DJI’s latest offering the Inspire 1, and it’s the most advanced ready to fly drone released yet in 2015. The latest mobile photography and video technology is packed into this beautifully designed drone, and it boasts a top speed of 22 meters per second. In this review we’re going to explore the DJI Inspire 1 in-depth and see if it can live up to the hype that has surrounded it during the last few months, while in pre-production. Let’s kick things off with a short promo showcase video from DJI themselves:
The drone and accessories come in a nice sturdy ridged case with a hard texture, with a DJI logo emblazoned on the front. The case itself actually looks quite similar to some premium luggage cases, so you know it’s protected well from damage whilst in transit. It has a very durable metal carrying strap, 4 rubber foot mounts on the bottom, two zippers which run around the full length of the case, and a protected opening in the center which would allow you to padlock the case shut. The case design is great: once opened up, there’s space for all the accessories you would need, has extra room for 6 batteries and 2 sets of propellers and has good cushioned protection in the interior.
What’s inside the caseDJI Inspire 1 Drone (RTF)ControllerGimbal and Camera UnitNeck Strap2 Sets of Propellers4500mAh Intelligent BatteryLiPo charger2 Micro USB Cables16gb Memory CardAdditional Gimbal DampenersManual & Documentation
Lifting the drone out of the box, it’s easy to feel the weight as it clocks in at almost 3kg, but with an integrated 4k camera, I beleive this is the most lightweight solution for the highest quality photography (right out the box). The included propellers are 13 inches, which is a touch larger than their Phantom series models, and they’ve included a second set in the case (8 props in total). The drone itself comes Ready-To-Fly, and the battery included had half a charge in it, so within half an hour of the charging you could be in the air!
The camera and gimbal unit isn’t pre-attached and comes in a small box inside the case. Within the box holds the 4k camera mounted on a 3-axis gimbal (with an adjustable lens), which can shoot up to 30FPS and 12 megapixels, and can output in 4k and Adobe RAW formats. There’s also a ND filter for the camera, a lens cap to protect it from dust, and also a 16gb SD card, so you’re prepared for recording your first flight. One of the publicized features of the camera is that it shoots in straight horizons, as a lot of drones shoot with curved edges to the video which has to get cleaned up in production, but this shoots perfect 4k right out of the box.
The standard issue battery is a 6-cell 4500mAh 22-volt intelligent flight battery (for comparison the old Phantom series has 11-volt batteries), and there’s one in the case, although you can order extra and DJI have an option of ordering an additional upgraded battery of 5700mAh which is 100g heavier. The battery is larger than typically bundled with a drone, but a powerful charger is included in the kit which charged the battery from completely dead to full in just over an hour! Another nice feature of the charging unit is unlike other stock chargers, there’s connectors which allow you to charge the drone and controller battery simultaneously. The intelligent battery features are not included in the charger, but also within the battery itself, so you can monitor cell voltages actually within the smartphone app, and by looking at figures you can judge when’s the best time to swap batteries out and re-charge.
The ports and toggles at the back of the DJI Inspire 1’s controller unit
The controller is very similar to what was included with pre-production models, it comes with the two antennas pre-mounted, and holder clamped on, and it’s extremely easy to adjust to suit to the custom size of tablet or phone model you’ll be using with it. DJI have listened their customers and included an incredibly sturdy harness for the controller, with DJI branding, which fits around you in a similar fashion to a backpack.
There’s a couple of additional dials in top left and top right of controller to control the gimbal, for the pitch and yaw. Buttons to start/stop video, shoot stills & a playback button. And easy access to cycle through camera settings and make changes.
After the props were assembled, batteries charged and everything binded together. We were ready to take it for a test ride in less than half an hour after breaking the seal on the box.
The flagship feature of the Inspire 1 is it’s ability to transform once it’s taken off. As soon as the drone took off, you flick a toggle and the feet can move up into a V-shape (pictured) which allows you complete unrestricted 360 degree access to the gimbal. The benefit of this design is also that it drops the center of gravity which allows far more stability for the drone, and it didn’t go unnoticed!
The Inspire 1’s transformation after takeoff
It didn’t take long before deciding to push the limits, and going full throttle with the drone… And it’s inconceivable how fast this thing moves until you’ve actually flown one yourself! We didn’t measure the 22m/s figure DJI state but it seems to do exactly what it says on the tin! The power of the motors can let it push through some gusty winds, without interfering with the stability of the camera. There’s a stabilization package mounted to the bottom which has ultrasonic and optical sensors, so it can measure the distance to the ground without relying on GPS or barometer signals (as most RTF drones are restricted to), and it intelligently measures which way it’s moving and at what speed. When landing it incorporates the sensors for a gradual land and accommodates speeds for different landing altitudes.
The test flight lasted 16 minutes, just short of the 18 minutes specifications but it was pushing through some moderately heavy winds to keep on course, and the stability of the camera was phenomenal under the conditions and the extremely fast acceleration of the drone.
The controller features a nifty return to home button and some advanced app settings which I won’t go into too much detail about, but for an advanced user, you can adjust a variety of settings including mapping channels and switching modes from within the app itself. A huge plus with this product is has integrated DJI Lightbridge. This is a HD wireless transmission system (which retails alone for $1400) and among other things transmits 720 or 1080p long distances for near instant video streaming. This is no WiFi connection, it’s advanced system works near flawlessly for a kilometer distance, and you can output the feed directly from the controller to a large screen with an HDMI connection.
There’s also the ability to have dual operator support. This means you can connect two controllers simultaneously and one can control the movement, allowing the secondary operator to fully focus on only the camera gimbal to get those perfect shots.
Pre-set flights are of course packed into the feature list of the Inspire 1, and you can also program the app to set positions to take pictures or after a set delay (e.g. take photo every 10 seconds) while it’s on a course. DJI also allows developers access to SDKs and APIs for advanced configuration under the hood, but a level 2 access to this program requires authorization from DJI themselves, and apparently some deep negotiations before they grant permission as they aren’t given out lightly.
The Inspire 1 App is great, and instead of going into detail in words, I found a fantastic video on YouTube which fully explains and demonstrates the app perfectly:
After first learning of the DJI Inspire 1 and it’s features, I’ve been eager to try it out for quite some time now. When I finally did, I was impressed before I’d even touched the drone! The effort that’s been put into the case is impressive, and it sets a tone for the production quality of, not just the drone itself, but all of the accessories and the app which accompany it – just including a neck-strap as standard is great, and I hope other manufacturer’s start following suit in this regard. The LiPo battery system was super quick in charging, and the binding process was very simple and it was a breeze to get the first flight underway. The sheer speed of how fast this beauty zips through the air is incredible, and the stability of the camera while doing so is unbelievable. Seriously, you need to try it yourself to see exactly how stable it is. DJI Lightbridge is a great solution and I’m glad it was included with this as it does give you significant improvements in streaming quality and latency.
To sum things up, this is the best drone that’s been released in 2015 so far, and whoever comes next (did someone say GoPro?) will have a heck of a time besting the Inspire 1. This is by far the best drone I’ve piloted yet, and only after flying it for the first time, could see exactly why it’s price tag is on the higher end of the spectrum – with the quality and features included, this Inspire 1 is designed with professionals in mind, and it most certainly delivers.
Wow! What a thorough review! I have been wanting to get one of these, I think I will read through some of your other reviews since I could easily make a buying decision on what I have seen here!
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