From Smartphones to ‘smart drones’, smart seems to be the byword of our generation as evidenced by another innovation in drones from 3D Robotics – the 3DR Solo Drone. While announcing the drone at its launch event in April, the Berkeley, California-based company introduced it as “the world’s first smart drone.” The drone is finally available for sale in the US.
According to its creators, this particular drone that weighs in at 1500gm can not only take-off, taxi and return home automatically with the touch of a single button, it can also carry a GoPro video or action camera (no built-in camera) thus opening immense possibilities for the world of cinema and movie making. Enthusiasts and professional movie makers can also buy an added accessory, the Solo Gimbal, to get three-axis computer control of the action camera through the controller.
The Solo drone can hover with a pause button or fly on pre-programmed, GPS-guided flight paths in a straight line or a circle while using the camera to capture professional-grade aerial footage and shots. People who want to code their own flight paths can create then using the open source DroneKit apps which are supported by Solo. Stability in the air comes from an autopilot integrated into the drone. As Chris Anderson, founder and chief executive officer of 3D Robotics says, “Don’t fly the drone. Fly the camera.”
The drone and the controller are each powered by a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 chip running Linux and both can be updated via a smartphone app. A battery monitor warns the user about the amount of power left in the drone while and SD card captures images or footage. A “follow me” mode means that the drone can track the movement of a specific person, e.g., while film shooting.
An HDMI port on the controller can connect to an HDMI monitor for displaying live video feeds using Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi range of the Solo is good up to half a mile. Users can even set up a geofence to prevent the Solo 3DR from leaving or drifting away.
With this, hopefully moviemakers will find it easier to capture aerial footage with the Solo drone than with an expensive helicopter. In the words of, Anderson “We’ve turned Spielberg into software.”
The Solo has been priced at $999 and is available in the US at Best Buy, Fry’s and other select stores. The device itself will be manufactured in China; according to Anderson, “Manufacturing in China gives us the ability to scale up to meet the needs of the consumer market.”
This however is not the first drone by 3D Robotics; earlier offerings include Iris+ available for $750 on Amazon.