Does DJI’s New Drone Hit the Target Market?


This post also appears in sUAS News ‘The Market‘.


I think it’s futuristic – the drone that is.  The camera, on the other hand, is another story.

The drone

For a guy like me who not only follows the commercial market for drones but is also an avid photography and multirotor enthusiast, the new DJI Inspire 1 is, well, inspiring. It’s chock full of features I wish I had four years ago when I first started mounting GoPro cameras on quadcopter kits -- things like ease of use, a simple interface, controller ergonomics, telemetry, a 3D-axis gimbal, integrated HD video downlink, optical flow for indoor flying (how cool is that!?).

Much has already been written on the Inspire 1 T600 (like here and here) so I won’t repeat it.  The question for this post is: Did DJI hit the mark for the target market?  For that answer, we need to go beyond the drone itself and look at how professional photographers and videographers use drones and cameras.

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    For me, the $500 per battery is a showstopper. 

  • Distributor

    @ Terry:

    Not great to see the photo you posted, however I hope that it reminds all that see it that these "toys" have a bite way in excess of their bark! I have seen the damage RC flying toys have caused over the past 20 years or so in aero modelling, plans, Heli's and multi rotors like many things in this world can be very dangerous if not respected and understood. I only said to a client the other day who said "A phantom is only is a kilo" when looking at flying in environments which could see it close to people, my reply "A 9mm bullet is only about 120 grams". A very short physics lesson was delivered about energy and weight, I felt he left us as a better educated and safer pilot, I just wish we were able to touch every new pilot in the same way to keep our hobbies and businesses safe.     



    The question, "The question for this post is: Did DJI hit the mark for the target market?" is an interesting one, I believe that they have indeed hit the right market with this product, price point and features, I'm not going to list all the features again, we know these already and if you don't see the links at the top of the page, there is lots of info there. When we break down the system and look at the "user" and what they need & want the Inspire 1 is very much like a prosumer camera, we look after 100's of pro users in the UK / EU who have the larger systems which allow for the bigger cameras, GH4 & 5D's and more, the inspire 1 is on paper meeting their needs from the larger systems in a number of areas in a much smaller, lighter and less costly way.

    The Pro users we look after who work on big budget films will never look at this system with much more than an interest, for now. However if we step down just a little below these requirements and look at the person taking the S900 which would work out to about twice the price of the Inspire when you factor in all the batteries / controllers / camera body and so on the price point and features of the Inspire 1 are starting to look very appealing.

    The Inspire 1 seems to be aimed at the prosumer market and when you break out all the parts and features and the price points you would have to pay for these parts to install on a frame of your choice, what we have is a great value product, not a cheap one. Over the past 4 years we have seen the onset of the RTF systems as the technology continues to evolve with more advances and lower prices, only 2 to 3 years ago a Wookong M flight controller with 50 way points (See this post was in the same price band, so no frame, no motors in fact no nothing other than a flight controller! Look where we are today, DJI Wookong M performance and more from the Inspire 1 with a price point that is not much different. I have no doubt this time next year there will be an Inspire range with the price points of the Phantom 2 in the $1000 bracket with a pay load option.  DJI have already said that the camera can be switched over on the DJI Inspire 1, they have not said what you would switch it with right now, but I would guess IR would be one option as these cameras are now falling in price.

    If I were not doing what I do today I would have to ask the questions, “Would I buy one”, the answer is yes if I were still running a photography business, many clients we have buy systems to keep up with competitors who offer aerial services, the answer would be no if I were only looking for a weekend “hack” craft for fun, there is way too many un-needed expensive parts on this system for that use, my F450 is still going strong and allows for racing around and FPV flying without fear of £100’s of repairs just because I did not judge a gap right when playing in the trees!

    In summary, if you need these features then it’s for you, if you don’t then you won’t be buying one any day soon as there are many other options to meet the needs of most users for far less money….



  • Working in broadcast I can say that 4k is interesting but we are looking to use it for scaling down to 1080 so that we can zoom in on different parts of the picture, pan and tilt. Zoom without actually panning the camera.  It is attractive to the accountants because it means one less camera operator and production types like it because you never miss and action.  That is in regards to sports and live event coverage.

    For drama and post produced doco's etc 4k will be great for capture and archive but as RF bandwidth is expensive I think that we will be stuck with 1080 HD for a while. (More channels, same spectrum).  SO 4k is good but I don't think it is going to be revolutionary immediately but it will eventually have an impact.

  • Chin, dynamic relocation is the FC constantly updating its RTL location to the ground station location. Great for flying from moving objects. 

    The other great use for the Inspire 1 indoors is a human slicing machine. I wish I could add LOL but it's not funny. My little ladybird hurts enough when I bounce it off my head. :) Here's a picture that was posted a few months ago of what can happen. More people need to see this to understand that these are flying lawnmowers.3701878375?profile=original

  • @Terry: The thing about big leaps in graphic displays is that you can't "unsee" them. I predict that a great many people will make the "mistake" of looking at a 4K demo and that will be that for their wallets. Just simple stuff is awesome  - my business has me writing a lot of email and I cannot believe how much easier the 4K is on my eyes. Fonts look like letterpress printing (well, close) and looking over at what was, I thought,  my perfectly nice old Samsung 22 inch monitor is suddenly like looking at something underwater. So I think things are going to move pretty quickly.

    As for "dynamic relocation" I'm not sure exactly what you mean there but it doesn't sound like anything Pixhawk doesn't do. (Waypoints? Position Hold mode?)

    Optical flow (or such) has of course been around for years, I have a Trex 600 with the first version Helicommand that sits nice and still over most surfaces, but only up to about 10 meters (and that's pushing it) which makes it useful when you need to scratch your ass but that's about it. Rumor has it that serious optical flow is coming to Pixhawk before long, we'll see, and we'll also see how the DJI does with theirs, but I sure wouldn't bet $3K on either one at the moment. (And the repeated idea that this makes the Inspire an indoor machine is downright spooky, unless the intent is to confine that to large empty buildings.)     

  • @Chim Xotox

    I agree that 4K is the future of video but all those who have bought big screen TVs and monitors aren't going to rush out and buy new more expensive ones. 4 or 5 years from now it will be more common in living rooms and offices and by then technology will have advanced with better cameras, drones, batteries, and more powerful computers so consumers and even pro-sumers needn't rush into 4K unless they are partaking in the "mine is bigger than yours" race. I do professional photography and videography so I have no choice for some projects but the vast majority of what I do is and will be 1080P. 

    I wasn't writing about design (steam-punky kludge) although I like the look of this thing (personal taste) but as I said, it is overly complex. To give you two examples of the technology, one is the dynamic relocation which would be very useful for the lake and ocean videography I do. The other is their optical flow. I have had optical flow on one of my drones and removed it because it is not well implemented in arducopter yet. Having it (hopefully) well implemented in the Inspire may "inspire" others to step up.

  • Well, a sensor is a sensor and a camera is a camera, and this is a brand new unproven camera which might have the best sensor in the world but might also still be a potato. The trend (I guess it's a trend) toward proprietary cameras on quads is not automatically a good thing, as far as I can see. Personally, I would rather either choose my own camera or if it's provided, have it be a known commodity. Otherwise I'm paying for someone to reinvent the wheel. 

    @Terry: 4K is going to be all over the place shortly, thanks to breakthroughs in video card price/performance (see Nvidia GTX 970/980) and falling 4K monitor prices (see for example the Asus PB287Q. I just put together a new modestly-high performance desktop system and it made no sense to not go with such 4K components.

    Also, not quite sure what you mean by this steam-punky kludge flying spider scarybot driving adoption of technology ahead for all of us, I see it as a quaint, overpriced dinosaur of the Edsel variety. What will drive adoption of the technology, and what will simultaneously get the shrieking, babbling, meddling "regulators" out of our hair, will be the sub-one-pound semi-autonomous quad flying a stabilized camera with GoPro or better performance. That is, if giant flying spider things that look like they've erupted from a toilet bowl at a comic convention don't wreck the show first.      

  • I do not want to be misunderstood!!

    I love Sony sensors, I have a D800e and a NEX7 both have sony sensors.

    I think only the APS-C SIGMA Foveon sensor , installed on the DP2 Quattro, has better performance and that are even comparable to medium format sensors like Sony 50Mpixel.

     The Sigma dp2 Quattro is near to a Pentax 645Z @ low ISO.


    Shortly Sony will come out with a sensor without Bayer filter, like the Sigma Foveon, but without the problems of low sensitivity of the Foveon.

  • @Giuseppe - I saw that. Interesting that Sony has a growing line of Exmor sensors and just announced a 21MP stacked CMOS sensor for smartphones:

    Sony debuts 21MP stacked CMOS sensor for smartphones
    Sony has unveiled a new stacked CMOS image sensor for use in smartphones. Called the IMX230, it features 21 effective megapixels, on-chip phase detec…
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