3dr Solo Review from a Long Time DIYer

I've been a long time DIY Droner right back to the APM 1, mainly on fixed wing platforms but more recently quad-copters.

There is surprisingly little info and discussion on DIY Drones about the 3dr Solo, despite the fact that it is ripe for hacking and modding.

The Solo launched with quite a few issues and the actual release was less than stellar so many of the initial reviews out there are somewhat patchy. Most of the reviews are also from people with no experience of DIY droning so there is very little evaluation of its modding potential.

I wanted to take the time for myself to evaluate the Solo trying to look at it from a consumer point of view but also keeping an eye on how good it will be for modding and hacking.

I plan on doing a series of further videos to explore how far you can go with the Solo to spec it up and improve it from stock with as little money as possible.

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Comment by Steve Foster on October 12, 2015 at 6:57pm

Just my opinion, but I don't like the idea of being locked into a prioritized system, that nothing else will work with. I know they claim the transmitter has it's own computer, well most all new transmitters are computers, but few if any will work with the Solo, at least the way it comes. And if you have to rebuild it, to make it the way you want it, why not just build from scratch? I own three Iris+ drones, and fly two of them with my Taranis transmitter. The third one is still sealed in it's box from Amazon $569 http://www.amazon.com/3DRobotics-3DR0171-3DR-IRIS-Quadcopter/dp/B00...

I don't think you could give me a Solo, let alone sell me one for all the $$$ they want. I realize 3DR was trying to get on the "take it out of the box and go filming" thing, but not much now-a-days is as simple as it may seem. They probably have acquired more unsatisfied customers, than satisfied. Perhaps too much too soon. JMO

Comment by Kelly Schrock on October 12, 2015 at 7:50pm

I don't know... I have an Iris+ and a Solo, and I like them both a lot.

The Solo's "proprietary" in that it's currently 3DR-only, but beyond that, it's just a couple of Linux boxes talking to each other over extended wi-fi. I'm still getting familiar with it (and fighting to find time to get more familiar with it), but it's ripe for hacking. I have a web service running on mine, for example. While it's turned on and flying, I can browse to it from any device on the Solo's wi-fi network and tell it to do stuff. All I need to do is write the appropriate end points on the web service and process requests. I can write an Android app that talks to the Solo via the network connection (like the Solo app does), and do pretty much whatever I want. I'm a software guy, so to me it seems more "open" than the Iris is.

Comment by David on October 12, 2015 at 9:25pm

Very nice review! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. 


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on October 12, 2015 at 9:48pm

Great review, Toby. Fair and enlightening. 

For those who want to hack Solo, it's all the SDK is all open and ready to go. Much more powerful than Iris and much easier to use. Run code on the autopilot, the onboard Linux processor, the mobile app or the cloud -- or all of them together!

Comment by Keith Geary on October 13, 2015 at 2:40am

Hi All, I'm totally behind SOLO, after operating fixed winged planes of all types, Y6 multirotors and small quads, SOLO is the way foreward. It's solid and can be set up and packed away in 5 minutes. I have a project to supply farmers with their own drones, I've fitted a Canon ELPH 115 in place of the GoPro using a 3D printed mount with four rubber anti-vibration mounts from IMP Concepts, set CHDK to trigger every two seconds, plan and execute the mission using Tower and then GeoTag the images using Agribotix's Field Extractor tool. I run a free Atomic Clock App to sync the images with GPS time. Using this set up I now equal the imagery I got at the begining of this year using a SkyWalker plane, but de-skilled the whole process! TF Map with Solo TF Map with SW2013

I found the mid camera mount caused compass calibration issues, so I fly with the front mount in place of the GoPro mount.

This mission was flown at 100m AGL, with 60% sidelap, it took just over 16 minutes, I took off with 95% battery power and landed with 8%, with the alarm sounding, which is another plus point about SOLO, it has many fail safe features built in, so a new user could fly a mapping mission within a few hours of receiving their aircraft.

To Chris and all the guys at 3DR, keep up the good work and if you need some help developing an Ag version of SOLO, let me know.

Best Regards,

Keith,


T3
Comment by Stephen Zidek on October 13, 2015 at 6:12am

Keith,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but does the Solo offer any advantages over the Iris+ for pure mapping missions?  I was under the impression that the Solo's higher pricetag came from its "smart" features, like its communication with GoPro cameras, and cinematic features like cable cam.  If CHDK is triggering the camera every 2 seconds, wouldn't any old vehicle with waypoint following and GPS logging do?


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on October 13, 2015 at 7:30am

Stephen, the main advantage of Solo for mapping is that imagery can be sent directly to the app in real time, and thus to the cloud. So it gives you a live view of the map creation and confirmation that it's what you want. We're also going to be releasing an app that sends that automatically to cloud stitching services, so the 2D and 3D maps or models are done within minutes of landing, with no need to remove a SD card. 

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on October 13, 2015 at 7:33am

Stephen, I think there is some merit to the Solo airframe over the Iris+.  The Solo is more stable in pitch, due to it's square motor dimensions. Also, the frame is much stiffer than the Iris, which benefits vibration reduction on the camera. The quick change battery is also pretty nice for continued operation throughout the day.


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on October 13, 2015 at 7:33am

Keith: great mod! Would love to see your setup with dynamic camera control. We've got an app coming for you ;-)

Comment by Steve Foster on October 13, 2015 at 7:45am

Not to rain on anybody's parade, but there is another example of proprietary. Battery, expensive and can't be used on anything else. Probably great for someone that has not already spent a ton of money on lipo's and a good "smart" charger.

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