Over the last few months of flying the Inspire 1 V2 drone with the X5 & X5R cameras it has become apparent that it was struggling a little with the weight of these payloads. In particular the position hold was not as reliable as with the smaller X3 and earlier firmware releases. The performance in high wind with the X5 cameras was greatly reduced and propulsion limited with certain manoeuvres – my batteries’ run times dropped to eight minutes (landing at 30%).
The lighter, stiffer frame of the Inspire 2 along with a better propulsion system is good news: a top speed of 67mph and a climb rate of 20ft per second is impressive. Dual battery systems have long been a must have safety feature with heavy lift machines and it’s good to see DJI going down this route with the Inspire 2. You get longer flight times: a 27-minute flight time is amazing (although that’s on the smaller X4S camera) and you also get peace of mind that you’re copter is not going to drop out of the sky because of a battery failure. If there’s a problem with one of the batteries the other is able to continue flight long enough to land safely.
The forward-facing camera is a great addition for the pilot where operating as a two person crew with a gimbal operator. It means that no matter which way round the camera is pointing, the pilot will always get an FPV (First Person View) image from the Inspire 2. This not only helps with orientation and knowing where you are but is also a great tool for lining up shots, following a subject and keeping your tracks smooth.
The X5S is the camera that everyone has been waiting for on the Inspire as it combines the best of both the X5 and X5R in one package. The H.264 and H265 files at 100Mbps are a great improvement. Getting Apple ProRes files directly off the SSD card without having to convert them through Cinelight is a massive bonus for my production workflow and makes it worth paying for the license. Raw is really nice to have but the reality is that most clients don’t want to deal with it at the moment. Putting ProRes on the Inspire 2 is a very smart move on DJI’s part.
16,404ft is a very good ceiling. I’m not sure there are many machines which would be able to fly at that altitude with a decent camera on the bottom. I also like the self-heating batteries. Even in our mild British winters we have to warm the Inspire 1 batteries up before take off and we wrap them in neoprene to protect them from getting too cold during flight. DJI have thought about that and done something about it meaning you never have to worry about flying in cold weather again. I do hope Lightbridge performance is genuinely enhanced though. We have had issues with range over the last few months with the current firmware so any improvements on range and quality of video transition is much needed.
At the moment we mainly fly with all the sensors turned off as the Inspire 1 can get confused if you are flying low over grass or water, causing it to lower its landing gear or give sensor warnings. Saying that, avoidance sensors are great for safety so if they work then they will be a good addition.
Also the systems redundancy is good news from a safety point of view as it reduces the risk of having an in air systems failure and being able to change signal frequencies gives the users flexibility to get the most robust video and control system they can depending on their environment.
I don’t currently have a DJI machine which has any of the automated flight features so I don’t really look to use them, but if you are operating on your own then they could be useful. I’m looking forward to trying out the TapFly feature.
It is also good to know that the Inspire 2 works with the DJI Focus as I prefer to use that rather than do everything via the app and there’s some interesting accessories already available. A battery charging station is a must now that they have gone down the dual battery route and it’s reasonably priced but a little slow, taking 90 mins to charge 2 batteries and 180 mins to charge 4. At £179 each the batteries are a bit on the pricy side. We currently have 12 batteries, six chargers and a four-way smart charger for our Inspire 1 in order to keep going all day long. Even though you get improved flight times with the Inspire 2, the batteries will probably take 40 minutes or so to charge a dual flight pack, which means you are still going to need quite a few packs to keep going all day.
Other accessories available which I would want to add to my shopping list are the carry case when it comes out and a second remote controller for the gimbal operator – disappointingly this isn’t included with the Inspire 2. In addition I’d look at one the new high brightness monitors as iPads are not the best tools for monitoring outdoors. Having an additional record option is a also really good idea and seems to be nice and robust.
Price on the Inspire 2 is competitive although not that different from the M600 / Ronin MX gimbal bundle. What it really comes down to are the accessories you need and battery costs. You need two per flight, that’s £358, being conservative you maybe get 20 mins with the heaviest payload you can have and it takes 90 minutes to charge a dual flight pack then you’re going to need at least six flight sets (12 batteries) as a minimum and a couple of charging stations to keep flying all day.
Overall though this looks like a solid, useful upgrade to both the aircraft and the camera: a steadier, more capable platform for delivering top quality visuals.