that holds the Solo with six additional flight batteries, remote control, two sets of propellers, and a charger.
The backpack is made of high-quality materials and has an all-weather design that will keep Solo safe in rain or snow. Although a fully loaded backpack can be quite heavy, I found the backpack easy to carry due to its wide straps and ergonomic padding.
Black remote control has dual antennae and can hold small tablets, smartphones, and phablets. The integrated LCDs status and prompts you for setting gimbal sweep settings.
It also displays error messages. This will let you know if magnetic interference occurs or if your Solo is having trouble getting a GPS lock. Pilots who prefer to fly with their FPV goggles can also access a micro HDMI video output.
You will see the left and right controls sticks on the quadcopter remote. The left adjusts altitude, yaw, and the right moves forward, backward, left, right, and left.
The integrated LCD is positioned astride them, giving the controller an unusually wide design. Below the LCD and sticks, a series of backlit buttons runs in a row.
A and B are located below the left stick. These buttons can be customized, but they will default activate the Cable Cam or Orbit functions.
The Power and Fly buttons are located below the LCD. The Home and Pause buttons are located below the right stick. To stop the drone from moving, press Pause.
Each shoulder also has controlled. The rocker paddle, which tilts the gimbal upward and downward, is located to the left. The right side of the screen has two buttons (1 and 2) and a control wheel.
You can lock the angle of your gimbal tilt by long-pressing each button. The gimbal will adjust to the angle you choose by pressing one of the buttons.
You can adjust the speed at which the gimbal moves. It can go from 0 to 90 degrees in three seconds or up to 90 seconds if you prefer a slow move. On the LCD screen of the controller, you can see the preset angles and the time it takes to move from one to another.
The Solo’s controller is made of the same black matte plastic with a glossy top. The controller has eight buttons and dials and two control sticks, and an OLED display at the center.
The display does not show live video from drones. It displays the status of your drone. This includes information such as the battery life, number of GPS satellites that it can see, and flight mode.
It fits comfortably in my hand, with the two ridges at the back giving me a firm grip. Although my thumbs naturally drop onto the control sticks, I was able to reach the other buttons.
Both index fingers can reach the controls for the gimbal by reaching the shoulder buttons with their other hands. The left control tilts up or down the camera manually. The right shoulder control activates the automatic pan and tilt.
Live-video previews are displayed on smartphones running the 3DR Solo app for iOS or Android. The remote control attaches a holder to hold the smartphone.
It can be adjusted for different sizes. It holds a smartphone securely, but it won’t work with larger smartphones than a 5-inch screen.
It worked well with my iPad Air. However, the tablet felt unbalanced and was almost impossible to hold in the holder. It worked better with the Nexus 5 phone.
The app displays the preview of the video with additional information, such as heading, signal strength, and controls, overlaid. You can control your GoPro Hero 4 from the app.
The app allows you to change the shooting mode or adjust the settings for the best quality images. You can still use older GoPros, but the settings cannot be changed on the fly.
Flying and 3dr Solo Drone Flight Time
Solo is an easy drone to fly with automatic takeoff and landing. After turning on the drone (to receive a GPS signal), you can push the fly button.
This will start the motors. The Solo will then take off, hovering approximately 4 feet above the ground. The controller sticks respond well to subtle movements and minor changes.
There are five advanced flight and four video flight modes available on the Solo. These modes can be used to capture specific shots. Cable Cam allows the camera to create a virtual flight path that connects two or more points.
The camera can pan and tilt while it flies. Flyby shots can be taken at any speed with this feature. Orbit mode places the drone in a circular orbit around a point and keeps the camera pointed towards the center. The drone will follow the controller and remain at a predetermined altitude and distance.
These modes are much more automated than similar modes on the DJI Phantom 3 and work very well. The Solo automates the speed control of the Phantom 3. While the Phantom 3 pilot controls the drone’s speed with one of its control sticks, it is controlled by the other.
If you have a Cable Cam shot and it goes too fast, the pilot doesn’t need to rebuild the entire path. Instead, the Solo adjusts the speed slider, and the drone will recalculate the path.
If you wish to make the circle a bit larger in Orbit mode, drag the radius of your path onto the map. The Solo will recalculate the path. You can also adjust the speed of your orbit.
It’s a lot like having a copilot. You can concentrate on the video while your copilot watches over the details. Be careful: Due to the DJI Phantom 4’s object avoidance technology, the drone will not notice if it is about flying into a tree.
The Solo can be paused by pressing the button on the controller in any flight mode. It will then stop and hover in its current position.
The Solo app allows you to enable advanced modes. This unlocks several flight modes that are suitable for acrobatic use, including Fly: Manual (Stabilize, Drift), Sport (Sport), and Fly: Manual (Stabilize, Drift). Fly: Manual transforms the Solo into an entirely manual quadcopter.
The pilot is in full control and can adjust for wind or altitude. Stabilize works the same, except that the quadcopter will hover in the desired place if you release the control sticks.
The quadcopter can drift to fly more like an RC airplane. Acro removes all limitations on the quadcopter’s orientation, making it possible for the pilot to turn and roll.
Sport mode acts like Acro mode but will override the pilot if the quadcopter is too close to the ground. These modes can be great fun, but you need to have some experience or risk a costly crash.
Photos & Videos
Without an additional device, the Solo can’t take photos or video. Instead, it works with a GoPro camera that connects to an HDMI cable, which feeds video back to the drone. Solo can control the GoPro 4 from this point and adjust settings.
Although the older GoPro Hero 3 isn’t as easy to control, the drone can still be controlled and stop the camera from recording.
It worked well because I could control both the drone and the GoPro remotely, as well as start and stop recording, take photos, and even fly the drone.
Different resolutions and frame rates depend on GoPro, but I could shoot a 4K video at 60 frames per minute with the GoPro 4 Hero Black. GoPro 4 users can also control the resolution and frame rates of their video via the app.
You can either use the standard holder to dock your camera or the optional gimbal. The standard holder faces the GoPro either frontally or at a fixed angle.
Although the GoPro was protected from the vibration and buffeting of drone flight, the rubber grommets used by the standard holder did not prevent the GoPro’s video from becoming blurred when the drone was moving.
Rubber isolators prevent vibrations from being transmitted to the camera. The motors that move it actively combat vibrations are also part of the gimbal mount.
The 3DR Solo drone with Gimbal mount did a better job and produced smooth, clear video, even amid quite violent maneuvers. The gimbal keeps the camera in place and allows it to move independently.
It can point left, right, up, or down and point left, right, up, and down. We got superior video than what we had with the DJI Phantom 3 because the Solo-shot footage was free from the same glitches and vibrations we experienced with DJI’s drone.
The remote control can also be used to control the gimbal. It has a manual pan/tilt paddle on the left shoulder and an automatic pan/tilt paddle on the right shoulder. Preprogramming the buttons can be done to set specific angles.
You can control the speed of the camera’s movements by turning the dial between these buttons. You can create professional-looking, smooth camera moves and reproduce them on subsequent flights. This is very helpful if you’re doing a time-lapse, a before-and-after shot, or multiple takes.
You can also attach other cameras to the Solo because it is open-source. I used a 3D-printed adapter to mount a Ricoh Theta S 360 degree camera instead of the GoPro. The 360-degree video was captured from 150 feet above the ground. The adapter can be used with any camera with a tripod socket, as long as it uses a standard tripod screw.
There are many issues with the Solo, including its GPS. It takes three minutes to get a signal locked onto even in clear skies. My driveway is where I test the operating range of drones in suburban environments.
I couldn’t get the Solo to latch onto enough GPS satellites for it to take off. It’s the only drone that I have reviewed that was unable to obtain GPS at this location.
The drone took off after I moved a few blocks to a nearby sports field. To take photos, I let the drone hover at eye level. The drone can drift when hovering, which was a problem in itself.
A shift of a few feet is not likely to cause injury or a crash if you hover at 100 feet. This is what you would expect from older drones.
However, modern aircraft such as the Phantom 3 Professional can hold their position in the air. The Solo’s GPS stabilization works behind the curve.
Although it’s not great, the operating range isn’t terrible. The Solo was capable of flying in clear areas about 1,800 feet away from my remote. I lost the video signal shortly after that.
I was able to fly the Solo about 1,200 feet from my home in a suburban setting before the Solo lost contact with me and started returning home automatically. After the connection had been reestablished, I could control the Solo by pressing the Fly button.
The Solo app only shows basic telemetry data, such as altitude and distance from home. The Solo app doesn’t show airspeed, but 3D Robotics claims that it can reach 55 mph. When the Solo is at its maximum speed, however, it cruises through the air.
The app has five-speed settings, marked with a tortoise and a hare at the slow and fast sides. It’s similar to John Deere. The app warns you that video stability can be a problem at the two fastest speeds.
I noticed that propellers were getting in the shot when flying the fastest mode. To keep props out of your shots, you should stick to the middle setting. However, the Solo can allow landing gear to creep into frames even at slower speeds.
The battery life is a concern. 3D Robotics claims the Solo can fly for 20 mins on a fully charged battery. However, my field tests revealed that it takes much longer.
The battery dropped to around 20 percent after 14 minutes, so you can expect the Solo to stay aloft for less than 16 minutes before it runs out.
You’ll need to bring it in sooner, so I would recommend 15 minutes per flight. The Solo drone isn’t alone in promising a longer flight time than it manages.
DJI’s Phantom 3 series claims 23 minutes of flying time. The Phantom 4 is only 28 minutes, but it achieved 23 minutes of in-field testing.
The GoPro model you choose will affect the quality of your video. The Solo was paired with the Hero4 Black. The Solo records 4K footage at 30 frames per second, which I used to test it.
You need to shoot 4K footage at the widest angle possible, which can cause barrel distortion. The GoPro comes with editing software to remove this distortion.
The main difference between a GoPro and an integrated camera for drones is the built-in microphone. The original audio track is included in the review. However, you will likely need to replace it with music or a more relaxing soundtrack for final productions.
The Solo is powered by a heavy, 5,200mAh Lithium Polymer battery. It latches to the drone’s top. In our testing, the Solo flew for 22 minutes, which is acceptable for this type of drone and comparable to the DJI Phantom 3’s 23 minutes. We will have to wait until we can confirm that the DJI Phantom 4 claims it can fly for 28 minutes.
It took the Solo 70 minutes to recharge its battery fully. The Solo can only charge one battery at once, and unlike the DJI Phantom 3, there are no third-party chargers that can charge multiple batteries. Additional batteries are not cheap. 3DR sells them at $149 each, and there are no third-party batteries.
3DR Solo is a repairable drone. 3DR also keeps all parts of this drone in stock. Everything you need, from quadcopter legs to rotor blades, will be available at a reasonable price.
The easy-to-replace mode allows users to easily remove faulty parts and place new ones inside in a matter of minutes. Each rotor has color-coded so users can quickly assemble them in the right places.
Users agree that the drone’s parts are not fragile. Rotor blades are often replaced when crashes damage them. If your drone is hit very hard, you might also need to replace the frame. It is easy to replace your drone’s rotor blades.
3DR Solo drone is one of the best drones for cinematographers. It has tight integration with GoPro cameras and an excellent remote controller that allows for smooth, repeatable gimbal adjustment. There are also Smart Shot modes that can add drama to your aerial video. We hope that our article can help you know which you should choose.