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3DRobotics Solo is a Linux-based drone, a built to evolve drone that has expansion in mind, whose looks reminds of a military drone and has no own camera but a GoPro frame where you can attach a GoPro camera. The Solo control app has a full control of GoPro camera and is able to deliver live-streaming in HD quality directly to your smartphone or tablet. This is a fist consumer drone of this company and they are still pretty unkown manufacturer compared to the likes of their competition. The prices for the drone with and without gimbal are greatly different:
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Two Linux Computers
The ground controller and onboard computer both run on a Linux OS, on a 1GHz Cortex A-9.
They are linked via WiFi and are much more powerful than the regular APM kit of other 3DRobotics drones.
The Solo has the ability of an automatic takeoff and landing, return home button in case you lose sight of the drone and some other interesting features. Thanks to its Pxihawk 2 app a flyaway possibility is reduced to minimum – if there is a communication problem between the 2 linux computers on board and on the controller – linux will reboot and the drone will hover in the air for a bit. If there is still no communication channel – it will automatically return home.
The Solo has no its own camera, but it has been built from the ground up with a GoPro in mind.
The Solo transmits 720p video streaming directly from GoPro to mobile device, both Android and iOS, from up to half a mile. Latency is very short, less than 180 miliseconds.
You can start and stop video recording during the flight and also take aerial camera shots. 3DRobotics named these shots Smart Shots as they can easily be pre-programmed and used in a follow-me mode or a mode that films along a virtual path of points that you can set up easily before drones take off. This way drone flies itself and you take pictures and try out different stuff with the camera without worrying of flying the drone. For the video and camera focused pilots, this is really great feature.
Another mode is orbiting mode, where the Solo can be set to focus on an object on the ground and circumnavigate it, taking shots of the object from different angles.To take really high quality photos and video footages, you will need a GoPro Gimbal, that stabilizes the camera and costs additional $400. And you will really want this gimbal, otherwise the shots and footages are going to be shakey. Camera clips easily into the gimbal and is connected with it via HDMI port.
Flight time of a 1500g drone ranges from 20-25 minutes, without and with camera (it adds another 300g to the 1500g) respectively. Controller warns you of a low battery status and suggests a heading home in that case. Spare batteries are pretty expensive, over $150.
Remote Control and Mobile App
Mobile app of the Solo is a full control centre – you can take still photos, change the FOV, frame rates and manage all other settings. Via wifi and a micro-HDMI port, the Solo streamings can be fed live to a monitor or FPV goggles. You can also save the footage to a GoPro cameras’ internal memory.
On a close distance, you can also do a direct hands on flight thanks to a small built-in LCD display on the controller. The Solo has a panic button – press it and it will stop the drone and direct it hover in air in case of trouble.
The Solo is high-end drone with a professional use in mind, but it still is also a newbie-friendly drone. It is dependable, it does what you expect it to do and a hobby flyer will quickly get used to flying it. Linux community is very active and we can expect some exciting upgrades and software advances for the Solo. This is probably the biggest advantage 3DR wants to sieze in comparison to their competition – innovative actions of a large community that can customize their open-source software which can lead to new and exclusive features.
3DR is expansion ready, as it has an expansion bay that can house various things in the future, like a parachute for safe landings. 3DR also works on its own positioning system for indoor flying that will be based on optical flow sensors and it is supposed to be more superior to the sonar technology DJI is implementing on their Phantom models.