Last week, DJI announced the Phantom 3, the followup to the world’s most popular drone. Monday, competitor 3D Robotics announced the Solo, a powerhouse piece of tech that could give DJI its first ever real competition in the consumer drone space.
“DJI has never had a competitor, and now they do,” Colin Guinn, chief revenue officer of 3D Robotics, told me. “That’ll be interesting for them.”
Before diving into the nuts and bolts of the Solo, it’s important to note that Guinn is kind of at the center of this new rivalry. He was instrumental in the creation of the very first Phantom drone over at DJI and helped lead the company’s North American operation for years. Guinn alleged in a court case that DJI, a Chinese company, tried to dilute his stake in the company (the suit was eventually settled). He left the company, took four DJI employees with him, and now 3D Robotics is releasing the Solo, its first consumer drone under Guinn’s leadership.
I don’t know the specific details of his departure from DJI. I do know that he wants the Solo to be a Phantom killer. The Phantom has become extremely popular because it’s easy to fly, now has some name recognition, and it’s affordable (the Solo and Phantom 3 will both cost roughly $1,000). But Guinn says the brand is vulnerable.
“A big part of the origin of Solo wasn’t, let’s make a cool quadcopter—I developed the Phantom in 2012—it was, let’s pinpoint the pain points of flying a drone and make one that solves all of those problems,” Guinn said. “We just went down the list and quickly realized that we’d need to develop onboard computers to check off the boxes we wanted to check off.”
The Solo is the first commercial drone with two onboard computer processors (they’re identical 1 GHz processors running Linux—one in the controller and one on the drone). The onboard processors allow for more complicated camera maneuvers than have ever been available on a consumer drone. You’ll be able to program the drone to fly between two waypoints, for example, leaving you free to manually control the camera. You’ll also be able to program the gimbal, which aims the camera and holds it steady, to automatically pan at certain points.
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