The introduction of drones has shed new light on aerial photography and videography. However, it becomes rather difficult to control the drone and the camera at the same time, unless you have a lot of prior experience. This is when the 3DR Solo drone sweeps in and takes the cake. It is a very simple drone, easy to use and comes with a number of exciting features and controls. All of these factors make the Solo drone a very interesting buy.
This $800 drone has indeed reached out to a lot of people and received positive responses from first-time flyers as well as the experienced professionals. It can provide you with really cinematic and crisp shots from mid-air, fulfilling your desires for aerial photography.
The drone is simple to use as soon as you receive it: connect the batteries, set up the controller, get started with the mobile application on your smartphone and you are set! Also, the controls are quite intuitive which makes your work a lot easier.
- Solo’s video game-style controller will feel familiar the second you pick it up, even if you’ve never flown a drone. Pushbutton commands put both camera and copter at your fingertips.
- Take off, land or instantly pause your flight midair with a single touch.
- Click to start and stop recording or snap a photo, even adjust camera angle while you fly.
- In case you missed it in the picture… that’s a high-quality HDMI port directly from the controller so you can connect Solo to any screen.
The 3DR Solo is known as the world’s first smart drone and this is due to the autonomous flight modes which offer an enriching experience during flight for both beginners and professionals. Coming to the design, this drone is strong and sturdy. On the other side, the software is upgradable so you have access to constant improvement. But let’s not spoil the fun of reading our review!
The world’s first smart drone, weighs 11.7 pounds and measures 16.4×16.5×9.2 inches. The packaging is standard and contains the following components:
- The quadcopter
- Camera gimbal for stable shots
- Self-tightening propellers in the dimensions of 10 inches x 4.5 inches.
- Remote controller
- 5200 mAh Li-Po Solo battery
- Rechargeable controller battery of capacity 2600 mAh
- Backpack for carrying the drone around
That’s what you get on unboxing the package and exploring the contents.
Design and durability
The drone has been specially designed for capturing the best in aerial photography and videography. To do so, it works with two 1 GHz computers that give the drone its status of a smart drone. This includes a number of world-class technologies that can lead up to high-performance flights and several safety measures to keep you free from worries.
In terms of design, the drone is quite simple and promotes a clean body. Every component is made from durable materials in order to keep the drone’s integrity safe during rough flights. The propellers, made from reinforced nylon materials, are 10×4.5 inches in size and are self-tightening for a smoother, safer flight.
That’s why they are so effective and offer a strong takeoff. The arms are among strongest ones you will find in the market and, in order to offer protection for hard landings, they are rather rigid. The whole product is very lightweight making it easy to fly and maneuver around in the sky.
Talking about durability, the drone has received fairly positive responses from the users. Even in a face-to-face confrontation with another object (tree, bushes, poles, etc.) the device seemed to be able to survive quite well. In one situation, the drone had an encounter with a pretty strong deciduous tree, but apart from the propellers, it sustained no other damage.
It is thus evident of how tough this medium-sized drone is. This is especially useful for beginners who are learning the art of flying and are prone to make a few crashes here and there.
Even though the 3DR Solo drone is known as a smart drone capable of capturing aerial shots, it does not come with a built-in camera. Instead, it comes with a GoPro frame. This is the first of its kind illustrating the drone’s compatibility with GoPro devices.
You can attach a GoPro camera to the frame to get the perfect quadcopter for aerial photography. The device is expected to give you the best performance in terms of stability and it does provide admirably. Since the flights are so smooth and free of disturbances, the pictures are usually crisp and noise-free.
Besides, there are a number of features and controls associated with the device like Orbit and Cable Cam that work towards giving you a better experience at aerial photography.
Battery and flight time
As mentioned before, a lithium ion battery of 5200 mAh is included in the package. According to the manufacturers, this battery can keep the drone-powered for a good 25 minutes. In reality, if you use your GoPro with the quadcopter, you are likely to get a flight time of 20 minutes but without the camera, on a very gentle ride across the skies, the drone can run for 22-23 minutes.
For a more agile flight with challenging weather conditions, the drone gives a flight time ranging between 15 to 18 minutes.
Now, the battery takes about 1 hour 35 minutes to get fully charged so it is advisable to keep a spare if you don’t want to interrupt your flight sessions. With such interesting numbers for flight times, 3DR Solo drone is one of the best in this regard.
The controller is one of the key attractions for the 3DR Solo drone as it is very different from the conventional ones. It is not just a remote control with an array of buttons and knobs. Instead, the controller has been kept to the bare essentials. It is very similar to a video game controller with simple functions so if it is the first time you are flying a drone, you will get a sense of familiarity.
Let us see what the controller actually is made up of
- Two joysticks that tend to alter the roll, pitch, yaw, and acceleration.
- A Fly button that makes way for automated take-off and landing features.
- A Return to Home button that brings your drone back to its starting point.
- A small screen for displaying the battery and other data
- A knob that allows you to control the camera depending on the appropriate angles.
- A couple of buttons to activate some of the special features of the drone (which we will discuss shortly)
- A pause button
Unfortunately, the controller does not have a display to track the drone. This has to be done from the mobile application that is compatible with the drone and most of the other features are also placed in the mobile app. There are good and bad sides to this.
For the good, the controller interface is kept uncluttered and easier to handle. On the bad side, you can fly the device only if you are well connected with the phone and it is fully charged.
The 3DR Solo drone has been designed in such a way that even the amateurs can fly the device easily without much hassle. The copter has straightforward piloting that makes it more convenient for users.
Now, let us look at some numbers.
Firstly, the maximum altitude reached by the drone. If you set the controls for the altitude to ‘no limit’, the drone can reach a up to 800 or 900 feet. This is pretty impressive for this drone. Usually, it works fine until the 600 feet mark beyond which it might lose connections with the controller.
Thereafter, it will keep descending till the connection is reestablished and it will get back on track. This will give you an idea of the flight altitude:
Next, we come to the maximum speed test for the drone. If you provide the device with a clear and open space, with fewer buildings and less crowd, the Solo drone can live up to its promised 55 mph mark. Here is a speed test:
Lastly, we have already discussed the flight time. For a flight with the camera, it can go well for around 20 minutes. On the other hand, without a camera, the drone can run smoothly for about 22-23 minutes.
Value for money and guarantee
3DR offers a warranty for the product that states that if the drone falters within one year of the purchase due to defective parts or improper workmanship, the company will take up the responsibility to get it repaired at no additional cost.
But this warranty is valid only for purchases from the authorized resellers of 3DR. However, if the drone fails to work because of abnormal usage, damage from the use of external software and the likes, the company will not take the responsibility.
The drone offers the functions and controls given by some of the most high-end products. It does not come with a camera, but it will give you a very stable flight with very easy controller operations. There are a number of other features that will interest the flying enthusiasts. In short, the drone gives you great value for money for drones in the price range of less than $8000.
There are a number of special features and controls offered by the 3DR Solo drone. For instance, you can do quite a few experiments with the camera of the device. Let us have a look.
If there is some iconic monument you want to shoot with your GoPro on the drone, you can set up a circular path for the device with an adjustable radius to get a 360-degree You can alter the flight speed and altitude to obtain an optimum performance. This will give you a clearer idea:
This feature allows you to have the drone follow you at all times. For instance, if you on a drive in the car, this setting will make the drone follow you, wherever you go.
Have a watch here:
This feature gives you the chance to control the camera angle while the drone is held still. The device seems to be stuck up on a virtual cable with a wide view. Now, you can change the camera angle, without having to worry about piloting the drone. This gives you even better experiences at aerial photography.
Have a look:
A selfie is a rather popular term now. If you want to capture such a selfie amidst beautiful scenery with the camera at a certain elevated height, you could do so with this feature. This will perfectly incorporate into the frame the people and the background together. Below is a sneak peek into the selfie mode.
Similar models or main competitors
DJI Phantom 4
One of the closest competitors for the 3DR Solo drone is the DJI Phantom 4. This is undoubtedly one of the best in the market that comes with a camera. Even though it is priced at a much higher value, the Solo drone provides durability and flight times that can match up to this device. This product provides very stable flights that lead to clear and crisp pictures.
This super smart drone can touch flight times reaching 28 minutes and that is pretty impressive. Also, with the different speed modes, the drone can fly at speeds over 40 mph, yet, giving uncluttered videos. However, this drone is mainly suited for professionals and experienced hobbyists who have the basic knowledge of flying a quad copter and aerial photography. For a better insight on what this model offers, we suggest checking out our DJI Phantom 4 in-depth review.
DJI Phantom 3
Another product similar to the 3DR Solo drone comes from the house of DJI. Once again, the prime difference between this drone and the Solo drone is the presence of a camera. The Phantom 3 has proven to be a rather useful product in its genre.
This drone has incorporated a few extra sensors that give you the chance to have a stable and precise flight. If you connect your phone or tablet to the controller, you can get a live HD view of what the drone camera witnesses. Besides, for first-time flyers, this drone has added a few extra features and safety measures that you could make use of.
The flight time of 23 minutes is very similar to the Solo drone we have been discussing. For an unobstructed environment, the device can work well for ranges going as high as 3 kilometers. With its capability to carry heavy weights during its flight, the drone proves to be a very useful product.
Watch this to learn more:
If you want to get more familiar with this model, you can also take a look at our Phantom 3 series review, or, you can read our Phantom 3 vs 3DR Solo comparison article for a better insight on the differences between these two drone models.
Parrot Bepop 2
On a similar note, the Parrot Bepop 2 is another impressive drone similar to the 3DR Solo drone. It comes packed with a battery of 2700 mAh that can easily give you flight times close to 20 minutes or more on one full charge of the battery.
The motors for this drone are extremely powerful and strong and thus, you can fly this device at high altitudes with ease. This lightweight drone packs the combination of aerodynamics, durability, and style. This allows you more freedom to take this drone out for a spin, even in slightly disturbed environmental conditions.
This drone can be flown both indoors and outdoors. Operating the drone is easy and with the intuitive mobile application, there is very little left for you to do. The Parrot Bepop 2 also has special LED lights on its sides that make night time travels a lot easier and convenient.
Let’s take a look at some advantages and disadvantages of this amazing drone.
- The drone gives us amazing flight times for its size.
- The Solo copter will lead to very stable flights.
- According to the users, the device has proven to be very durable sustaining no injuries with a few crashes.
- The video game style controller makes operations rather simple for the drone.
- A number of additional features make your aerial photography experience a memorable one.
- The drone comes with no camera and is thus an additional expenditure.
- The controller has no display to track the drone and a smartphone always has to be party to the flights.
In general, the pros outweigh the cons for this drone. If you are looking for a power-packed drone that can give you long flight times, reliability and a long shelf life, this is the ideal product for you. This is everybody-drone.
The beginners can try this and get their hands set and the pros can perform experiments with it. Priced at under $1000, this is indeed a great buy!