Will there ever be a solo alternative?

This outsourcing scene is really cool and I spent thousands of hours coding algorithms with drone-kit andSITL simulation. I also bought 3 3DR solos that did not work consistently due to hardware issues. Lets face it: with no real company to back it up the solo is dead.

As I have reached the point where my software is ready for prime time I am wondering if there will ever be any dependable hardware platform that I can run it on and fly it on. The specs for a platform like this are very clear:

A Solo that works and costs under $1000 without the need of building it from scratch and that can be controlled by the drone-kit SDK. I am not a hardware person and I find it a waste of time to fiddle with screws and loose parts. I am a software developer that has a wealth of algorithms written with drone-kit that want to fly.

Any ideas?


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why not platform agnostic on a companion computer so it can work on anything
solo IMX6 is moving onto bigger birds since the code was opened.
the only thing they have not released is the gimbal code.

What hardware issues ? Things have changed a bit recently and the old 3DR hardware issues are not issues any more.You’ll still have to change the motor bearings occasionally but that’s the same with any copter ever built.

Have a look at Open Solo or the Green Cube for turning yours into working copters.You’ll still have to do a bit of manual work though I’m afraid.

Of course you could simply pay me a load of money to build a copter from scratch that can fly your software.I don’t come cheap. :grin:

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Platform agnostic is the way to go. Absolutely. But I would like to try it out on some cheap and robust platforms. The 3DR solo was a great concept but it is dead to people who do not want to hack hardware.

I can list several:

  • Factory reset button does not work.
  • No connectivity to the control due to loose components.

Every one of the machines I bought had issues. 3DR have no support and I dont have time to deal with hardware issues. I build software.

Also, since I want to fly a swarm of 20 of these - I dont have enough money for a custom job. So - looking for a robust - ready to fly - Dronekit compatible drone that I can fly en masse. That is the vision

Fair enough.3DR screwed up big time and the Solo has been saved by the community.It’s now a very able futureprofed machine after upgrades.But if that’s not your thing it’s not your thing.

I don’t know of any other commercially available copter with Solo’s specs (ie the open source co-computer).

I’m a spanner man and if I needed software I’d come see someone like you.An expert in software.Perhaps you could find a spanner man nearby ?

There are a few of us tinkerers transplanting the iMX6 from a Solo into different frames so a fleet of Pixhawk controlled copters could be converted up for your purposes but I think you’re going to be struggling for a while to find a retail, sorted, open source replacement for the Solo.

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Have you looked at the Intel RTF drone? It looks very nice, and comes with a far more powerful OBC than the solo.
In general I agree, there’s a terrible lack of multicopter hardware to run ardupilot/px4 and is pushing this project more and more into niche territory.
I have one of these which is quite nice - for it’s size has lots of real estate to put things on:
You could use something like a pixracer and the upcoming up core OBC, would fit well.
I know this will probably be too DIY for you, but:

The least diy at the moment would be either the emlid edge (https://emlid.com/edge/) or dronee pilot (https://dron.ee/pages/pilot), both of which are flight controllers with a pi3 compute module (implementation is different for each). Then you just need 20 quads. What country are you in?

Split time between US and Israel

Very Useful. I may just find someone to assemble one of these.

Or Parrott Bepop 2, which has a Linux fc.
Not sure about dronekit. I’ve never used busybox so have no idea. It might ‘just work’. It might be a complete mess.

If you’re referring to the dev frame, ping Cody (@cglusky) who designed it, he’ll be able to help you out.

What sort of things is your system doing? Depends how much computing power you need, if a raspberry will cut the mustard. But if you’re planning on making 20 of them and needing spares and support, why not post something on the forum asking if anyone can do that you for you as a job lot/contract? If you’re talking about 20, then you can probably start to get quantity discounts on the components and a decent builder will put them all together identically with probably as good if not better QA and reliability than the solo, and with the major advantage that you have a future hardware platform with availability of spares etc.

Thanks for the heads up @fnoop.

@breich just let me know if you want some help. The dev frame needs a bit more flight time but it’s usable as it is for 2kg or less. A bigger one is coming.

How dependable it would be does have a lot to do with the components selected and how they are integrated. I think I can build a 500 class dev frame that would be similar in specs to iris/solo for around 1000, but don’t forget things like radios, batteries and chargers. Your bigger challenge may be sustaining that many drones. My current clients have the same issue with just one or two. They will break; small stuff that flies tends to break a bit more than other devices. I am happy to support and maintain but you have to figure in the cost of non warranty repair and down-time. The biggest mistake I made with my early customers was not being very clear about:

  1. Training; even fully autonomous systems require some aeronautical knowledge
  2. Maintenance; even if you don’t break any you should have scheduled maintenance

Both of those are made worse with marketing hype from the industry itself. A video with trained monkeys comes to mind. Easy to use is a relative term that marketing types don’t often spend much time defining in context.

Anyway, let me know if I can help out. Even if it’s just to help put together a bill of materials here on the forum. The dev frame is all Open Source in an effort to give something back to this community, and help localize some of the hardware being used. I think it’s important for sustainability; not just the tree hugging kind but also from a business perspective. Unless you are near the US Midwest (my location), you may likely be best off, assuming you grow to a fleet of ~20, if you have someone local to you that can handle at least #2 above. A talented high school kid can handle it with the right training and support. Your local hobby shop and/or flying club could also provide some insight into who is doing what in your local area. That should help your down-times be shorter so you can focus more on flying the software than cussing at the hardware.


what about the Skyviper 2450GPS? $150


It runs arducopter and is cheap

I got one of the first consumer available ones and it had some small issues and the video is useless, but they are very involved with firmware/software upgrades and support.

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This is exactly what I am look for! Looks like the right one for experimentation with swarming.

Great stuff if it works but I will sure try!

Here is a post from the solex facebook page regarding it. https://www.facebook.com/groups/176789056089526/permalink/353010875134009/

There is quite a bit of info available online and I think it is like $135 at target right now.

Matt Morton is in that group and works for the company making it, he is very helpful and active online. I think Phillip Rowse previously of 3dr and the one that developed the green cube also had his hands in it.

Cool. I will certainly buy one and If I could put a companion computer on it it would be great. I am not optimistic about that though. So will probably learn how much I can control it from GCS.

Hey Ben, It’s been a month and I just wanted to see where you were with things. Did you get a V2450GPS yet to tinker with?

I’m wondering if the SkyViper will take standard ArduCopter. Right now they are still forked off 3.2. But I know it was indicated that they want to merge back their improvements to the master.