Inspire 2 – What We Got

As a follow-up to my previous article, Inspire 2 – What Can We Expect, here’s a rundown of the specs of the new Inspire 2, which was announced back on the 17th November, 2016, but is only now starting to ship to customers.

Compared to DJI’s Phantom line and new Mavic Pro, the Inspire 1 was starting to show its age. The new Inspire outwardly looks the same – its a form factor that works well for this size of aircraft – but this time it’s made from magnesium-aluminum alloy, which increases stiffness while reducing weight. This weight reduction also helps to increase battery life.

Lets look first at the features we were expecting:

Obstacle Avoidance

The new Inspire has dual sensors in front for obstacle avoidance, as well as a set on the bottom as before, but it also now has infrared sensors on top of the aircraft to help keep prevent collisions when flying in enclosed spaces. The upward-pointing sensors were something we weren’t expecting, but its a nice feature to have.

FPV Camera

FPV camera and front obstacle sensors on the new Inspire 2

Yes, along with front-facing obstacle avoidance, the Inspire 2 now has a small first-person-view, front-pointing camera. This is especially useful in dual controller mode, where a second controller may by panning and tilting the main camera, while the pilot (main) controller flies the aircraft in another direction. With the previous Inspire, there was no way for the pilot to tell which direction the aircraft was pointing or moving when some distance away, especially if the camera was pointing in a different direction to that of the aircraft.

Now, the first-person-view camera that gives the pilot the best view for flying, while allowing the camera operator to set the ideal shot. This also works in single operator mode: the pilot simply flips between FPV camera and main camera in the GO app.

Battery Endurance, Longer Flight Times

We weren’t sure how DJI was going to get greater endurance out of the Inspire with the previous battery specs and configuration. The solution? Two on-board batteries, providing up to 27-minutes of flight time as well as redundancy, in case one of the batteries fails. The battery system is also self-heating, so you won’t lose performance even in temperatures down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

New dual battery system and SSD card slot (centre) on the new Inspire 2

Its also means the Inspire 2 batteries are an entirely new form factor – you can’t use your old Inspire 1 batteries with the new aircraft, which is a downer. All those Inspire 1 batteries you’ve bought to keep flying on a whole day’s shoot are now basically redundant.

Greater Range

We predicted this, and yes, the Inspire 2 now has a whopping 7 km range, similar to that of the Mavic Pro, with full 1080p downlink video transmission.

Easier Setup and Deployment

Along with newer, much more powerful motors, the Inspire 2 gets a new propeller design, and a new much safer quick-release mechanism. We didn’t get the folding propellers we were hoping for, and the aircraft still has to go into travel mode in order to be stored in its case, (which by the way, is even bigger now to accommodate the newer camera models – see below).

There are also a set of optional high-altitude propellers available, giving the aircraft the ability to fly at locations up to 16,404 feet above sea level (5 km).

Redesigned Landing Gear

The landing legs have been redesigned, and made of a newer, high-impact material. And they are longer to accommodate the larger cameras the Inspire 2 can now carry.

All the Other Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro Features

Yes, pretty much. There are a bunch of new tracking and follow features, very similar to what is available on the Phantom 4 and Mavic. The new Inspire also has the Terrain Follow feature found in the Mavic Pro.

In addition, the Inspire 2 gets Smart Return To Home, a feature that uses the forward and downward vision systems to create a real-time map of its flight route as it flies. If Smart Return Home is enabled, the Inspire 2 can to fly back along its original route. As it returns, it will use the primary camera to identify and fly around obstacles as far as 200m in front, allowing it to plan a safe route home. It is also able to reconnect more quickly after losing connection.

I also outlined a set of less obvious features that I wasn’t sure were going to make into a new Inspire. But most have:

Reliability and Redundancy

With dual batteries, we now have a power redundancy feature, whereby the aircraft can keep flying if there’s a malfunction or sudden power loss from one the batteries. The Inspire 2 also has dual IMUs and Barometers, and the power system (motors and motor control systems) are continually monitored by the on-board systems for any anomalies or potential failures.

In-Flight Precision

The on-board GPS positioning system is significantly more accurate than the old Inspire 1 (less than 1.5m in the horizontal, less than 0.5m in the vertical), but oddly, the system is still GPS only, and not the GPS/GLONASS system found on the Mavic Pro, which we thought could have provided even more precision.

The ability of the aircraft to hold its position is however greatly improved by the enhanced propulsion system, though.

Other Features

One thing we weren’t expecting was the introduction of two new cameras to go with the Inspire 2:

  • The X4S is a 20 megapixel camera that shoots 4K video up to 60 fps. It supports both H.264 and H.265 codecs.
  • The X5S is a new high-end, interchangeable lens camera that shoots 5K video up to 60 fps, in either ProRes or CinemaDNG formats. It uses a new SSD card system to record footage.

Both these cameras use a new mounting system, so, just like the new battery system, older cameras designed for the Inspire 1 will no longer fit or work with the new Inspire.

Its not just a new aircraft, its a whole new drone ecosystem that you will need to buy into.

Clearly, the Inspire 2 is being aimed squarely at the high end film and television market, and its application as a drone for surveying and inspection isn’t necessarily limited, but it is perhaps overkill for this type of work. Speaking of which…

Phantom 4 Pro

The new, enhanced Phantom 4 Pro

Announced on the same day as the new Inspire 2, the Phantom 4 Pro is an updated and upgraded version of the already very popular Phantom 4.

It too is now made with a magnesium-aluminum alloy shell for extra rigidity and stability over the plastic shell of the Phantom 4, has better motors for improved performance and stability in wind, has the same combined GPS/GLONASS positioning system found on the Mavic, and has identical precision accuracy as the new Inspire 2 – that is, less than 1.5m in the horizontal, and less than 0.5m in the vertical.

More significantly, The Phantom 4 Pro also has a new 1 inch, 20 megapixel camera that shoots 4K video up to 100Mbps in both H.264 and H.264 codecs. This is virtually identical in specs to the new X4S camera for the Inspire 2 outlined above. The camera also comes with a mechanical shutter – a first for DJI – which should produce sharper images, and a burst mode of up to 14 images per second.

The Phantom 4 Pro doesn’t get upward-pointing collision sensors, but it does get rear-pointing sensors, plus new infrared sensors on both sides, which are said to enable better manoeuvring in tight spaces.

Together with other on-board enhancements, this creates something DJI calls “FlightAutonomy”, whereby the aircraft is able to create its own 3D map it can locate itself within. Redundant IMU and compasses collect crucial flight status, speed and direction data, while monitoring critical data and ruleing out possible errors, dramatically enhancing overall flight reliability.

It also, thankfully, uses the same battery form factor as the existing Phantom 4! (However, it does come with a new, slightly higher spec battery, which gives up to 30 minutes of flight time).

If you’re looking for a reliable, cost-effective, and stable survey and inspection platform, the Phantom 4 Pro could be the way to go. We are certainly investing in this new model!

More Details on DJI’s website:

Nick Foxall