DJI, the company behind most of the remote controlled quad copters that I fly, has just announced the Inspire 1, an elegant copter that combines the best of high end and affordability.
The first thing that catches the eye is the look of this quadcopter – a completely new design that looks nothing like the Phantom or the S-900 series. It definitely looks like something Skynet would unleash. The menacing look may be a deterrent to those that like to take a pop shot or two at unmanned vehicles , but under the hood there are some very familiar features.
The Inspire 1 has landing gear that moves up and out of the way, giving users the ability to capture 360-degree images on the new 4K, gimbal stabilized, camera. This is very similar to what we have seen on the S-1000 line of copters, and it works really well. I didn’t realize how useful the spread wing design would be until I flew a couple of times with the S-900 system.
At first, the 4K camera looks fantastic, but one only has to see what DJI did with the Phantom Vision 2+ to know that while the camera is small, and produces some stunning images, the transfer of the media, and charging the system is somewhat of a disappointment. With the new GoPro Hero 4 now on the market, I expect the Inspire 2 will give users the ability to swap out different cameras. Don’t get me wrong, I think any 4K camera is fantastic, and if your internet speeds are fast enough, watching the 4K sample video is mind blowing.
The other feature I really like is the dual controls system, allowing two people to control the camera for dynamic shots. One person acts as the pilot, guiding and navigating the Inspire 1, as the second operator controls the camera to get just the camera in the best position to capture the action. When flying the S-900 I’ve really appreciated the ability to just focus on flying, while the camera operator runs the camera. From what I can see in the information released from DJI, when two operators on using the camera, the pilot gets a GPS view of the landscape and can navigate from a map. Again, this looks to be borrowing heavily from DJI’s Ground Station technology, which I simply love. There’s nothing like programming in your flight plan, pushing a button and having the Phantom take off and fly. I don’t know if this is exactly what we’ll see in the Inspire 1, but if it is even close, it makes owning and flying this copter worth it.
Additionally, new GPS functionality allows the Home Point to be updated regularly while flying. This is useful for those who shoot from boats or moving cars as the Inspire 1 can move to the new location for landing and doesn’t require a lot of doubling back for those on the ground. Even the one button take off and landing feature is a blessing for those who hate that portion of flying.
The Inspire 1 looks great, the video is stunning, and it combines the best of the professional and consumer worlds, so why am i not plunking down my credit card and shouting “Take my money!”? I currently have two DJI Phantoms, and eight GoPro cameras that have really eaten into my available funds over the last couple of months, and the $3,339 price tag has my jaw on the floor. It feels like the price should be about half the MSRP, but if you are someone who hasn’t purchased a quadcopter and the $10,000 cost of a S-900 is too much for you, then the Inspire 1 should be on your list of new technologies to check out.
As of this writing the Inspire 1 is on pre-order and will deliver in early December.