Like many people I bought into the excitement with Solo based on marketing 3DR successfully pulled off dubbing Solo the first smart drone ever. This is based on 3DR Solo‘s patented Smart Shots that take the skill out of getting the perfect aerial shot, and was marketed to enable you to allow the drone to either control the camera while you fly the drone, or have Solo control the drone while you control the camera, conducting a two person task but requiring only one person to operate the drone, hence the name Solo. Though automated modes (like orbit, follow, and cable cam) are pretty standard now with most all drones available after 2015.
Let’s talk flight times. Users were promised 20 minutes on a fully charged battery and when I first purchased my 3DR Solo I was getting around 17-18 minutes without a gimbal. 8 months later and I’m only around 11-12 minutes (without a gimbal) and light use.
What’s the range? 3DR Solo is the worst drone among its competitors in regards to range. Without upgrading to better aftermarket antennas your looking at around 300-500 yards before Solo hits Return To Home mode (known as RTH), results improve if your in a rural area with virtually no wifi interference. If your in a really congested area like NYC, it could be substantially less. Some say you want to always maintain eye contact while flying but depending on the situation for the shot you need, this is a major problem because that range is also the same for altitude but less. You also have to consider limitations when flying a programmed mission.
Upon Solo’s debut 3DR was scrutinized for pushing to release Solo in June 2015 despite complications with their camera gimbal that caused Solo users to wait months before it became readily available sometime in late August 2015, and still had serious bugs to be worked out. Even now users still casually report complications with Solo’s gimbal.The major issue with the gimbal is that it produces a large amount of vibration and jello in your footage which is mostly due to the bad factory assembly of the gimbal’s HDMI cable, which once in flight, picks up a ton of vibration that’s seen in your recorded video footage. The only solution to this problem is to purchase an after market HDMI flat ribbon cable which is thin enough to pick up much less vibration and shake.3DR Solo also has an issue that requires it to take a much longer time than any of its competitor’s drones to get a satellite lock, and once again the only solution is to upgrade the satellite chip yourself. Also if you want to fix the range issue internally, you would have to upgrade the wifi card in both your Solo and the controller. Which brings me to my next point, unless you plan to modify/customize Solo to make it better, don’t bother buying it. If your intimidated about taking things apart and putting them back together, I do not recommend buying 3DR Solo.
Speaking of 3DR Solo’s value, when I bought my Solo, I paid $1000 without the gimbal, and the gimbal sold for another $400. I wanted to shoot in 4k so I payed another $500 for my GoPro 4 Black and another $80 for a high bit rate 64GB SDChip. This doesn’t include the price of upgrades, so you see I spent over $2000 for my Solo. Then 5 months after I purchased it, for $1000 you get the Solo and gimbal, now you could get it just for around $500 as 3DR is no longer making consumer drones,you talk about a punch in the face. Also Solo’s resale value is really poor. Word has gotten around about the out of the box Solo performance and gimbal poor gimbal quality, and of course that means trying to sell Solo isn’t an easy thing. I see guys online place their Solo’s for sale and wait months with no buyer. Just go on Ebay and search used 3DR Solo and watch an item til it sells.