DJI has a new flying camera in its growing air force of drones.
Billed as a step-up for the Phantom 2 but smaller and more approachable than the Spreading Wings line, the Inspire 1 quadcopter will have more lift and stability than the Phantom thanks to its 13-inch propellers. It also sports something no other drone in its class currently does: an integrated 4K camera.
The camera uses a 12-megapixel Sony sensor and is capable of 4k/30p video recording and RAW still photo capture. In addition to 4K, the Inspire 1′s camera can record 1080p HD video with varying frame rates between 24 and 60 fps in either MOV or MP4 formats. It’s capable of burst shooting up to 7 fps.
There’s a fixed focus lens that’s threaded so you can screw in ND filters before you take flight. The camera rests on a 3-axis gimbal to maintain stability while airborne.
While the Inspire 1 won’t accept third party cameras, DJI’s Director of Aerial Imaging Eric Cheng tells us that the system is modular so that you can replace the camera in the future if and when DJI makes a new camera available for this platform.
The new drone features a design that transforms into a v-shape as it takes flight, allowing the camera to drop down below the landing gear giving it an unobstructed 360 degree field of view.
The Inspire 1 is stabilized using an optical flow package with a dedicated camera and ultrasonic sensors that helps orient the drone in the air indoors or without GPS, a first for UAVs in this category, Cheng says. The system is for use at low altitudes (under 5 meters) with plenty of light and a varied surface patter. Cheng said it would be particularly useful in cities where GPS’s 2-meter margin for error may be too wide to avoid obstructions.
You’ll also find built-in Lightbridge, DJI’s technology for wirelessly transmitting 1080p video to mobile devices up to 1.7 km away to aid in composition while in flight.
The Inspire 1 has enough bandwidth to not only accommodate an HD signal but also full metadata, analog video for pilot steering and 16 channels of RC control. A single, technically adept operator could thus not only steer the drone but operate the camera too, all from a single controller, Cheng said. You will, however, still have the option for dual control (one pilot, one camera operator).
The on-board battery can keep the Inspire 1 aloft for up to 18 minutes and you’ll be able to monitor the battery’s life throughout your flight. The total platform (including battery, gimbal and camera) weighs roughly 6.5 pounds.
DJI has also revamped its app, allowing for a live map with flight route and flight telemetry data, plus remaining battery life and manual camera controls.
It will cost $2,899 with one controller or $3,399 with two.
In addition to the new drone, DJI is also releasing an SDK today so that third party developers can create Android and iOS apps for the company’s Phantom 2 Vision series of drones. Many users are interested in industrial mapping applications, Cheng says, but a few photo and video-centric apps are in the works as well that will allow users to edit and share videos from mobile devices and ensure flights comply with regulations.
App developers will have access to the drone’s camera, including video transmission, positioning, settings and image storage. They’ll also have access to live telemetry (flight speed, latitude, longitude, distance travelled, etc.) and flight control.