First impressions

OK, so I don't really need another quad, but they had them in stock at Best Buy and having a long history with 3DR products, I couldn't resist.


  • Quality: First, and perhaps most importantly from a business standpoint: the build quality is phenomenal. Thinking back to the IRIS launch, this is just leaps and bounds beyond where we were then. I'm happy for 3DR and I think the SOLO will be a nice challenger to that prolific white drone.

  • Unboxing and setup: not bad at all. The instructions are clear, and the setup is pretty easy. I did have some issues on the first firmware update, but I cancelled and tried it again and everything went well. The semi-permanent case/packaging is a nice touch.

  • GoPro integration: hit or miss. I can get the live stream to work roughly 25% of the time. Other times, I get only artifacts or a blank screen. Interestingly, switching modes to Still or even using the OSD usually causes the feed to come back on, but it usually goes away again after switching back to video. Sometimes rebooting the GoPro fixes it, sometimes rebooting the SOLO fixes it, sometimes it takes a couple tries of both to fix it. It seems to me like there's a resolution mismatch in what the SOLO is expecting from the HDMI port and what the camera is sending when in video mode. I couldn't get it to work at all on Android.

  • Solo App: Pretty nice, with one exception: errors tend to repeat themselves (audibly) every second or so: annoying. I noticed this with some of my other drones on Tower, so maybe it's a problem with 3DR services. Not a big deal, I just put the phone on mute.

  • Flight characteristics: well, I really don't know. Despite waiting over 30 minutes for the GPS solution, it never worked. I started at 0 satellites and ended up at 5 after about 15 minutes, then nothing. Tried rebooting after 25 minutes or so, still at 5 satellites, but won't arm. Rebooted again, nothing.  Not content to go home without seeing it in the air, I did end up just saying screw it and flying in stabilize, which was fine with one exception: the spring-loaded throttle is super annoying to fly with in any kind of manual mode. Depending on winds, attitude, payload, etc. your "sweet spot" for maintaining altitude is going to be somewhere other than the center detent, so you're probably going to be applying continuous pressure (usually downwards, which is even more counter-intuitive). I assume alt-hold will be better, but i haven't figured out what mode that is yet (FLY:Manual maybe?).

  • Battery life: Again, can't comment, didn't have it in the air long enough to find out. Seems reasonable though.

Summary: lots of potential. I am well aware I'm an early adopter, but for the average consumer this is going to be a frustrating launch if these little kinks don't get worked out pretty quickly.

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  • Got my Solo last week from Fries, I now have 3 flights under my belt and the ship flew perfectly every time. 

    NO jello in my vids, Sat locks just fine. Everything is A-ok! :)

    Now they just need to get that friggin' gimbal out!!!! 

  • So, figured I'd update this:

    Left it outside for a bit today, and finally got a GPS lock. Put it in the air, and I was very impressed with how stable it is. Well tuned and very intuitive when everything works.

    I was just about to land, then.... boom, full speed into my office building. Also happened to find the only window in a long cinderblock wall, luckily it didn't shatter. So, right into the wall at full speed, then fell about 8 ft right onto a concrete walkway. A million pieces. Great, I'm thinking.

    Know what's crazy? Save for the props, it all snapped RIGHT back together. Barely a scratch. I'm really impressed.

    Having said that, I'd love to know why it crashed. Maybe a GPS issue? I'm used to being able to examine the APM logs myself, but can't find a method to do that on this thing. I think I'm more frustrated about that than the crash itself.

    • Dan, sorry to hear about that. We're you able to download the logs and submit a trouble ticket?
      They just released an update for the Android version of the app today. IOS version is in the pipeline. Hope they can figure out the issue. If it took some time getting a GPS lock, that may be part of it. Good luck,
      Hoping to get mine soon.
    • I did get the logs, I've emailed them three times over the last three days and haven't heard back. Very much unlike them. Trust they will respond soon.

    • Did you get some sort of auto response from them? I'm sure they have been swamped the past few days.
      I would call them up to find out what is going on. Supposedly there is a confirmed GPS bug in which the fix is being beta tested....again, supposedly.
      Hope you hear something soon.

    • Yeah, that's what mine did too. Lots of reports of it. 

      I was pretty disappointed in the 3DR support response: "don't fly near buildings." I've been doing this for years now, there were no signs of any HDOP issues. Pulled the logs off the PH myself and had a number of gyro health warnings. Not saying that's the cause, but certainly more to it.

    • @ Dan

      I am not saying this is what happened to your bird, but you (all) need to understand some things about GPS.  The reason not to fly near buildings is not so much HDOP, but multipath.

      HDOP (horizontal dilution of precision) is a measure of the geometric quality of a GPS satellite configuration in the sky. HDOP is a factor in determining the relative accuracy of a horizontal position. The smaller the DOP number, the better the geometry.

      Multipath results when the direct path to your receiver is blocked (by your body, your house, roof, trees, mountains, buildings, etc) and the signal from the satellite is REFLECTED by some object. The reflecting surface may be: buildings, mountains, the ground, or any object that happens to be a radio reflector at 1.6Ghz. 

      Multipath are radio signals which have traveled FURTHER to get to your receiver than they should have. This can result in your GPS miscalculating its position because the signals may have traveled from feet to miles further to get to you than a direct line of sight signal path would have been.

      Multipath can cause longer term "stable" errors or it can cause your position to wander at varying rates (even thousands of miles per hour if your GPS could follow such speeds). Sometimes GPS wanderings caused by multipath can cause your GPS to "jump" from one position to another as the multipath signal "comes and goes" and causes your GPS to jump from using one group of erroneous signals to another. These "jumps" can add substantial distances to the tracklog measurements in some GPS receivers.

    • Bill, I think that's a very good point and most likely a significant contributing factor.

      I'm not terribly upset as the Solo itself snapped back together for the most part, and my GoPro, while a little worse for the wear, seems to actually be OK. I did examine the dataflash logs, and some of the NTUN messages seem to indicate it was thinking it was somewhere it wasn't.

      Here's the problem: this is getting marketed to consumers as a "go fly right now" type drone. You have to go into the settings menu to even enable the non-GPS modes, and unless you put it Stabilize or similar on one of the shortcut buttons, there is no quick method to switch into it. If this was one of my other UAVs, I would have flicked into STAB immediately and saved it. 

      I guess this is the biggest conundrum consumer drones will face - do we lock them down to only GPS-locked modes and let the user get into trouble, or do we let them use manual modes and still get in trouble?

    • No, which is why I assume somethings up with their system. Sent a message to Vu, hope to hear back once they're in the office.

      I ended up just pulling the logs off the PH myself, looked through and didn't see anything obvious, HDOP and sats stayed stable, but it's pretty clear it wanted to be somewhere else.

      Will update this when I hear back. Thanks

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