Blurring the line between a consumer drone and a model for the enthusiast, you will find the 3DR Solo Quadcopter. While there are several great choices currently on the market that offer ready to go products, this leaves little room for improving software or hardware down the track.
That is where the Solo comes in. It is available in a drone-only pack for those that want to customize it from the start. You can also purchase a complete kit that includes everything to get started immediately if you’d prefer.
In our in-depth 3DR Solo Quadcopter review, we take a closer look to see how well this product performs and if it can truly satisfy all users. So, let’s get straight to it…
- 1 Design
- 2 The Controller
- 3 Specifications
- 4 Flying
- 5 This drone means business…
- 6 Photos and Video
- 7 Pros and Cons Of 3DR Solo Quadcopter
- 8 Looking For Even More Information?
- 9 3DR Solo Quadcopter Review – Final Thoughts
Compared to many other drones, the Solo looks very simple with a minimalist design. Using an all matte black design made entirely from plastic provides a perfect blank canvas for creative types to add their flare.
Sitting on the top is a large 5.200mAh battery with the power button located right next to it. It isn’t until you start looking a lot closer, though, that you begin to notice the finishes. As you pay attention to each individual area, the attention to detail starts becoming obvious.
Size and weight
Measured diagonally from one tip of the propeller arm to the other, the drone spans 19 inches (48 centimeters). That is a decent, hefty size, which makes it easier to keep track of during your flights.
With the battery, gimbal, and camera attached, the drone weighs 3.35 pounds (1.52 kilos). Because that is well over the 0.5 pounds (0.23 kilo) weight limit, it will need to be registered with the FAA. However, it is always advisable to check your local rules and regulations before using any drone.
Once everything is ready, and you power up the Solo, some bright LED lights greet you under each motor. These can easily be seen during the daytime to aid in quickly confirming which direction you’re flying with, red at the front and blue at the rear.
Next to the accessory connector, underneath, are some much smaller LEDs that indicate the drone’s status. Diagnosis of any errors can be made by comparing with the blinking pattern of the lights.
Photos and videos are supplied using a GoPro camera, which you will need to purchase separately. If you decide on the drone-only package, a simple frame holds the camera in place.
If you go with the bundle, it includes a 3-axis active gimbal that can tilt, pan, and rotate the camera. A cable connects to the drone allowing you to control both the gimbal and camera via your smartphone app.
Following the same minimalistic design of the drone is the included controller. It is essentially a square lump of matte black plastic. Once again, though, the finish and build quality are beyond expectations, and it’s very well crafted.
There are eight buttons and dials, as well as the two control sticks. Most of the buttons are located under the sticks, apart from two shoulder buttons. We will cover the functions offered a little bit later.
Full of information
Between the sticks, in the middle, is a small OLED information display. This gives you important information relating to drone status. It provides a bright, clear picture that can easily be seen during the day.
Once you start becoming more familiar with flying a drone, you quickly realize how vital this information is. Details include a battery life indicator, the number of connected GPS satellites, and flight modes.
How does it feel?
3DR has created a controller that feels nice in the hand, with two molds at the back supplying extra grip. The sticks are comfortable and give you a confident feeling of being able to send accurate and precise instructions to your drone. And each of the buttons can be easily reached while still keeping your thumbs on the sticks.
Using your index fingers to control the shoulder buttons would feel very comfortable and familiar to anyone that has used a video game controller.
As the name Quadcopter suggests, this drone uses four replaceable two blade rotors. Each is 10 inches (25 centimeters) in diameter. The battery has a 5200mHa capacity. It is lithium-ion, removable, and rechargeable.
As mentioned for the camera, a GoPro is required to be purchased separately. It currently supports GoPro 3+ and up. Control is via a combination of the included remote and a smartphone with the app installed.
To reiterate, the drone is required to be registered with the FAA due to its size and weight. The size is 18 x 18 x 10 inches (46 x 46 x 25 centimeters), and it weighs 3.35 pounds (1.52 kilos).
Even for inexperienced pilots, using the 3DR Solo is easy thanks to automated takeoff and landing. Pressing the fly button will initially start the motors. Pressing it again will make the drone take off and hover about four feet (1.2 meters) above the ground.
You can, of course, still perform all of this manually if you wish using the sticks. We prefer using the automated mode, as it allows us to perform a type of “pre-flight check” before flying off into the wild yonder.
There are four camera modes to choose from. Cable Cam creates a virtual flight path between user-defined points. Orbit Mode circles around an object while keeping the camera pointed directly in the center.
Follow Mode will have the drone follow the controller, keeping the camera focused on it, capturing wherever you move. The final mode is called Selfie. This will have the drone back away from the subject, revealing a broader and broader shot.
Advanced flight modes
Five different flight modes are available to test your skills. These include Manual, Stabilize, Drift, Acro, and Sport. Manual gives you full control, with no wind or altitude correction. Stabilize is similar, but when you let go of the sticks, the drone will hover on the spot.
Drift makes the drone fly like an RC plane, which is good fun. Acro removes orientation limits so you can perform flips and rolls. Sport is similar to Acro but takes over control if you happen to get too close to the ground.
This drone means business…
Because most of the processing power that allows autonomous flying is built into the drone itself, this creates more opportunities. If you download the Tower App, which is currently only available for Android, sorry iOS users, you can take full advantage.
Using Tower, you can select an area on the map that you would like to survey. A flight plan is automatically created, this information is fed to the drone, and off it goes. This is perfect for professionals who wish to create 3D models, monitor construction, or survey an area.
3DR also offers an incredibly comprehensive software development kit. They named it DroneKit, and it gives users the opportunity to write their own app. Users even receive access to customize the drone’s inner workings.
Having this type of tool available gives unlimited potential for anyone willing to invest some time and creativity. DJI does offer a similar program; however, it is heavily restricted and doesn’t provide the same openness 3DR offers.
Photos and Video
There is no camera included with the Solo, and you are required to connect your own GoPro in order to take pictures and record video. The performance will, of course, therefore depend on which GoPro you use in combination with the drone.
Using the GoPro 3 will only let you start and pause recording. That means you will need your settings dialed in before takeoff. If you use a GoPro 4, though, then you can control all of the settings via the drone, like changing resolutions and frame rates.
Pros and Cons Of 3DR Solo Quadcopter
- Beautiful build quality and finish.
- Flexible customization options.
- Easy to use automated flight modes.
- Professional automated modes.
- Superior Tower App.
- Solid, responsive controller.
- Really useful functions.
- Open-source app creation possible.
- Full internal drone control possible.
- Some understanding of drones required.
- Slight drifting when hovering.
- Shorter battery life than competitors.
- GPS can be spotty sometimes.
Looking For Even More Information?
If you’d like to check out the competition in a comprehensive brand comparison review, please take a look at Best Camera Drones Reviews. Or, if you’re already sold on this model and need help selecting the right GoPro camera for your needs, head straight to our Best GoPro Camera Reviews!
And, if you’re a surveying professional, you might also want to browse our Best Inspection Cameras Reivew, our Best Wi Fi Endoscope Review, our Best Portable Photo Printers Reviews, our Best Laser Measuring Tools Review, or the Best Tripod you can buy in 2021?
Serious DIY drone construction enthusiasts may also want to check out our reviews of the Best 3D Printers Under 500 Review currently on the market.
Ok, back to the 3DR Solo…
3DR Solo Quadcopter Review – Final Thoughts
While the price does appear much cheaper, you need to take into account there is no camera included. You will still need to purchase a GoPro if you don’t already own one. Add that on to the price, and it brings it in line with, say, a DJI Phantom 3.
If you are the type of person that enjoys the flexibility to customize both hardware and software, it’s a no-brainer. Rather than building your own drone from scratch, you can take advantage of 3DR’s superior build quality.
This drone offers excellent value, with plenty of potential for the right users.
Enjoy your flights!