3DR Solo Drone Review: Best drone for GoPro? [2021]

Flying a drone is no easy task especially if you’re flying in an area with hazards.

Most of these units come at a steep price and crashing one can result in a significant loss of money.

However, with the introduction of the 3DR Solo, that is no longer a worry.

The 3DR Solo Drone is a feature-packed and easy to fly unit.

This autopilot camera drone can be used by pros and amateurs alike.

It uses an advanced set of programming services like SDKs and APIs that can be tweaked to suit personal preferences.

This also means that you can upgrade to the newer software as it’s released instead of swapping out the hardware every year as you’d have to with others in its class.

It is said to be the best drone for GoPro cameras and offers automated camera shots.

We’ll take a look at all this more in this 3DR Solo drone review.

Drone

Features

Price

3DR Solo Quadcopter (No Gimbal)
  • Flight time: 20-25 minutes
  • Range: half a mile
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds

3DR Solo Drone Review In-Depth

3DR Solo Quadcopter (No Gimbal)
  • Flight time: 20-25 minutes
  • Range: half a mile
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds

The 3DR Solo is the go-to choice for any commercial drone operator who is interested in customizing his or her unit.

Although this unit does not provide super-long distance coverage, the Solo’s open-source SDKs and APIs is the number one reason aerial photographers and filmmakers love it.

That is because most drones on the market today limit camera control or the built-in camera is good enough.

Design

One look at the Solo drone may leave you unimpressed due to its simple design.

It looks like an angular lump of black plastic with a large battery attached to the top of its body.

This drone is pretty heavy with a battery, gimbal, and camera.

Fully assembled, it weighs 3.35 pounds and is just under 19 inches.

Due to its size, this drone needs to be registered with the FAA.

The FAA criteria for drones states that any unit over 0.5 pounds must be registered before use.

Powering on the 3DR Solo drone showcases a different side with bright multicolor LEDs under each motor.

These display the status and can be seen in daylight and is extremely bright at night.

The red light lets you know where the front of the drone is while the blue lets you know the back when the unit is in Flight Mode.

There is an accessory connector on the underside of the drone with some smaller LEDs that show the status of the device as it is starting up.

Currently, there are no devices that can use the connector port but 3DR is hoping to change this soon with the made for Solo program.

These lights can be used to diagnose a problem since they blink while starting up and connecting.

If there is an issue the rate at which the lights blink can alert you and let you know something is amiss.

3DR Solo camera options

As previously mentioned the 3DR Solo is designed to work with a GoPro camera.

That being said, not just any model of GoPro will work with this drone for GoPro

The 3DR Solo camera options are the Hero3+ Black and Hero4 Silver or Black.

You may use the Hero 3 Black but you may be limited to the number of actions that can be performed and functions on the controller.

Using a GoPro 4 Hero Black allows you to shoot 4k videos at 60 frames per second.

The GoPro 4 also gives users control to manipulate the resolution and frame rate of the video from the app.

Solo Gimbal & GoPro controls

The Solo Gimbal sold separately or in a bundle is the shining star that gives you extensive control over the GoPro Camera via the Solo App.

The Gimbal allows you to pan, tilt, and rotate the camera as well as snap photos, adjusts exposure and tweak setting while in flight.

It can also be used to mount the GoPro instead of using the standard camera holder and provides  3-axes of stabilization

A cable runs from the drone to the Gimbal which allows you to control the camera and the Gimbal itself.

Whether you use the standard or the Gimbal mount, you will have to plug an HDMI cable into the camera so that you can see a live preview on the App.

Using the standard mount for the camera features rubber grommets that cushion the GoPro while it is in the air.

However, some vibrations can lead to a fuzzy video.

On the other side of things, the Gimbal mount stops vibrations thanks to various rubber isolators.

This will result in cleaner, sharper videos even if the drone is not having the smoothest flight.

The Gimbal provides a secure and stable hold for the GoPro and allows it to be moved independently.

The Gimbal can be controlled via the remote control.

The buttons can be preprogrammed to change the camera to specific angles with just a single touch.

Solo Controller

Like its design, the 3DR Solo quadcopter controller is nothing much to look at

It features matte black plastic and a glossy plastic top.

The controller comes with 8 buttons and dials with 2 control sticks and an OLED display.

The OLED display showcases the status of the drone and not the live video when the drone is in flight.

The OLED displays give you information like battery life, flight mode and the GPS satellites it can see, and a whole host of other things.

The controller features two ridges at the back which allows it to sit well in your hand and give you a good grip.

When gripping the controller, thumbs will fall naturally onto the control sticks and the index fingers can reach the shoulder controls for the Gimbal.

Tilt the camera up or down manually with the left control or activate the automatic pan and tilt controls with the right control.

To preview live-videos, you need a smartphone with the 3DR Solo App for Android or iOS.

For your convenience, the controller comes with a smartphone holder for your smartphone.

The holder can be adjusted to accommodate devices of varying sizes but nothing larger than devices with a 5-inch screen.

The App provides some information like altitude, heading, signal strength and also allows you to control the camera.

Advanced camera automation

Equipped with Smart Shots. an advanced camera control software, the 3DR Solo comes with automated cinematography options.

Smart Shots as the name suggests goes beyond anything you have ever imagined.

With Solo 2.0, Smart Shots is now able to support Free Look.

Free Look allows full control of the camera’s pan and tilt settings.

With the ability to control pan and tilt, the Solo drone will follow the subject along the designated flight path, automatically.

Other awesome features of Smart Shots include Cable Cam, Pano, Rewind, Orbit, Selfie and Follow.

Cable Cam allows you to take amazing flyby shots with the drone while Pano captures stunning aerial panoramic snaps while in flight.

Rewind retakes an image by backing up to 60 ft and Orbit lets the drone circle an object and is great for wrap-around shots.

Selfie puts you front and center of a scenic aerial pull-out and Follow sees the Solo following you from a set distance and leaves your hands free.

Solo 3DR panoramic views

Pixhawk Autopilot system

The 3DR Solo is easy to fly and can automatically take off and land.

This unit comes with an autopilot system that is one of the best in the market.

The Pixhawk Autopilot system comes with a wide range of flight controls.

Power on your drone and let it sit for a little while.

This process allows the drone to acquire a GPS signal.

After that, press the fly button which starts the motors.

Pressing the fly button once more will allow the unit to take off and hover 4 feet off the ground.

Be careful at this point because the controller sticks are very resp[onsive and any small movements or changes will register and may move the drone.

You have an extensive range of flight modes when using the Solo drone which allows you to do several complicated actions automatically.

See the advanced camera automation section in this article to get an idea of these modes.

Flying the 3DR Solo quadcopter is like having a co-pilot.

Your co-pilot focuses on the fine details to ensure you get exactly what you want while you simply focus on the live- video preview.

Unfortunately, this drone does not come with object avoidance technology so if you set it on an automatic path, watch out for trees, etc.

Instead, it has a Pause button on the controller.

Hitting the Pause button will stop the drone while in any of the many flight modes and hover in place.

Some of the more advanced flying modes are great for acrobatic use.

These include the Fly: Manual, Stabilize, Drift. Acro and Sport.

With the Fly: Manual Mode, you have full control over the device.

You can manually manipulate the flight pattern and there is no correction to the wind or altitude.

Similarly, stabilize mode works in the same way except for the fact that it will try to hover in place if you release the control sticks.

If you’ve ever flown an RC plane, then you’ll have an idea what the Drift mode is all about.

Acro is the most fun mode since this removes all limits and lets your unit perform tricks like roll and flip over etc.

Sports mode on the other hand is very much like Acro but will override your controls if it is near the ground.

Before using these advanced flying modes, make sure you are an expert flier.

If not, you may crash and have to spend a good amount on repairs or may have to replace the entire unit.

The Solo 3DR also allows for autonomous flying with most of the processing power built into the drone itself.

This is unlike other models that may have it on the controller or phone.

 Custom Geofencing

Geofencing is a location-based service that allows you to trace geographical boundaries to keep your device in a safe zone.

With the use of an app, you can choose the selected area that you need to survey on a map.

The app will then create a flight plan, send the information to the drone, and send it on its way.

In some advanced cases, users write their app thanks to 3DR comprehensive software development kit(SDK).

The kit is called the Dronekit and is one of the best you can find today that gives you access like no other.

solo drone with geofencing feature

Repairability and warranty

The Solo drone does not come cheap so of course, those that are interested in making a purchase will want to know how repairable this unit is.

There is no need to worry as it is a very repairable unit that comes with a 1-year warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

All the parts are being sold by 3DR and include rotor blades to legs to a kit inclusive of legs and frame.

Not only are the parts readily available they are also affordable and easy to install.

The rotors are color-coded so you can never mix them up and they easily screw into place.

Other parts are attached by a few screws that need to be undone and simply popped out and insert the new part and screw in place.

The frame may be the hardest part to replace but with a little patience and care, you should be able to get it done.

Do some research on the internet if you’re unable or not confident enough to perform this replacement.

Battery Life

The Solo is powered by a rather large 5,200mAh Lithium battery that is attached to the top of the drone.

This allows the drone to fly for a total of 22 minutes which is fairly acceptable for a drone of this type.

The battery does take a long time to charge, possibly around 70 minutes and you can only charge one battery at a time.

If you’re thinking about buying an extra battery, know that you will have to shell out a few extra bucks and there are no third-party batteries available.

3DR Solo Quadcopter (No Gimbal)
  • Solo’s video game-style controller will feel familiar the second you pick it up, even if you’ve...
  • In case you missed it in the picture…that’s a high-quality HDMI port directly from the...
  • Full-featured app for iOS and Android puts total craft control at your fingertips.

Pros: Solo drones

  • Automated camera shots
  • 3DR Solo Gimbal gives you full control of the GoPro in flight.
  • Geofencing
  • Easy-to-use remote controller
  • Pixhawk autopilot system
  • Wireless software updates
  • open-source SDKs and APIs

Cons: Solo drone

  • Gimbal sold separately
  • Cannot charge multiple batteries at a time
  • Extra batteries come at a high cost with no third-party alternatives

3DR Solo Quadcopter: Final Thoughts  

Coming in at what can be considered a fairly cheap drone with all of its advanced features, the 3DR Solo quadcopter is a must grab.

Although you need to purchase a GoPro and the Gimbal separately, the quality of the videos and photographs are stunning.

Other areas that the Solo 3DR shines over its less expensive competitors are the controller and app.

The unit is easier to fly with its very responsive remote, advanced flight modes, and its open-source programming options.

Read on on for the best drone for gopro in this post.

Another reasonably priced drone is the Cheerson CX-20.

You can read more about this drone in the Cheerson CX-20 review.

For other options, read the best drones, the best cheap drones or the best drone for the money posts.

Drone

Features

Price

3DR Solo Quadcopter (No Gimbal)
  • Flight time: 20-25 minutes
  • Range: half a mile
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds

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