DJI, the popular Chinese drone manufacturer hit a home run just weeks ago when they released their Mavic drone. It has a camera on a 3-axis mechanical gimbal, that has the ability to shoot quality 4k footage at 30 fps at an affordable price point (as far as quality drones go). Add the compact, travel size, fold-ability of the Mavic with its silky smooth UHD video and the consumer market exploded with excited amateur filmmaker’s pre-order confirmations. But even this week’s old innovation is last years news.
DJI just announced the release of two shiny, ooh and ahh enticing quad copters. First up was the Phantom 4 Pro. This is an upgraded rendition of their already popular drone released in the first quarter of this year. Along with the typical battery, speed, and flight distance boosts on the spec sheet the drone added multiple more camera’s built into the drones chassis to add obstacle avoidance in five directions. The camera was also updated to a 1 inch CMOS sensor with a mechanical shutter that is capable of 4k at 60fps, and up to 100Mbps bitrate of processing. To wrap up the new features they added a new remote controller with a built in screen to save consumers from having to use their own mobile devices. This is something surprisingly not new to the drone market, a rare example of DJI adding a feature to compete with other manufacturers remotes, like the Go Pro’s Karma drone.
Finally they unveiled the major star of the event, the DJI Inspire 2. This long awaited drone is the sequel to the company’s two year old compromise drone. Now I realize calling it a compromise drone is a little bit contrary to its abilities however it is used to help explain how the drone is situated between the consumer end of the market and the vastly far end of Hollywood cinematography. DJI also has a line of these Professional Matrice drones. The latest one (M600 Pro) that was also released just a short while ago costs around $5,000 without a camera. They can also carry camera’s like the Red Epic, which can start up $50,000 and continue to climb in cost. So that is DJI’s far end of the market.
This brings us back to the Inspire series, DJI’s way to bridge the gap between consumers and industry users. The drone is vastly overhauled from the first version yet retains its iconic rising arms that hold both the propellers on top and landing gear on the bottom. Along with a new styled magnesium aluminum frame the drone has a dual battery system that can support a longer flight time than last years model, and can safely land the drone in the instance that one of the batteries may malfunction. The drone itself has also gotten a boost in the performance department with a top speed of 67 mph, and extra sensors to bring the same obstacle avoidance of the Phantom 4 Pro to the Inspire 2. The Inspire 2 also has two camera’s, the main one that everyone cares about and new 2 axis fpv camera that can be used by a pilot to fly the drone while another operator can move the main camera around.
The Inspire 2 has two options for the main camera. A Zenmuse X4S and a Zenmuse X5S, with the latter of the two giving the ability to swap out DSLR-like lenses. DJI introduced CineCore 2.0 giving the camera the ability to record in up to 5.2k quality at 30fps, and 4k quality at 60fps. It also supports formats like CinemaDNG and Apple ProRes. For some more techy details the camera’s full spec sheet can be found at DJI’s website. Some non-camera stuff to wrap up the brand spanking new drone goodness are the inclusions of an on board SSD and new 1080i HD live steaming features.
Overall, I see these recent announcements as DJI moving in leaps and bounds to lead the drone market. It has products in all of the major categories for 4k shooting drones from consumer to industry professionals. While other companies have their compact 4k drones falling out of the sky (looking at you Go Pro) they have mostly cornered the market. In short DJI is king and its looking increasingly harder and tougher for any one else to catch up.