DJI’s Inspire 1 just changed the game

Just two years ago (it feels like an eternity now) I was deciding what drone to buy. I had ambitions to use drones for aerial videography in journalism — capturing stories of protests, fires or sporting events from above.

The options were limited. Like, 2 options limited. Option 1: scary alien hunk of metal flying the sky. Probably built myself. Therefore likely wouldn’t even get up in the air. Option 2: Toy drones. Shoots video that isn’t exactly broadcast quality. Is more shaky, rolling shutter than video. Probably purchased from Sharper Image (does that store still exist?)

Followers of my blog know that I bought and love my original Phantom (my avatar girl is flying a knock-off Phantom). But it also just never quite did the trick.

Enter: The Inspire 1.

DJI’s newest drone goes beyond the hobbyist market and into enterprise uses including search and rescue and humanitarian efforts. And of course, journalism.

DJI's Inspire 1

Priced at $3,399, it’s a big step above toy, but still affordable enough that small businesses could have a better shot at affording a tool that could completely change the way they operate.

“We’re taking really complex technology and now we’re making it more accessible,” DJI spokesman Michael Perry said. “Lightbridge used to be $1,000. Now it’s integrated into the system. We’ve grow  up to keep up with demand.”

DJI's Inspire 1 camera and gimbalWhat’s the big selling point for journalists? The new camera and gimbal system. Finally, the built-in camera shoots up to 4k video and captures 12 megapixel photos. This will eliminate the monotonous wide angle shots and produce broadcast quality footage. Continue reading DJI’s Inspire 1 just changed the game

5 things people think the new Inspire 1 looks like

DJI announced Wednesday their newest drone, the Inspire 1. Steering away from the charming, toyish Phantom line of drones that resemble Wall*E’s friend Eve, DJI’s newest drone means business. Here’s what you thought it looked like:

Just in time for the new Star Wars movie!

Continue reading 5 things people think the new Inspire 1 looks like

DJI’s newest drone, Inspire 1 with 3-axis gimbal and retractable landing gear

DJI tonight announced its newest drone that goes beyond the hobbyist market and into enterprise uses including search and rescue and humanitarian efforts.

No longer the cute DJI Phantom with rounded edges that look more reminiscent of Wall*E’s friend Eve than a scary robot, this drone has drawn influences from the Parrot style. Oh, and it has retractable landing gear.

So what sets this apart from the Phantom? For one, check out the camera. It produces high-definition, 4k, 360-degree aerial video that streams back to the device in real time. Plus, it’s got retractable landing gear.

Some specs:

  • 6 pounds
  • Flies up to 45 mph
  • Soar as far as 300 meters up into the sky
  • Can reach 700 meters from the operator
  • Return-to-home feature
  • 18-minute flight time (compared with 25 minutes for the Phantom)

The Inspire 1 will sell for around $3,000.

Behind-the-scenes: flying drones over a volcano eruption

Happy Saturday!

In case you missed it, here’s a throwback to last month’s debut episode of their series “DJI Feats.” DJI’s Director of Aerial Imaging, Eric Cheng, takes you behind-the-scenes of an Icelandic expedition to the Bardarbunga volcanic eruption.

The video shows how quadcopters can capture images of exploding magma caldera too dangerous to be approached by manned aircraft. Where else can a drone take you?

A waterfall flight with a not-so-happy-ending

Remember earlier this week when I showed you the video of the slack liners? How I asked about how terrifying flying over water can be, as you risk losing your drone?

Whelp, I got a brave reader submission willing to share his video. The intro is beautifully shot, both in terms of ground and drone footage. Let’s just say, the ending is not-so-happy. *Spoiler alert: it ends up in the Nile.

The pilot, Petr Jan Juračka, built the drone, a 3DR ArduCopter Quad C Frame, and took it to Arru Falls in Uganda.

“After our escapade at the falls, we visited the second-largest waterfall in Africa, Murchison Falls,” he wrote. “One of the rotors on our drone unexpectedly shut down at 150s altitude, and we are sorry to say the quadcopter now rests at the bottom of the Nile among the skeletons of hippos and crocodiles.”

Sorry to hear about the rotor malfunction. You’re probably not alone though (the other voters will tell you that).

Thanks Petr Jan Juračka for the submission!

 

Journalist explains using drones to hold factory farms accountable

Oivind Hovland/Wired
Oivind Hovland/Wired

When I first got interested in drones, it was through journalism.  Journalists keep governments, corporations and people accountable through public records, connecting facts, talking to people and gathering stories and images. With a drone, you can easily gather aerial images — which is why this man’s account of using drones to hold factory farms accountable is so crucial. The following is an excerpt from Will Potter’s story in Wired:

The agriculture industry is waging an international campaign to create a media blackout. In response to a series of investigations by animal-welfare groups that has resulted in criminal prosecutions and consumer outrage, the industry is promoting new “ag-gag” laws that make it illegal to photograph factory farms and slaughterhouses. About half a dozen US states currently have these laws, and now this censorship model is being adopted internationally.

So how should journalists respond to investigative methods and sources being criminalised? Just as the best response to governments banning books is to encourage reading them, the best response to banning photographs is to encourage more photography. It’s time for journalists to send in the drones.

As a reporter, I always want to see what’s hidden. When government documents are redacted, it naturally makes them more intriguing. And when factory farms introduce new laws to prohibit media exposure, it makes me want to see what it is that they are hiding.

That’s why, for my next investigation, I will be using aerial drone photography to investigate factory farms, particularly in states where these “ag-gag” laws are being debated. I’m not the only one who is curious: my Kickstarter to finance the project was funded by nearly 500 supporters in just five days, and the response was so overwhelming that the project has been expanded.

“Drones are cheap, simple and potential game changers for newsrooms,” the Columbia Journalism Review recently noted in a cover story. In the hands of journalists, drones are already being used to document mass protests, wildlife, oil spills, war-torn landscapes and natural disasters.

Read more here.

Intel Capital is latest investment group to fund drones

Intel Capital announced today its participation in PrecisionHawk’s $10 million series B funding round.

PrecisionHawk, a startup that operates UAVs for data gathering, processing and analysis, is the latest startup to receive major funding from an investment group. Since the funding round was announced, PrecisionHawk has launched a tool called DataMapper that automatically interprets data from a UAV. They have also announced plans to release a new model of its fixed-wing UAV, Lancaster Mark IV, in early 2015.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 2.41.37 PMAmong PrecisionHawk’s problems they aim to solve include:

  • Better monitoring crops and predicting yield to help feed a growing population
  • Overseeing operations across hundreds of oil rigs so we catch oil spills in square feet instead of square miles
  • Assessing property damage to immediately issue insurance claim checks after a disaster.

“Drones hold the promise of revolutionizing many industries, some new and some very old, like farming,” said Intel’s Jerry Bautista in a news release. “We are pleased to be working with PrecisionHawk, whose unique approach of combining versatile remote-sensing devices with powerful data analytics fits well with Intel’s strengths in hardware and software for the Internet of Things.”

 

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones