The 3D Robotics Solo (with gimbal) is a GoPro-powered drone geared toward video capture, with a number of automated camera moves available. That’s good news for filmmakers. But disappointing battery life and weak GPS stabilization prevent us from giving it a stronger recommendation.
Depending on the configuration you buy and where you purchase the Solo from, you may have to install the 3DR Solo gimbal yourself. It’s an easy job that can be done with a Phillips-head screwdriver. You’ll need to remove the plastic GoPro mount and connect power and HDMI cables to the gimbal before seating it in place and securing it via three screws.
Once the gimbal is installed, it is quite simple to lock the GoPro into place. It slides in with ease, with its rear data connection port locking into the gimbal. A flap on the side connects to the GoPro’s micro HDMI port in order to stream video to the Solo app. To remove the GoPro, simply disconnect the HDMI flap and pull back on the green tab to eject the camera. You don’t have to fiddle with thumb screws or thread cables through the gimbal as you do with the Blade Chroma.
3D Robotics provided a Solo kit for review that includes the 3DR Backpack for Solo. It’s a modestly priced carrying case with a molded insert that can hold the Solo with a battery installed, six additional flight batteries, the remote, two sets of propellers, and the battery charger. The backpack itself is made from high-quality materials, and features an all-weather design to keep the Solo protected in rain or snow. A fully loaded backpack can be heavy, but I found it comfortable to carry thanks to wide, adjustable straps and ergonomic padding.
The remote control is also black, with dual antennae and a clip that can hold a smartphone, phablet, or small tablet. It has an integrated LCD that shows status, prompts you to set gimbal sweep settings, and displays error messages—it’ll let you know if there’s magnetic interference or if the Solo is having an issue getting a GPS lock. There is a micro HDMI video output for pilots who prefer to fly with FPV goggles.
The remote includes the left and right control sticks that you see on every quadcopter remote—the left stick adjusts altitude and yaw, while the right moves the aircraft forward, backward, left, and right. They sit astride the integrated LCD, giving the controller a slightly wider design than most others. A series of backlit buttons run in a row below the sticks and LCD. A and B sit below the left stick. They’re customizable, but by default initiate the Cable Cam and Orbit functions. The Power and Fly buttons are centered beneath the LCD, and the Home and Pause buttons rest below the right stick. Pause is used to stop the drone in its tracks.
Controls also sit at each top shoulder. A rocker paddle is located at the left; it tilts the gimbal up and down. Two buttons (1 and 2) and a control wheel are at the right. A long press of each button allows you to lock in a gimbal tilt angle. A short press of either button will move the gimbal to that angle. The wheel is used to adjust how fast the gimbal moves—it can move from 0 to 90 degrees in just three seconds if desired, or as long as 90 seconds if you want a very slow camera move. The preset angles, as well as the time required to sweep from one to the other, are shown on the controller’s LCD.