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Posted by on Aug 20, 2015

Under The Hood – 3DR SOLO – Part 1

Under The Hood – 3DR SOLO – Part 1

Solo_Teardown1Hi and welcome to my very first post as a contributing member of Drone Coalition.  I’m excited to be here and have some great topics lined up for the Fall.  As an Engineer I’m more interested in the engineering behind these machines and the new technologies in development for their advancement.  We are already into the third generation of drones in this rather young industry.  Within this generation the Apps (Android and iOS) are dominating the scene with their advancements in flight operations.  Now more than ever the operator has everything at their fingertips.  Give it time and the term “Pilot” will be replaced with “Operator” or “Programmer”.  The user will program the drone’s mission and it will autonomously complete it.

With that said let’s get right into my first multi-part series on the engineering behind the drones.  Although there are many types all drones, basically all operate under the same principles and mechanics.  What better way to teach this than to actually tear down the most technologically advanced drone currently on the market, the 3DR Solo.  But first my disclaimer.

Disclaimer:  Although not necessary to fly the drone, tearing it apart is to be done at your own risk and will void all manufacturer’s warranties.  There is a chance doing so will permanently damage the drone and it will become an expensive static model only to be displayed in your office.  While offering an amazing learning opportunity, it is not for the faint of heart and the user needs to be aware of the risks.

Good.  With that scary statement out of the way let’s begin our operation.  Recently I was lucky enough to find a Solo by 3D Robotics in my local Best Buy.  With two independent 1Ghz computers in the system, this drone by far has more processing power than what we have seen become available to the consumer.  Although the firmware is still pretty green, anticipation is high for what the future holds for this machine.  3D Robotics is a US drone company founded by Technologist and former Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine, Chris Anderson.  What distinguishes 3D Robotics from other manufacturers is the open source policy that is similar to companies like: The Linux Foundation, Red Hat, and Mozilla.  3D Robotics is also a strong supporter of the DIY (Do It Yourself) Maker movement spreading across the country.  Their drones are meant to be tinkered with, taken apart, and dissected.  Currently there is a whole community of developers writing the code base for this machine.

Unlink most, when I first got my Solo I didn’t fly it.  I decided to see what was under that injection molded shell.  I got out my IFixIt tool kit, took a deep breath, and began my 3DR Solo tear down.