Flying Solo: 3D Robotics Releases Open Platform Drone

Consumer-level drone technology just took another big step forward. 3D Robotics recently announced an addition to the market: the 3DR Solo. Developed through a partnership with GoPro, this little guy will give users the ability to attach GoPro cameras to their drones, allowing for incredible aerial videography. The drone will cost $1,000, and the GoPro Gimbal (the attachment that holds and moves the camera) will be another $400. Of course, the Solo is by no means the first drone with the capability to carry a camera, so what’s special about it?

First, the Solo comes equipped with two computers: one on-board the drone itself and another in the controller. The drone is able to detect and fix the camera on an object, follow preprogrammed flight paths, and perform maneuvers that would be near-impossible for a human operator.

Additionally, long-distance broadband capabilities means you can control the camera and receive a live HD video from this thing up to half a mile away, well beyond GoPro’s typical Wi-Fi reception range. Another feature of this connection is that the Solo can keep flight records, and if there are any problems, detailed error reports will help 3DR fix the problem – including repairing or replacing anything that gets damaged because of a system error.

The powers of Solo’s twin computers aren’t even the most exciting part, though. 3D Robotics is going to sell their drone as an open platform – both the hardware and the software. This means anyone is allowed to design and develop new parts or program new features for the drone, tweaking the device for new purposes or situations. Basically, potential uses for this thing are left to the minds of developers everywhere. Cnet quoted Chris Anderson, the CEO of 3DR, who put it this way: “This is like the PC or the early days of the App Store. Who knows what these things will some day become. What we want to do is create a system by which other people can reimagine the future of the drone and then act on them simply.”

Considering it from that perspective, it’s crazy to imagine where this could go – just take a look at the huge number of iPhone apps available these days. None of those existed just a few years ago (as this AlwaysCurrent editor remembers well). What will an open platform drone look like in just a few years? A decade? We can’t wait to find out.

Author: Tim Larsen

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