This post will serve as a running “captain’s log” – a centralized place for me to keep notes, links and tips I’ve learned along the way about my Inspire 1. If you’ve found this page via google, I hope my experience can help you in some small way and answer a few questions you might have about the DJI Inspire 1.
Here are some of the golden rules I’ve been following – a lot of this is basic common-sense stuff but it never hurts to have it written down. YMMV/IANAL:
For now, fly below 400′ AGL, maintain line-of-sight, and don’t fly over people or within 5 miles of an airport without notifying air traffic control.
Airmap.io will give you the phone numbers to ATC/airports (even small ones) if you must operate near an airport. Great resource. Use it.
Don’t fucking fly near runways or known flight paths. Don’t fly near forest fires – especially active ones with obvious air-to-ground firefighting going on. Nobody wants to be the cause of a collision with a manned aircraft. Use your head.
Where I live there are a lot of sub-400′ cropdusting flights happening way out in the middle of nowhere, plus regular Air National Guard blackhawk patrols and C-130s that come in pretty low. Be situationally aware. If you hear an aircraft approaching, descend and give way. Again, don’t be the guy that causes a crash. There’s been a lot of debate about what a drone strike would actually do to a plane, but I sure as hell don’t want to be the one to find out.
Become an expert in ATTI mode. Never rely on GPS to save your ass. If you fly near metal bridges or giant steel structures, be prepared to go into ATTI mode. Controls will get squirrely.
Keep firmware and DJI Pilot app up to date.
You can’t take photos while filming video.
Remember to press the record button.
Shoot in LOG. Flatter profile is better for grading in post.
Always allow GPS time (2-3 mins) to lock onto satellites and double check home point is set/updated before launching.
Don’t charge the RC unit + battery at the same time from one charger. Overheating is likely. Purchase a second charger instead.
Never fly with half charged batteries. Keep a close eye on voltages while flying and always follow discharge and storage procedures.
Beware of cold. TB47 batteries are averaging about 12-14 mins of flight time in the cold right now. I have three TB48’s on order since Nov. 29th but no idea of when they’ll ship. Update: TB48’s arrived from B&H on Feb 12th and do provide an extra 4-5 minutes of flight time even in the cold (16-18 mins). Insulate them. I made a “battery coozy” out of an old camera bag insert and some velcro. Works well. Update: I ordered one of the DJI battery heaters, but it was May by the time it shipped so I didn’t get to test it out in the cold this year.
Personal tablet recommendation: iPad Mini 3 has been treating me well. Nvidia Shield is the next best tablet to use, but battery life is shitty and I’m not fond of Android. Google Nexus 9 does a decent job. Avoid the Samsung tablets. iOS is supported again and I’ve grown fond of using my iPad Mini 3 due to its size vs my iPad Air 2 which just feels ridiculous on the RC.
Check new quick release props every flight for wear. If anything feels loose, replace that shit immediately. If flying the old-school twist on props, use the prop locks. New ESC’s use an active braking mode that can cause props to fly-off. Prop-locks recommended and provided by DJI work well and are cheap.
If anything above sounds like a foreign language to you, the Inspire 1 might not the bird you should start out with. Start off with something cheaper and simpler, like a Phantom or Hubsan X4. You’re going to crash. Better to wreck something smaller and cheaper first. I can wholeheartedly recommend the $45 Hubsan X4 (H107L) from Amazon. I have three of them now and refer to them as my “training drones.” They’re the sole reason I have remained sane while stuck inside this winter, and they’ll help you become more proficient in ATTI mode.
My Inspire Timeline:
NOV 13 2014
DJI announces the Inspire 1, jaws drop. Eric Cheng (intelligent, talented guy who I have followed for a while, via his blog @ skypixel.org) makes the outdoor announcement a-la an apple style keynote, complete with a flight demonstration and celebrity guests Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from the show Mythbusters.
NOV 29 2014
I wait a couple of weeks to make sure the Inspire 1 is something I want to blow a wad of hard-earned money on. I own two Phantom II’s (one dedicated to carrying a gopro for video, the other dedicated to carrying a Sony RX100 for stills) but carting both around has become a pain in the ass. Showed the video to my boss who was also amazed by it… he declares there will be a sizeable holiday bonus this year, so I pull the trigger on a pre-order at B&H Photo. Single controller version and two TB48 batteries.
There are rumors that the Inspire 1 will have “Ground Station” functionality built in. In other words, autonomous flight/autopilot. My dream is to be able to pre-program a flight path with altitude and waypoints on a map, then have the drone take off and fly the route. While that’s happening, I’m hopeful I could switch the remote to “camera mode” and control the “gimbal only” with the sticks, getting nice pan and tilt shots while the craft is on autopilot. Fingers crossed.
Ah, the holidays. Any spare time I had was spent lurking in three main forums reading… reading, and then reading some more. Dreaming of an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle er.. I mean, an Inspire 1.
The Inspire Pilot’s Forum (started by the guys that run PhantomPilots)
The official DJI Forums:
And the largest, longest thread I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying to keep up with, The Inspire 1 Owners Thread over at RCGroups.com. Proud to say I’ve read the entire thing from start to end:
The first two forums (inspirepilots.com & forum.dji.com) didn’t have a whole lot of action (at first) and it became clear that the main source for juicy information was coming from the RCGroups thread. The two contributors that made that happen were “Tahoe Ed” and “blade strike” – beta testers for DJI. Tahoe Ed is an employee and Blade is a volunteer.
I’d like to send a special thank-you to both of those guys for providing level headed advice, updates and information about the Inspire 1 before anyone else had their hands on them. Having an authority figure in the forums answering direct questions also kept rumors and speculation low(er) than I’ve ever seen. Other companies should take note of this. Providing an open forum with intelligent, official, authoritative communication for new products would make launches and pre-order situations much better for their customers.
Early on, many others had the same wish as I did regarding Ground Station. Sadly, it has been reported that the Inspire 1 won’t ship with that feature but “it may be added at a later date.”
DEC 8 2014
DJI announces that the first orders should start shipping near the end of December and a nice carrying case will be included:
- The first round of new Inspire 1’s will start shipping at the end of December. Shipments will be prioritized based on how early you made your order, those who ordered first receiving their units first. Information on subsequent shipping rounds will be released soon.
- A free, convenient carrying case will be included with All orders. This case has been customized to fit your Inspire 1
DEC 14 2014
Randy Braun states in an interview at the LA Drone Expo that production runs should start within a week:
DEC 16 2014
Digital Cinema Films (DCF Media) from the UK posts a beautiful video comparing footage from a pre-production Inspire 1 vs an S900 outfitted with a Panasonic GH4
DEC 19 2014
Lots of questions and requests from users in the forums about how to pan and tilt the camera gimbal at the same time to get fluid shots with the single controller version. DJI responds with a new feature in the app allowing users to tap and hold a finger on the screen to pan and tilt the camera by sliding your finger, as well as new mappable button configurations on the rear of the controller to swap the pan/tilt function of the left hand control dial
DEC 23 2014
Phillip Bloom posts unboxing pictures from a “near release model” showing a new hard matte added to the camera to help prevent flare. Originally there was a rumor that DJI was working on a last minute “hood” for the camera and this was the reason production was delayed. I’m guessing the new hard matte was deemed aerodynamically better than a formal lens hood.
DEC 28 2014
Blade Strike reports that the device holder is a super tight fit with an iPad Air: “You will not be able to have any type of case on an iPad air. It’s a tight fit w/o one.” Since I usually have a case on my iPad, I set out to try and hack something together using an israeli arm and a spring loaded iPad holder. UPDATE: After receiving my Inspire 1, I discovered the threaded hole on the remote isn’t a standard 1/4′ 20 and my planned hack with the israeli arm won’t work.
DEC 30 2014
DJI officially announces units are shipping:
“We’re happy to announce that the first round of DJI Inspire 1 units will start shipping on December 31, 2014. As more units become available, orders will be shipped on a priority basis.”
Jan 4-5 2015
First owners start receiving their units, one crash reported via Facebook with scant details. Owner is asked to send unit to DJI for flight log analysis and is reportedly being fixed for free. A new firmware version .14 is released because some folks were experiencing lockups/incomplete updates when installing the firmware. DJI also announces a new “handle” for the Inspire 1’s camera at CES.
Jan 6 2015
First concerns about the method DJI is using to distribute the iOS app begin to surface (Enterprise Deployment, w/ serial number). Many users feel that if Apple catches wind of how DJI is distributing the iOS app, DJI could have their MFi/developer certificate revoked. Full explanation can be found at this page over in the DJI forums.
Jan 9 2015
I wake up and read a post over at the DJI forum titled “B&H Orders”. On page 2 of that thread, there’s an entry from a guy who called B&H to check the status of his order. He reports:
“I was told that my order had not shipped because the 2nd remote was on back order. He said he could ship out the Inspire 1 with the one remote and later ship the 2nd remote when it becomes available. I chose that option and he said my order would ship tomorrow.”
When I logged in at B&H to check my order status I noticed that the line item on my order for the Inspire 1 had changed from “On Order” to “In-stock, Sent to Warehouse”. The two TB48 batteries were still listed as “On Order” and undoubtedly holding things up. No idea how long my order had been sitting that way, but I was excited. I couldn’t call in and talk to someone at B&H because they close on Fridays at 1pm, and I didn’t want to call Monday (because that would mean they’d ship it Monday and it’d be out for delivery on Tuesday – I wasn’t going to be working from home on Tuesday, so I couldn’t sign for it). Decided to wait until Tuesday to call.
Jan 10-11 2015
More crashes reported over the weekend. Arm wobble/shaking reported. Yaw drift and TBE “toilet bowl effect” complaints – can’t hold a straight line during flight. DJI Pilot app crashing during flight. Things seem to be going badly for those that are flying their new Inspires.
In regards to the “Arm Wobble” DJI Support stated it was normal…
Originally Posted by ZT_RCGP: The loose arm is designed to be like this. Don’t worry about that. If the arm is tightened, the vibration will be increased greatly. This place is very critical to vibration. So never touch this part.
Some cavalier chaps in the forums said to hell with it and tightened the bolts on the arms anyway. Reports were that it completely solved the shake. Others said they had warranty tape over their bolts that they couldn’t twist or it would void the warranty. Update: DJI Autumn/support says that if your Inspire has this wobble, send it in for warranty repair, do not tighten the bolts on your own.
Jan 12 2015
DJI announces first and second round shipping for orders placed direct, and a 24hr support hotline:
Dear DJI Inspire 1 Customers,
We are happy to announce that the first and second rounds of Inspire 1 preorders will be shipped this week. This includes orders for both single and dual remote controllers.
DJI has a 24-hour support team to help answer any questions you may have about your Inspire 1. Please visit the official DJI website for contact details:
January 12, 2015
It’s a good thing about that hotline too, because on Jan 12th, the infamous “garage door” crash footage went public too. This was the beginning of the “IMU bug” woes.
“Last couple of flights not stable on auto take off – shimming and drifting. wanted to record if it drifted to send to dji to get settings changed or trouble shoot the issues as it crashed earlier in the am – but was fine 2 times after just a lot of shimming and bobbing in the desert in the open or in the subdivision of the house i was trying to film – we went out and checked everything recalibrated the compass again even though we hadn’t moved – and this happened with no operator input just in auto take off mode”
Update: It turns out this was a software problem with the IMU that ended up “grounding” everyone’s units until a firmware fix was released by DJI later in the week (although if you’re having issues with drift, personally I’d suggest testing in the middle of an open field and not on a residential street surrounded by houses.)
Jan 13 2015
Around 10am I call B&H. It was a three sentence call:
Me: “I’d like to see if you guys can split my order #167765 – ship me what is in-stock now, and keep the rest as a backorder”
B&H Rep: “Sure thing, we’ll ship it out this afternoon and you’ll have it tomorrow.”
Me: “Awesome!” Click.
Jan 14 2015
Sometimes things just fall into place. Today is my birthday. I joked with my wife that I hit “peak birthday” when the FedEx and UPS guy showed up within an hour of each other this afternoon, one dropping off my “Storm Racing Drone/Emax 250” from China and the other dropping off my Inspire 1. I don’t think it’ll ever get that good again 🙂
After work I unpacked everything, updated the firmware & app, calibrated the IMU and then went out in the dark to perform her maiden flight.
With all the stories of things going bad and crashing I was scared shitless, ready for anything. I made sure to calibrate the compass, twice and let everything sit for a good five minutes to soak in as much GPS signal as possible. Made sure I was in beginner mode (limits the distance and altitude) in case anything went haywire. I also didn’t use any of the “auto” tools – I gently took off manually and the thing hovered in the most stable hover I’ve ever seen.
Took a quick 30 foot lap around the yard at about ten feet, did a pirouettte, then landed. Didn’t even raise the legs. Enough for now, just wanted to make sure it all worked.
Jan 15 2015
Today I received this email from B&H:
ALERT: Important message regarding your Inspire 1 Quadcopter
It has come to our attention that there’s an issue with the DJI Inspire 1 Quadcopter regarding altitude drift. DJI is currently testing a firmware update correcting this issue. Please do not fly your Inspire 1 Quadcopter until the firmware is updated. We will update you as soon as possible once the firmware is fully tested and released.
We regret your dissatisfaction and we’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.
Your Customer Service team at B&H
Awesome! Consensus on the forums is that this is a legit bug causing Inspires to crash (garage door guy) and everyone should “ground” their units until the new firmware is released. Later that same day, DJI releases firmware v220.127.116.11 which I update as soon as I get home from work. It’s late and I didn’t feel like flying in the yard again so I continue to read the forums. Two cases of propellers now randomly flying off the Inspire 1 are reported and being discussed… great!
Jan 16 2015
I wake up and read the following headline over at RCGroups:
“Apple just pulled the plug on DJI iOS Pilot App and removed all references to iOS on the Inspire 1 product page”
Sweet jesus, this just keeps getting worse. It looks like the cat is out of the bag with the way DJI was distributing the Pilot App. Pitchforks and torches. There are a lot of folks who bought brand new iPads to use with the Inspire that are now out of luck and livid – I’m as angry as the rest of them. I love my Apple devices dearly and really don’t want to have to buy an Android tablet for the sole purpose of running a current version of the Pilot app.
As Friday morning goes on, it becomes clear that the iOS version of the app isn’t going to be available for quite some time (10+ days minimum). DJI support adamantly states they haven’t given up on iOS and that the app will be released whenever Apple gives them the green light. Many people scoff and think this is just a way for DJI to cover their ass and they are truly done with iOS. Nobody knows for sure. When I saw that they had indeed removed all references to iOS compatibility, I started to shop for an Android tablet. This statement made up my mind:
“OK iOS is done. You might as well deal with it. Here’s your best option, and it will look like it was shipped from the factory, Samsung Galaxy S 8.4”
I checked at Amazon and the Galaxy S had received mostly positive reviews. They had it in stock and available for Saturday delivery so I pulled the trigger. Problem solved.
Later that day, I receive the following email from B&H:
Important update regarding your Inspire 1 Quadcopter
We emailed you earlier about the recent firmware update to the DJI Inspire 1 Quadcopter. We have successfully tested this new firmware and it should resolve the issue previously noted. Please update the firmware of your DJI Inspire 1 to v18.104.22.168 from the DJI website before any further flights. You can download the firmware update at http://www.dji.com/product/inspire-1/download. Please click this link and follow the instructions on how to update the firmware.
Please also note – the Inspire 1’s propellers may come off during flight if they are not correctly hand tightened. To prevent this, DJI is offering free Propeller Locks to all current Inspire 1 customers. These Propeller Locks will become available soon and will be shipped to you. We recommend that you do not attempt flying your Inspire 1 before receiving and attaching the Propeller Locks. Though if you must fly the Inspire 1 please do so only after securely tightening the propellers onto the motors.
Sincerely, Your Customer Service team at B&H
At this point I was saying to myself “This is batshit crazy. The threads are reversed on the props and the harder you hit the throttle the tighter they get, how is this a real thing?” Someone in the forums explained that the Inspire 1 uses a new kind of closed loop ESC that applies active braking to the rotors. If your rotors are not secured tightly, they can spin off during periods of strong reverse thrust or in high wind.
Jan 17 2015
I couldn’t take it. Had to get out of the house and fly this thing, although I was still nervous about the rotor situation and firmware stories. I’d spent most of the morning getting the Galaxy S tablet squared away and my plan was to tighten the props as firmly as I could and fly her super gently. Most folks in the forums agreed that as long as the props were tight and you weren’t going nuts or doing crazy hard stops and aerobatics you should be fine. Off I went:
There was a noticeable amount of lag/slow refresh rate with the Galaxy S tablet. Not enough to prevent use of the app, but annoying. Will be returning the Samsung to Amazon and testing a Google Nexus 9.
Jan 21 2015
Took the Inspire up to the office on a warm-ish day (33ºF!) forecast to have no wind. Waited until after hours to take her out for a dusk flight and was pleasantly surprised again at how well she flew. Made sure to hand-tighten the props as tightly as possible, just in case. Still flying gently. Nervously tested the RTH and auto-takeoff/landing functions which all worked incredibly well.
At the beginning of the flight I did experience some GPS signal dropouts/switch to ATTI mode like everyone else is experiencing on this firmware. Not a huge deal right now if you’re prepared for it. In regards to video lag, the Google Nexus 9 worked better than the Galaxy S 8″ tablet, but still had some noticeable lag/refresh rate issues. No app crashes though. Forum guys are suggesting the Nvidia Shield tablet works the best, so I may end up returning the Nexus 9 (although I really like the screen size, lollipop os and feel of the device). Will be sad to see it go.
I decided this would be the last flight for a while until I get the prop locks. Really want to start cruising along with this thing, but just too much to lose if a prop comes flying off. Going to spend some time tinkering with my Emax 250 racing drone until then.
Jan 23 2015
DJI officially releases pictures and installation video of the prop locks:
Feb 3 2015
It’s been a long couple of weeks waiting for the promised prop locks. I haven’t flown at all since Jan 21 because I don’t want to risk a crash and the frustration of having the Inspire sit in the corner day after day is getting old. Therefore, I was stoked to hear from B&H today in the following email:
Important update regarding your Inspire 1 Quadcopter:
As we previously emailed you, the DJI Inspire 1 Quadcopter’s propellers may come off during flight if they are not correctly tightened. DJI is offering free Propeller Locks to all current Inspire 1 customers.
We are expecting to have the locks within the next couple of days. You will receive an order confirmation shortly with the order for the locks. We will ship them to you free of charge as soon as we receive them.
Please see this link from DJI for instructions on how to properly install them. http://download.dji-innovations.com/downloads/inspire_1/en/1345_Propeller_Locks_Quick_Start_Guide_en.pdf
We offer our sincerest apologies for the delay you have experienced in using your Quadcopter.
So, fingers crossed I may actually be able to get back in the air by the weekend. Also, a big thumbs up and thank you to B&H for communicating with their customers. Solid job guys.
Feb 6 2015
UPS guy drops off the prop locks from B&H at 8:00pm. Scotch is cracked open. Flights tomorrow.
Feb 7 2015
First high speed runs around a local cornfield. Video coming shortly.
Feb 8 2015
Fixed up the Phantom 2 transmitter and camera mount from DroneExpert.nl mid-day and headed to Chesapeake City to get some aerial photos. Cloudy, gray afternoon but was good to get the old Phantom 2 in the air. Then headed south along Del 9 looking for spots to catch a good sunset with the Inspire 1. Found one:
Feb 12th-15th 2015
TB48’s arrived from B&H on the 12th and provide an extra 4-5 minutes of flight time in the cold (16-18 mins) vs the TB47’s. So now I have three TB47’s and three TB48’s. The TB48’s are seeing more use than the TB47’s, and there are days I wish all six were the TB48’s (although you can only take two on a commercial airliner as carry-on due to the lithium content) so it’s nice to have a few to take with me whenever I get my ass on a plane. The TB48’s are better in the cold just because they have that little bit of extra juice. The last few weeks have been brutally cold here with wind chills well below zero – I swear it hasn’t been above 20º in the last 10 days. Not a lot of opportunities to fly – it’s just too damn cold. Really cold weather wreaks havoc with the batteries and I’ve been cutting flights short around 40-50% just to be on the safe side. Currently working on fabricating an insulating neoprene wrap while I’m cooped up inside.
Feb 16th 2015
First decent images I’ve seen of the new E800 quick-release props and adaptors. These look to be infinitely easier to install, cheaper than the stock props and don’t need the prop locks, as they tighten like a medicine bottle top. Ordered two sets of props and two sets of rotor adapters from 1uas.com, hopefully they’ll get them in-stock soon. Chinese New Year and west coast shipping strike aren’t helping things get here any faster.
Feb 21st 2015
On my way to work on Tuesday I drove over the C&D canal and saw something awesome… the canal was like a bowl full of fog but the surrounding area was clear, I believe it may have been a “temperature inversion“. I’d never seen it like that before and had the Inspire been with me, I totally would have stopped to film it. I’ve been getting up early and heading down there in the hopes of catching it happen again, but no luck yet. On Saturday I got some cool footage of a RO-RO car carrier and a tug chugging through the icy water. It was a mind numbingly cold 9º.
Feb 24th 2015
Had an incident in 20º temps with an uninsulated TB47 where a “critical voltage” alarm sounded even though the battery reported 50% charge remaining. Landing gear came down and it initiated a RTH on it’s own. I was able to override it and bring her in manually – guessing it was due to the extreme cold, but it freaked me out. Can’t wait for spring.
Going to stop updating this post and start branching things out! Way too much to read!