If you haven’t been floored yet by the aerial cinematography coming out of drone craft, just spend a few minutes googling. The kind of sweeping establishing shots of cities, buildings and naturescapes we’re seeing were seemingly just yesterday the exclusive domain of large expensive cranes, city permits and police-enforced street closures.
There are a lot of drones out there, so which one should you buy? Filmtools has spent a while studying the market and is now stocking the 3DR Solo Quadcopter. Why this particular drone? First of all, it’s been developed in consultation with the good people at GoPro to work with the HERO3+ or HERO4. This means you’re not limited to the proprietary camera that ships with other drones; instead you have access to the tried-and-tested, best-in-class GoPro family.
Second is the feature-to-price factor. The Solo includes world-class features–GPS navigation, return-to-home mode, video game-style controller and companion iPhone app–at a price point that typically only offers the bare necessities.
Thirdly: Autonomous flying. If you’re new to flying drones, the more automation and “smarts” in the drone the better. The Solo has two on-board computers, so it has the equivalent of autopilot built in. What this means is that you can press a single button to get the thing in the air, it can track a subject automatically using its Follow Me mode, and if it gets too far out of range it’ll use its GPS signal to find its way back to you.
Fourthly, it’ll stream Live HD from the GoPro to an iPad or Android tablet. So if you “got the shot”, you’ll know right there and then that you got the shot.
And then there’s the future roadmap. We’ve seen enough in this business to take the concept of “future-proof” with a grain of salt, but 3D Robotics has outlined a roadmap for the Solo so that in the near future you’ll be able to upgrade the craft with LiDAR for indoor navigation, a ballistic parachute and flight rewind.
A word of advice: don’t skimp on the gimbal. For flexibility and upgradeability the Solo Quadcopter and its gimbal are purchased as separate items. But trust us: you’ll want, nay, you’ll need the gimbal. Not because the Solo is lacking in its flight performance, but because it’s windy out there folks. With the gimbal you’ll get amazingly smooth footage even when the turbulence is kicking into gear.