Does anyone have any idea if you will be able to use the 3DR Solo for mapping/survey applications like the X8-M? I know they both use the Pixhawk. Is this just a matter of connecting it to a 3DR radio and sending it waypoints through APM Planner or is there a firmware/software limitation?

Thanks in advance for the help!

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Hey Burke I'm on the fence w/ solo. Atm I use an Iris with Canon s100 and have lots of research gathered for QX1. I already use QX1 for commercial photography applications on the ground.

My issue with Solo is i dont understand the value of a closed proprietary system. As a business owner I also know I dont want to waste anymore time research and troubleshooting how to integrate smart cameras like QX1 with old systems.

What's your anticipated workflow like for image processing? What benefits are you gaining with w/ solo and 2 axis gimbal? It just sounds like too much DIY for a state of the art system. thx

Oscar: Have you looked at the Escadrone system with the QX1. What's your opinion?


I don't understand the comment about Solo being closed? If you look up info on the available breakout board and compatibility with mission planner and custom firmware, dronekit etc.. it is anything but closed.

I am not sure I understand why you would use a Solo for mapping. I hate to say it, but you can use a Phantom 3 more effectively than a Solo. (no fisheye). You can probably map in the same way with an Inspire and an X5 -- a little expensive though. The apps are absurdly easy to use.

If I was going to use a Pixhawk (which I do) I would use an x8 frame with a gimbaled or hard mounted Nex camera and add a RTK GPS from Drotech or Reach. 

For me, the only down side of Solo is flight time, which wraps into size. But it's size keeps it under 2kg which fits into better regulations for Canada.

Benefits of using the Solo for mapping are integrated companion computer, FPV, easily expandable platform, less connection points of failure compared to DIY and the fact that I can go to 1 of 3 electronics providers and grab another one for a reasonable price.

I have built DIY quads for years and there always seems to be something that is not quite the way you'd like it and requires hours of tinkering, testing connections etc...

Plus when applying for SFOC it is easier to give exact manufacturer specifications to transport Canada.


Afterthought, you were probably referring to the Solo App. Which I don't use much.

It's horses for courses.  You can't expect every drone to do everything.  If you want to do precision mapping and Ag then you will need a precision drone of some sort, the question is how much precision do you want?  If you want to do large areas, then you need fixed wing and lots of pixels so that you can fly higher and cover the area. We have fixed wing and multirotors with big cameras and we ping ground control points with RTK GPS and get good results. But for fast and dirty, we have the "Chaos". It's a small drone (see photo) fitted with a Sony action cam with built in GPS. It runs an 8000mah 4s battery and gets 35 minutes in the air and tops out at 1.9999999999999999999999kgs :).

With a 12 megapixel camera taking photos every second, it does a reasonable job of mapping. Pix4D loves the GPS tagged photos and there is no problem with the wide angle lens (See attached) . They stitch nicely and get good 3D results. For farmers looking at drainage and dams, it does a great job. It also does a good job with stockpiles.

My point is that depending on the job, you may not need phenomenal precision and a small drone will do.



You can most certainly use the 3DR Solo for aerial mapping. Here are 14 examples I've done over the last couple of months with a Solo and GoPro Hero 4 Black : Example Solo Maps . The main limitation is flight time which sets an upper limit of around 70 acres per battery at 200' .  For small area surveys it works wonderfully.  

About the image maps - They are orthomosaics, so terrain distortion is taken out of the image. At the edges far outside the flight lines they can get a little rough. Usually I'd clip this off but in some cases I've left it. Turn on the  flight line and image points if they are available for a particular location to see the collection geometry.  Some also have hill shades generated from the digital surface model created as part of the orthomosaic process as well. Use the bookmarks to jump between image maps. They were created in Drone2Map Beta (disclosure: I work for esri) but any photogrammetric image matching software should work as long as it has a camera model for the GoPro.  

The Solo is pretty much the exact opposite of a closed proprietary system. 

The GoPro fisheye lens on the solo is not really an issue for aerial mapping since most photogrammetric image matching applications use a GoPro camera model that takes the distortion out. 

Peter can u detail what route you went? I need to do some more mapping soon and am considering an additional SOLO, but maybe might go with a fixed wing.

Peter M said:

Thanks Ebriri!

I've actually have gone a completely different route. I quickly realized that the Solo does not offer a commercially viable solution for commercial mapping for several reasons including: no redundancy (systems/propulsion), the GoPro with a fisheye lens has too much peripheral distortion to be able to accurately map, the wind tolerances are too low to be able to have a reliable operational window, etc... 

It is unfortunate that 3DR set aside their commercial division to pursue a consumer focus. IMHO, providing an SDK to allow people to adapt a consumer product for commercial use has no long term viability in my mind.

Since I'm trying to build a legitimate business (safe, legal, and insured) I can't rely on a consumer toy to stand up to commercial demands. (The same reason why you won't find a Black & Decker anything in a professional carpenter's toolbox.) I think 3DR made a big mistake putting all of their eggs in one basket and going after the DJI Phantom market. But I guess time will tell.

Sorry for the rant. I appreciate you taking the time to reply to my post.

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