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3D Robotics' Solo drone is about to get a lot more useful

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When 3D Robotics announced its Solo quadcopter, one of the more intriguing features was an accessory bay. Instead of opening up the Solo and wiring in, or screwing on an accessory (as is common with hobby drones -- including the ubiquitous Phantom 2), you would simply "plug and play." Until now, that's all we really knew, but today the company is announcing "Made for Solo" -- a program that will standardize, and encourage the development of third-party accessories for the self-proclaimed "smart drone." If you make infrared cameras, for example, you could make a version just for Solo and have it work seamlessly with the drone's GPS and smart flight modes. Basically, any gadget, sensor or product that could squeeze into, and be lifted by, a quadcopter could be integrated into the Solo as if it were native to the product.

By turning the Solo into a platform that hardware makers can build for, it's not hard to imagine a new wave of specific peripherals that might not have been viable before. 3D Robotics says that it's already been working with select partners, including Epson and Kodak. Epson is making tools that will provide Augmented Reality flying to work with its Moverio AR Glasses; Kodak is integrating its PIXPRO SP360 camera for aerial VR video. Anyone joining the program will get access to 3DR's open hardware bay, but also official 3DR endorsement of compatibility -- a la "Made for iPhone" -- and, curiously, the Solo warranty.

For businesses and researchers the benefits are practical -- concentrate on what you're good at, let 3D Robotics handle the drone part. In many ways, Made for Solo is a hardware version of 3D Robotic's DroneKit tools for app developers. For consumers, it's potentially more exciting. You can start off with a drone that flies with a camera, but over time, add functionality with more accessories -- perhaps a carry cradle, quick release mechanism, ground avoidance sensors, or even artistic tools.

Anyone interested in applying to join the program can sign up here. Accessories for Solo will be showcased here once available.

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