An Experience with the 3DRobotics (3DR) Solo Drone
I’ve attended various photography expos over the past few years, and one thing for sure is that drones are becoming a big thing. There were no drones on display just a few years ago at PhotoPlus Expo, but this year I counted at least four different companies demonstrating their drones.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I’m apprehensive as each iteration I see makes significant improvements that quickly antiquates the last version.[/pullquote]
One of the companies to have made a big splash this past year is the 3DR Solo drone. I want to start by saying I’ve never flown any drone and do not currently own a drown. It’s something I’d love to get, but not something I’ve really ‘needed’ to get. I’m apprehensive as each iteration I see makes significant improvements that quickly antiquates the last version. While you could easily say the same thing about cameras, the leaps are not nearly as significant. You can find some absolutely amazing photographs that were taken with five years ago with a Canon 5D Mark II, or even a ten years ago with a 10D. Drone footage from a Phantom 1 with a GoPro 2 is not even in the same league as footage shot with a GoPro Hero 4 on a 3-axis motorized gimbal mounted to a Phantom 3.
With that said, I’ve done a ton of reading on the DJI Phantom series over the last few iterations, and was happy to see the 3DR Solo released with some fantastic software features to give DJI a run for their money. Features such as automating moves, like a cable pull, a 360 degree pan around a subject and more – all automated through their software.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I was excited to see the drone in action, but the demonstrator was having trouble getting the drone to connect to his ipad. [/pullquote]
I was excited to see the drone in action, but the demonstrator was having trouble getting the drone to connect to his iPad. I waited, waited, and waited some more. It was finally time to switch out the sample drone once they couldn’t get it to connect, and I overheard a rep asking if he could use a different drone on display, in which someone responded “that one hasn’t been flown yet…”. It was a bit alarming that the confidence didn’t exist by the company to fly a ‘new’ out of the box drone. I’m not expert and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that there perhaps exists some setup and calibrating not quickly done prior to the first flight.
The next red flag was the response to a very simple question, the Phantom 3, with a gimbal and camera runs about $1300, while the 3DS Solo runs $1500 without a camera. Add a GoPro and now your up to $1800 or more. That is a significant price increase that starts to push into the realm of the DJI Inspire One, their higher end drone that has produced some absolutely stunning footage (apx. $3000). I asked “as a newbie to drones, why should I spend the extra money for the Solo over a Phantom 3?”. The response wasn’t as strong or structured as I expected from a company with such fantastic marketing. I was told the improved software allows for many different moves – but a simple app update could add (and certainly will in the near future) these features to a DJI setup.
There were a few others ‘pros’:
- A one-year warranty, including ‘fly-away’ coverage. The rep claimed should the ‘black box’ in the Solo prove the drone lost a connection and subsequently flew off and crashes, they will replace the drone and the GoPro.
- The Solo is designed much more modular than the Phantom. Each iteration of the Phantom antiquates the prior verison. The Solo can easily be adapted to a new camera, or a new gimbal.
- The modular design allows for add-on’s. The claimed they already have larger propellers in the works to support a payload weight increase, a lighting system will be available to add-on, and they plan to release new gimbals to support other cameras other than GoPro’s.
These are all some benefits, but nearly the entire list is conceptual at the moment, as none of these add-on’s actually exist at the moment. While it sounds great in theory, I think it’s worth waiting to see how it plays out.
Depsite the lackluster demonstration, I think the features are worth waiting out a bit longer on a purchase decision, as many have complained of non-existent support from DJI, while 3DS prided themselves on their support structure.
I guess it will be a wait and see!
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