Skip to main content

3D Robotics’ new Solo drone can fly itself while you control the camera

Drones have made aerial photography and videography more accessible than ever before, but getting pro-level shots is still fairly tricky. Unless you’ve had years of practice, it’s pretty difficult to fly a drone and control a camera at the same time.

But not to worry — Berkeley, California-based 3D Robotics has just pulled the curtain back on a new drone that helps solve this problem. Designed specifically for shooting aerial video, the company’s new Solo drone can autonomously fly itself along a predetermined flightpath, allowing you to focus on panning, tilting and zooming the camera to grab the perfect shot.

3DR’s accompanying control app gives Solo a range of different flight options you won’t find in other consumer drones. Cable Cam mode, for example, allows you to choose two different points for the drone to fly between, like it’s zipping down an invisible cable. Along the way, you have full manual control over where the camera is pointing. There’s also Orbit Mode, which tells the drone to fly in a wide circle around the point of your choosing.

3DR Solo - The Smart Drone

Here’s the kicker: Despite being equipped with all these nifty video-focused features, Solo doesn’t come with a dedicated onboard camera. You’ll have to bring your own GoPro to the party, which is a bummer if you don’t already own one, since the latest models run between $130 and $500.

Fortunately, 3DR collaborated with GoPro to create its control app, so the Solo has direct access to the camera’s settings. Instead of taking off and recording a few minutes at one setting, the app allows you to stop and start recording when you want, switch from video to photo, change the video mode, or basically anything else you’d be able to do on the ground.

And it gets even better than that. The Solo’s remote control has an HDMI output, so you can stream live footage to a monitor, or hook it up to VR goggles for first-person view. With 180 millisecond video latency, you’ll be able to see what the camera sees in in near real time.

3DR also designed the drone to be completely customizable. Possible add-ons include indoor-flying prop guards, infrared sensors, and even a ballistic parachute for when things go horribly wrong. Similarly, you’re not tied to 3DR’s stock camera gimbal (it’s swappable too),  the battery bay is designed to accommodate bigger cells if you need them, and the motor pods are replaceable with just four screws.

Solo is set to hit stores (both physical and online) starting in May, and will go for $999 for just the drone, and $1,399 with the camera gimbal.

Editors' Recommendations

Drew Prindle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
The best 3D printers under $500
3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500
anycubic photon review 3d printer xxl 2

The 3D printing market has seen quite a few changes over the last few years. In just the span of a decade, the barrier to entry has dropped from well over several thousand dollars to under $200 in some cases. However, all entry and mid-level printers are not made equal. We have a few suggestions for prospective buyers and other information regarding alternatives not found on this list.

To some veterans of the 3D printing scene, this list may seem like it lacks a few of the most commonly recommended printers for newcomers. This is by design. Our list only considers printers with tested components from proven, reliable vendors. That's why we chose the Monoprice MP Mini v2 as our top pick--it's reliable and easy to use. We have avoided any printer with a frame primarily made from interlocking acrylic pieces and anything historically unreliable.
Most bang for your buck: Monoprice MP Mini v2

Read more
Ceramic ink could let doctors 3D print bones directly into a patient’s body
ceramic ink 3d printed bones bioprinting australia 2

Scientists use a novel ink to 3D print ‘bone’ with living cells

The term 3D bioprinting refers to the use of 3D printing technology to fabricate biomedical parts that, eventually, could be used to create replacement organs or other body parts as required. While we’re not at that point just yet, a number of big advances have been made toward this dream over the past couple of decades.

Read more
The future of making stuff: Inside the evolution of 3D printing with Formlabs
future of 3d printing formlabs ces 2021 castablewax40

When 3D printing went mainstream in the mid-2010s and exploded in popularity, it was about as hyped up as it possibly could be. Evangelists told us it would fundamentally transform the way goods were made, and usher in a bold new era of creative freedom. Soon, they said, we’d be able to fabricate anything we wanted on-demand, Star Trek replicator style, right from the comfort of our own homes.

But of course, 3D printing didn't really live up to that high-flying dream. Instead, it made a momentary splash and then largely returned to the fringes, gaining adoption in hobbyist workshops and cutting-edge product design labs, but not really changing the face of manufacturing in the way many hoped it might.

Read more