3D Robotics bets big on its new Solo drone

The great drone debate

Drones may still be a niche market, but 3D Robotics is betting that won't be the case for long.

The company has spent the last year and a half and about $10 million developing its latest drone, called Solo, which 3DR is calling the smartest consumer drone ever.

Powered by two computers, the new drone features new technology that is aimed at making anyone a pro at capturing aerial footage, said CEO Chris Anderson.

The Solo can basically be likened to the Instagram of drones. Just like the photo-sharing app uses filters to make it easy for everyone's photos to look good, Solo's improvements in autopilot not only make it easy to fly, but the software enables the device to take only shots that a Hollywood director would approve of, Anderson said.

"We like to joke that we just turned Steven Spielberg into software," said Chris Anderson, 3D Robotics CEO. (Tweet This)

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The company partnered with GoPro to make it possible to have full access to controls on the camera while flying the drone, Anderson said.

"Hollywood knows what a great shot looks like. There are rules. Motion, lighting, paths that look good to the eye and that is almost impossible for mere mortals to be able to do manually. These things are really hard to control, so we just turned that into software," he said.

This shot library software really comes in handy when a user wants the drone to shoot footage autonomously.

For example, if a user wanted to film himself or herself playing a soccer game. The drone can track the user's location via their smartphone's GPS and autonomously shoot footage of the user playing the game.

While other drones can also use GPS to fly autonomously between a set of preprogrammed points, the Solo's autopilot is different because a user can select a set of good shots, and then Solo does the work from there. The shots are essentially rules so that the drone will follow the person around and only shoot them from the selected angles.

"Our thing has always been autonomy," Anderson said. "Drones have brains, they are smart. You don't have to fly drones, they can fly themselves. Initially, we used them to make shooting easier, but now we have moved beyond that and can actually let them do the flying and just focus on the shot."

Once finished shooting, the user can also share the footage to social sites straight from the drone.

The Solo, which the company hopes will appeal to both drone enthusiasts and amateurs alike, costs $1,000 (for the drone only) and will become available May 29.

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Consumers are expected to spend about $103 million on drones in 2015, up from $69 million in 2014, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

While 3D Robotics pioneered the consumer drones, the company now has plenty of competition in the space.

Last week, DJI—one of 3D Robotics biggest competitors—revealed its own new drone, called the Phantom 3, and late last year Parrot, one of the biggest consumer drone companies in the world, showcased its newest, more affordable Bebop drone.