Where does the DJI Inspire 1 fit in a fleet of professional helicams?
Every time a new piece of technology is introduced to the film making world there seems to be a balanced mixture of excitement and sighs. The optimists are excited to see the evolution, however the pessimistic sighs often question the application of use and more often than not raise concerns that the old kit is redundant.
At Out Filming we started dabbling with drones in 2010 and certainly went through a lot of pain in the early days. Getting a camera airborne was the easy part, however chasing the Elysium of stable images was another story. Fast forward to 2015 and many of the issues we faced will never plague the new user.
With a fleet of 12 UAVs we have the capability of flying everything from a GoPro to a Red Dragon, so why did the DJI Inspire 1 get our attention? The answer is simple…convenience. When not restricted by travel, we typically fill our van with kit for the average heli job. Batteries, tools, generators, charging stations, spares, backup craft etc a sea of Peli cases. All designed to allow us quick setup time when arriving on location.
We have been using DJI flight controllers since our first craft and have a collection of their excellent Zenmuse gimbals. However we took our time before committing to a DJI airframe. We saw the S900 as the perfect sub 7kg work horse and have been very pleased with the results.
When we are not airborne or working on projects together the Out Filming crew work as freelancers and we often talk about the need for a helicam in a case. You are on a shoot and need a couple of quick wides to set the scene, but don’t have the time or sometimes the budget to bring in a dedicated aerial team. As a freelance camera operator, my clients often jokingly ask if I have a drone in the truck to get a shot. This is where the Inspire 1 fits in perfectly.
The Inspire 1 and all its bits arrives in an average size case that now comes with me on nearly all my jobs. It takes about 5 minutes to setup and has a conveniently small footprint for launching. When airborne and the landing gear is up the Inspire is a serious bit of kit. It is the easiest of our craft to fly, is incredibly nippy and handles higher wind speeds. The controllers are also well built and provide an excellent amount of feedback.
Configuring the Inspire and monitoring its flight is all handled by the DJI Pilot application. A detailed set of telemetry is overlaid on the camera image, most importantly this includes a dynamic flight time countdown.
The 4K capable camera apparently shares the same sensor as the GoPro and delivers an impressive image for its size, it is a shade too sharp, but hopefully this will get fixed in software. As a single operator the 3 axis gimbal can be configured and operated by the pilot remote control and application, however the best results are achieved by activating a second remote and having someone else frame the shots through another instance of the application (or directly from the remotes HDMI port). The stability of the gimbal is excellent and it takes quite a lot to push it to its limits. Flight times are incredibly good with this machine, we often see over 15 minutes on a larger battery. This is plenty of time to secure a number of shots.
However, it is not quite perfect and we have a small list of things we would like to improve. Charging is a painful process, even with the bigger 180w power supply. It can take up to an hour to fully charge a larger (5700 vs 4500mAh) of the two battery options. We have yet to see a sensible charging system that could be powered from a leisure battery. Then, having to remove the props for transport is a shame, especially when DJI offer folding props on their larger craft. We are currently experimenting with carbon fibre alternatives and they seem to improve the craft handling and air time. The case is well thought out, but not rugged enough for air travel. There are a number of alternatives and we have one that allows the craft to be stowed in flight mode with the gimbal on. It seems that DJI are very keen for their user base to be on the latest firmware. In some cases the craft and DJI Pilot app actually forces your hand to upgrade. Experience has taught us to be wary and we often hang back before committing.
To us it’s an excellent piece of equipment, one of many in our figurative tool box, and we expect it to work properly without having to continually tinker with it. Our collective knowledge is considerable as we’ve been at this a long time in drone terms but we don’t have time to be beta testers. To summarise it perfectly fits our needs and is the ideal single case solution. We are so impressed that two of them have now joined the fleet.
Interested in the DJI Inspire 1? Available to demo & purchase at CVP! To book your slot call 0208 380 7400!
CVP also offer certification and training packages