On Monday, 3D Robotics officially announced Solo, the latest and most sophisticated drone designed specifically to be flown with a GoPro camera. With up to 25 minutes of flight time and a range of up to half a mile, Solo is a tremendous first step in realizing the true potential of UAVs as autonomous flying computers.
“We set out a year ago with the promise of not just creating the best drone, but the best overall aerial filmmaking experience imaginable. While this meant giving Solo smooth and powerful flight dynamics, it also demanded we make a smarter drone, one that could abstract users from flying so they can focus on getting great video,” Colin Guinn, Chief Revenue Officer of 3DR, said in the press release.
Both the aircraft itself and its controller are equipped with 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9-powered Linux computers. The onboard computer does the heavy lifting, exclusively focusing on executing the rudiments of stable and reliable flight, while the controller’s computer handles the higher-level processing; dramatically reduces the likelihood of autopilot system failure during flight.
By giving Solo such a powerful ‘brain,’ 3DR has built a drone that pushes the limits of UAV technologies capabilities and leaves the door open for future developments to be provided both by 3DR itself and its customers.
3DR worked directly with GoPro to develop a brand new ‘smart’ gimbal (sold separately, $399) that gives users complete control over their GoPro camera while the Solo is in flight. Users can start and stop recording video while in flight, snap photos, change FOV, FPS and exposure compensation and much more—through Solo’s mobile app (for iOS and Android devices), or dedicated with buttons on the controller.
The controller also has a built-in HDMI port, making live broadcast to nearly any type of screen as simple as connecting an HDMI cable
Solo’s 3-axis Gimbal stabilizes the camera to within 0.1 degrees of pointing accuracy while also charging the GoPro so the camera’s battery doesn’t die during flight.
Of course, while pilot precision and real-time monitoring during flight is important, the true value of UAV technology is its autonomy. That is why the Solo app also allows users to set up computer assisted Smart Shots. You can either set up the exact movement of the drone and camera angles in real-time and let Solo capture your shot for you, or you can set up an autonomous flight path and control the GoPro as Solo flies itself.
This level of autonomy also means users can set a virtual ‘safety net’ which limits how high the Solo will fly.
Additionally, Solo introduces a new emergency airbrake feature which stops the drone in its tracks if users get stuck.
On top of these safety features, Solo also comes equipped with an all-new Smart Battery which not only monitors Solo’s remaining battery charge but also helps to account for location, so the mobile app can give you relevant warnings about when to start heading home based on Solo’s distance from you.
3DR has always been of the opinion that its users are what makes their products great. Their team has always been very open with their development tools (as demonstrated by the recent launch of their drone app development platform, DroneKit) and wants to continue that tradition by making Solo “future-proof.”
To accommodate future technologies and expansion options, 3DR included a gimbal bay, an accessory bay and easy-to-swap motor pods with integrated speed controllers.
The gimbal bay enables other companies to make specific plug-and-play gimbals or imaging devices, providing these devices with the HD feed to Solo’s mobile app, full camera control and even access to Solo’s computing power. The accessory bay has similar functionality but is designed for accessories other than gimbal and imaging devices, such as an optical flow indoor flight stabilizer, ballistic parachute system, LED lighting system and many more. Finally, the swappable motor pods allow you to easily switch out motors in the field if necessary, and they also leave open the possibility for integrating upgraded propulsion systems for Solo in the future.
On the software side, 3DR is debuting the “Made for Solo” program, aimed at enabling small companies with great ideas to work directly with 3DR and its manufacturing partners on developing and launching new accessories for Solo. The program will make it easy for anyone to create new technology for Solo and make it easy for these companies to get their technology onto store shelves—and into your Solo.
Solo will be available for $999 in over 2,000 retail locations worldwide starting on May 29th in the U.S., and in June and July globally. In the U.S., Solo will launch at Best Buy, B&H, Samy’s Camera, Sport Chalet and many other premiere camera and electronics retailers. Throughout June and July, Solo will become available in 3DR-authorized premium retailers around the world, including Boulanger in France, Best Buy and London Drugs in Canada, Currys and Wex Camera in the U.K., Harvey Norman in Australia and Virgin Megastore and Dubai Duty Free in the U.A.E. Preorders for Solo will begin immediately.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com