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DJI Inspire 2 - RCGroups Review

Check out the new DJI Inspire 2 and see what we think after a few weeks with it...

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Introduction

When the DJI Inspire 1 came out, it was like something out of a syfy movie. It looked like no other drone on the market and it could do things no other drone could do. It was nice, but cinematogrophers wanted more and DJI not wanting to rest on their success have been hard at work with the next version, the Inspire 2. The Inspire 2 brings so much more to the table for professional drone opterators that it's hard not to want one. DJI was kind enough to send us a pre-production unit to check out on loan so we could write this review. There are so many features and so much to cover that I couldn't possible get it all in so I'm going to focus on the machine itself and the experience of using it.

What's in the Box

Since this is pre-production unit, the packaging is not final and even the interior of the case is not final. The case is made of a dense foam that is light and works for most outings, but if you need to check it on an airline I would rather have a hard case. Here's a video of me checking out the Inspire 2 after first getting it along with my initial impressions.

Getting Ready to Fly

Once you receive the Inspire 2, it doesn't take long to get it ready to fly. Pull everything out of the box and make sure to charge your flight batteries and the transmitter batteries before trying to fly. Once those are charged up, you can install the flight batteries by sliding them in place at the rear of the I2. There is a satisfying "click" when each battery is locked in place. Press the power button 6 times and the I2 will raise up into the landing gear down position to allow installation of the camera gimbal. Both the X4S and the X5S install the same way by placing the white dot of the camera gimbal connector inline with the red dot on the receiving connector, then rotate the gimbal to the right to lock it in place. The props attach with locking mechanism. They drop onto the mount and then you rotate the mount to lock the props in place. It's secure, easy to use and makes installing and removing the props a quick and painless process. Now you can power up and update to the latest firmware and get ready to go fly.

Flight Modes

The standard flight modes available on the Inspire 2 are the same as with the Inspire 1 and Phantoms before it. You have a selectable switch on the top left of the transmitter and can choose between P, S and A modes. (P)osition mode has the full sensor array available to it using GPS, vision positioning and barometers to accurately keep the I2 in place until you tell it to move. Speed is limited to around 35MPH. (S)port mode loses the obstacle avoidance sensors and increases the top flight speed to 58MPH as well as making it more agile and responsive. (A)ttitude Mode disables the GPS data so it will not hold it's position and can drift with the wind, but it keeps the high top end speed of Sport Mode.

Atti is good for indoor flights, poor GPS reception, or if you want drifting shots without having to push the sticks. I love that you can tune all the modes to your liking. You can adjust the expo settings and get the I2 to feel and fly however you like. I will say that the stock settings feel really great to me. It handles exceptionally well and allows you to fly precise movements without over controlling. Now I've been flying for over 16 years so maybe it's different for someone new to drones, but this thing is so smooth and precise that it makes me want to sell my S900 setup and get an I2, it's that good on the piloting side.

Intelligent Flight Modes

The Inspire 2 brings over some cool flight modes from the Mavic that helps you get dynamic shots as a single operator. Tripod Mode makes the I2 fly slow and gracefully. It's perfect for capturing slow moving cinematic shots or even long distance timelapse shots. The controls are dialed back so when pushing the stick all the way forward the I2 only travels 2.2MPH. You can adjust this speed in the app settings to fine tune it to your liking.

Tap Fly, Active Track and Spotlight Pro are all great modes to get complicated shots as a single operator. These modes aren't perfect and you'll have to have the right lighting, contrast and movements to get great results, but they do work pretty well in the right conditions. Tap Fly will pull up the FPV cam view to the middle. You just tap on a point in the view and the I2 will fly there allowing you to focus on controlling the gimbal. Active Track take a more automated approach. You select the subject matter on the screen and the I2 does the rest, following that subject and keeping the camera on it all by itself. Spotlight Pro is a cool new mode similar to Active Track, but it gives the pilot the flight controls. Select the subject on the screen and the camera will stay pointing at it. You can fly the I2 wherever you want and the camera will track the subject. It's the next best thing to having a dedicated camera operator.

Obstacle Avoidance

The Inspire 2 is packed with sensors that enable it to smartly avoid obstacles. There are forward and downward facing dual stereo cameras with a field of view of 60 degrees forward and 54 degrees down. They can see obstacles up to 30M away and warn you on screen when approaching along with an audio alert. If you get too close, it will override your commands and stop the drone so it doesn't run into it. For the first time on any DJI drone, the I2 can detect obstacles above it with two IR sensors that prevent it from flying up into most obstacles. Is it perfect? No, but it's a great start.

While testing, I wanted to do a tracking shot across a lamp post to get nice foreground movement, but even flying sideways with the post about 5 ft in front, the sensors stopped the drone from moving. If something like this happens, you can easily turn off the sensors to get the shot. They can save you from crashing, but don't rely on them 100%, please use good judgement and know where you are flying. I really like the obstacle avoidance as an extra safety measure and especially during a return to home event. The I2 cannot see obstacles to the sides or rear so do be mindful of that.

Smart Return to Home

Smart Return to Home is something new and it sounds great. I wasn't able to fully test it as I did not want to put it in a position where it would lose control signal from the transmitter. What it is supposed to do though is create and record a map of its flight path and if you lose signal, it can fly back home following the same flight path instead of a straight line back home. That should help it avoid flying towards obstacles or airspace it should not be flying in on the return trip home. It can also use the forward and downward sensors to detect obstacles in the way up to 200M out and will avoid anything in the way. It's something you should really never need, but it's nice to know it's there and gives you peace of mind when flying.

HD Video Transmission

DJI has updated the Lightbridge transmission system on the Inspire 2 and it now has a range of over 4 miles with a 720p HD video feed. If you plan to stay closer to home it will even transmit 1080P. I've been out to a mile with it with no break up or any glitches or issues at all and that's a lot farther than I would ever need on a commercial video shoot. I love that it can talk to two controllers at the same time so both the pilot and camera operator can receive the downlink wirelessly. The slave controller for the camera operator can be up to 100M away from the pilot's master transmitter too. The main transmitter signal gets a picture in picture view of the main camera feed as well as the forward facing FPV camera feed.

The FPV view is a low SD resolution, but it really helps the pilot know where the front of the I2 is facing. Being able to see both views is extremely helpful for communication with the camera operator and it makes it a more pleasant experience on a shoot. That said, I do wish the FPV view could be made full screen and swapped with the main camera view like you can do with the map. With the low resolution feed and the smaller view, it can be difficult to pick out details in obstacles like tree branches so I'd advise caution when flying in close proximity to obstacles.

Another killer feature that was added is a broadcast mode. You can now output a 1080i50 or 720p60 signal directly to a satellite truck. It will make live broadcasts of events that much better by adding in easy aerial views.

360 QuickSpin

I've been using DJI gimbals for a long time including the original Ronin and many Zenmuse gimbals and they all have continuous rotation gimbals that allow it to pan endlessly without the need to worry about wrapping up wires. I was surprised to find out the Inspire 1 gimbals were not able to do this and it carries over to the Inspire 2. Maybe it has something to do with the high data rate being reliable over slip rings, but in any case, the X4S and X5S have physical limitations that won't allow the gimbal to rotate more than about 320 degrees or so. However, you can pan endlessly on the Inspire 2. That might sound contradictory, but DJI implemented some fancy software into the flight controller to accomplish this and they call it 360 QuickSpin.

Here's how it works, when the gimbal nears the end of its travel, it rapidly spins the Inspire 2 itself 360 degrees which effectively unwinds the gimbal so it never reaches the physical limit. It freaks you out the first time it happens, but it does work well and there's more. You can pan the camera and when the I2 spins, you can't tell in the camera footage that anything happened. It just keeps panning as smooth as can be. It gets even better too. It works while moving. When the I2 spins, it will keep moving in the same direction, at the same speed and with the same control inputs from the pilot. The pilot can just ignore the spin and keep flying the path. This means that the I2 can pan continuously even though it has a physical stop, very cool!

Robust Power System and Redundancy

The Inspire 2 has an upgraded power system over the I1. The motors are larger and optimized for power and longevity. They swing 15" propellers which gets the Inspire 2 up to 50MPH in 4 seconds and to a top speed now listed at 58MPH flying at a 40 degree max tilt angle. The power system allows flight in higher altitudes now up to 5000M and in temps as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

It's nice to know that DJI has implemented some redundancy in the flight systems to make it more reliable and safer than ever. There are dual IMU's and Barometers and the flight controller monitors them for accurate data. Even the ESC's have dual signal redundancy. If the normal PWM signal is lost, the ESC commands will be sent through a serial connection. Of course the Inspire 2 now also features dual battery packs. If one of the batteries fails in flight, the I2 will still fly and you'll be able to bring it down for a safe landing.

Cameras

One unique design change on the Inspire 2 camera setup is they moved all the processing inside the body. They call it CineCore 2.0 and it includes an SSD (SSD drives sold separately). It means the cameras can be lighter and the two cameras that are compatible currently are the Zenmuse X4S and the X5S. Below is a comparison video showing similar shots on both the X4S and the X5S. If you'd like to download some studio footage shot on resolution charts to better compare the cameras along with the X5R and P4P camera, you can do that at this post thanks to Iancresswell.

X4S

The X4S is the less expensive option for the I2, but that does not mean poor performance. It features a 20MP 1" sensor with a 24mm equivalent prime lens that offers a low distortion 84 degree field of view. It's also half the weight of the X5S which means you'll get increased flight time over it as well. The X4S can record 4K video at 60fps in H.264 or 4K H.265 at 30fps and 100Mbps. The X4S costs $599 and it will serve you well for all but the very high end shoots.

X5S

The X5S is the current king daddy camera for the Inspire 2. It has a micro four thirds sensor that can shoot up to 5.2K 30fps with 12.8 stops of dynamic range in 12-bit raw. It's a beast and can match up to footage from RED and ARRI in post production pretty well. Stills are shot at 20.8MP. It supports 8 different lenses currently from 9mm to 45mm which provides greater flexibility over the X4S camera. It offers pro level shooting modes like 5.2K CinemaDNG 12-bit, Apple Pro-Res 422 HQ and 4444 XQ. If you are planning to work on a high level, then the X5S camera is the one you want, but it will cost you. The X5S with no lens costs $1399 and you'll have to purchase pricey SSD's and licenses to be able to use the CinemaDNG and Apple ProRes formats.

Inspire 2 Photos

Conclusion

The Inspire 2 is one incredible drone. It is capable of so much and if you take all the features combined, there is nothing else on the market like it. Sure there are a few things I'd like to see changed like the FPV camera view being able to go full screen, but that is something that can be changed in a firmware update. It should also be noted that the firmware and app software used for this review were early versions and likely will not reflect changes made to the full public release. After flying the I2 for a few weeks and getting used to it I absolutely want one. I currently own a DJI S900 shooting with a Panasonic GH4 camera and the amount of gear I need to go on a shoot fills up the entire back of my SUV. With the I2, I can fit everything needed for a shoot in a Smart Car.

It's not just about having a smaller package either, the workflow is easier too. Having dual camera feeds on the screen helps to nail shots faster and allows for better and faster communication between the pilot and the camera operator. The quality of the X5S camera holds up to high end production environments and I've been getting 20+ minute flight times where with the S900, it is 8 minutes. There is so much to love about the I2 that I might shed a tear when I have to send it back to DJI. The Inspire 2 can be purchased for $2999 with no camera. Add the X4S and you are at $3598. If you go with the combo that DJI has with the X5S, lens and licenses, it is currently $5999. If you are a professional drone pilot and don't need to lift a RED or ARRI, the Inspire 2 is hands down the best drone on the market you can buy today.

Check out the Inspire 2 at DJI.com

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Dec 22, 2016, 10:27 AM
DJI Support
Tahoe Ed's Avatar
Nice review Jason. You have covered the major point and shows some nice photos and video.
Latest blog entry: M200 FAQ's
Dec 22, 2016, 01:54 PM
RCG Staff
Jason Cole's Avatar
Thanks! Now I just have to figure out how I can get one of my own...
Dec 22, 2016, 04:28 PM
Registered User
Thanks for the nice review, Jason. The photos attached with the cameras are 4K video grabs or JPEGs taken as actual photos? I'd love to be able to access the original DNGs from both cameras if possible. Any chance of uploading some DNGs to Dropbox ?
Dec 22, 2016, 05:02 PM
RCG Staff
Jason Cole's Avatar
Here's one from each camera you can download.

X4S DNG - https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/11360963/x4s.DNG

X5S DNG - https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/11360963/x5s.DNG
Dec 22, 2016, 06:48 PM
Registered User
Thank you!!
Dec 22, 2016, 07:14 PM
DJI Testing / US Support
blade strike's Avatar
Yes thank you Jason!
Latest blog entry: QUICK TIPS - Spark
Dec 22, 2016, 09:08 PM
Registered User
So, how much is it going to cost?
Dec 22, 2016, 09:24 PM
RCG Staff
Jason Cole's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DroneRequired
So, how much is it going to cost?
This was in the review....

"The Inspire 2 can be purchased for $2999 with no camera. Add the X4S and you are at $3598. If you go with the combo that DJI has with the X5S, lens and licenses, it is currently $5999."
Dec 22, 2016, 10:01 PM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Cole
This was in the review....

"The Inspire 2 can be purchased for $2999 with no camera. Add the X4S and you are at $3598. If you go with the combo that DJI has with the X5S, lens and licenses, it is currently $5999."
Not cheap but probably worth it however I'd be interested what you could do with that moment on a DIY aerial photography build...
Dec 23, 2016, 12:11 PM
Registered User
A quick note on the smart return home backtrack/retrace, it does this automatically when it loses signal with TX, but only does so for about 60 seconds at most (according to DJI) after which it will do a normal beeline failsafe RTH.


PS fantastic review and love all of the in depth videos you did.
Last edited by f3honda4me; Dec 23, 2016 at 12:16 PM.
Dec 28, 2016, 04:24 AM
Registered User
Top10Drones's Avatar
how much Licence is costing these days ?
Dec 28, 2016, 09:12 AM
DJI Support
Tahoe Ed's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Top10Drones
how much Licence is costing these days ?
I believe the cost is $1100usd.
Latest blog entry: M200 FAQ's
Jan 01, 2017, 10:32 PM
Registered User
Arrow1969's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Top10Drones
how much Licence is costing these days ?
Is now available separately from Inspire 2 combo CinemaDNG and Apple ProRes License Key

http://store.dji.com/product/cinemad...ar#/?_k=aasp7m
Jan 02, 2017, 09:54 AM
DJI Support
Tahoe Ed's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arrow1969
Is now available separately from Inspire 2 combo CinemaDNG and Apple ProRes License Key

http://store.dji.com/product/cinemad...ar#/?_k=aasp7m
If you are going to buy the license you should buy the SSD and reader. 64GB is not going to get you far on the the SD card. With the SSD the SD card is limited in the resolution that you can record.
Latest blog entry: M200 FAQ's


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