DJI launches Inspire 1, 4K quadcopter system

Drone filming

DJI Inspire 1
4K in the air: the DJI Inspire 1 features a Sony 4K imager

DJI, the company behind the Phantom quadcopters that have driven the uptake of “drone” videography, has launched its first system with an integrated, 4K camera.

The Inspire 1 is a ready-to-use aircraft which comes with a pre-installed, but detachable, 4K camera.

The camera unit is a 12-megapixeld design based on a 1/2.3-inch sensor from Sony, and a nine element, 94-degree, f2.8 lens. The camera can record 4K video at up to 30fps, in full cinema mode or 3840×2160 UHD. or HD video at up to 60fps, wih a maximum recording bitrate of 60mbps.

The camera supports recording on an SD card of up to 64GB, but can also stream 720p video to a connected tablet. The camera mounts to the aircraft via DJI’s Zenmuse X3 gimbal system, which is also detachable.

The aircraft itself is a quad-rotor design, which weighs just under 3kg including the battery. The rotors connect to the aircraft body via carbon fibre arms.

In flight, the arms can move up away from the aircraft body, so they clear the angle of view of the camera. This allows the Inspire 1 to operate with a 360-degree field of view, and avoid elements of the aircraft creeping into the shot – an issue with some other designs of quad-rotor aircraft.

The Inspire 1 is designed so a single operator can fly it and control the camera, but there is also the option of separating the role of the pilot and videographer, by using a second controller and tablet. Two person operation is a standard procedure for “drone” videography in a growing number of organisations, including the BBC.

The Inspire 1 has a GPS system for safe operation outside, but DJI believes there is a growing need to fly quadcopter systems indoors, where there us usually not a good enough GPS signal to control the aircraft’s position.

In this case, the Inspire 1 switches to a system DJI calls Optical Flow, which uses a secondary camera, and sonic waves, to allow the quadcopter to hold its position, and fly more easily, indoors. The Inspire 1 also has a one-button take off and landing system for less experienced operators.

The dual-operator kit version of the Inspire 1 costs US$3399, and will go on sale on December 1st.

DJI has produced a promotional video, below, that puts the Inspire 1 through its paces: