We took the DJI Mavic Air out

After unboxing, we really didn’t like the charger… nor the battery. Since the Phantom 3 to Phantom 4, the Inspire 1 to Inspire 2 and maybe the Mavic Pro to the Maciv Pro 2, the batteries have always been redesigned. Nothing is usable after an upgrade. Upgrading your DSLR from a Canon 60D to 70D or upwards to a 6D, 7D or 5DMK2 or MK3 do not require you to change the battery. It all uses the same LP-E6.

Come on DJI. It’s something that’s adding costs to users who upgrade. Reasons of profit or trying to squeeze it into a newly designed body of the drone are simply too expensive for end-users.

We didn’t like the charger either. It has to unfold, batteies stand vertical. The cube charger for the Mavic was better.


the mavic cube charger.
The new mavic air charger where the battery have to stand.

Option of the transmitter stick to be removed is good for those longer haul transport/ trip. Careful of dropping them onto grass in the field. A pair of spare is provided but we’ve installed it and has never removed it since.

Wind

It doesn’t handle wind well. Simple as that. We saw it drifting as we were flying near waters and usually what the Mavic Pro can handle, the Air could not. It wasn’t even huge gust of wind to begin with but we have trouble bring it back, lowered it to behind some trees and flew back behind trees.

Asteroid Mode

It is cool but if you were to get the Mavic Air to do one thing, this is about it.

Can you do car chase with it?

In 1 word. Yes, albeit a slow car.

Conclude

It’s small, it’s compact so you have to know the battery life is affected. The Mavic Pro seems to still have hit the balance better of weight vs flight time.

The build quality isn’t fantastic but you pay for what you get. It feels plastic and not as sturdy. We don’t think it’s meant to replace the Mavic Pro. It sits squarely between the Spark and Mavic Pro. Distance wasn’t great but we hit 1.8km easily before getting video signal lost but when back at our regaulr flying field, we can’t manage anything more than 400 meters.

We did some slow 8 to 12 meters/ Sec, car chases shots at 4K. Front and back obstacle avoidance is a great feature. If you don’t own one yet, get a Mavic Air, if not go for the Mavic Pro. By real commercial work, don’t get Mavic anything, look at the Phantom 4 or the Phantom 4 Pro.

The DJI Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 and Phantom 4 Pro are available from Camera Rental Centre at a limit rental price. Check them out.

This is another DJI Spark post

The DJI Spark has been covered quite a bit by many many reviewers. Here’s our favourite ones. Here and here.

But of course, nothing beats trying it out ourselves.

Intro
While flying the Spark, you must first and foremost understand, this is not a photography or videography drone like the DJI Phantom or even the DJI Mavic. The Spark is in the selfie range of drones. It can’t do shots like:

Or fly out to sea and take this:

Or video chases like

Or “Fly Away Shots”:

 

Camera

Image and video at full resolution are: 12 megapixel/3968 x 2976/, 1080p/ 30 fps videos.

Photography and videography with the Spark is so-so. You’re better off finding a high point, climb it and take a pic with your handphone. You’ll save more time. Gentle breeze causes it to moves around quite a bit. It’s very hard to track subjects when using the transmitter, if that’s what you are taking videos of.

Can you get shots like the above? yes you can. It won’t be easy considering battery life, it’s size that it moves around in gentle breeze… and it may not have the range needed to go where you want it to.

Resolution

  • Note the resolution is already quite low and it’s lower if you do not have a SD card, the photos will be saved to your phone at 1024 x 768 and videos will be 1280 x 720
  • The resolution drops to 1440 x 1080 or 1.5 Megapixel, no not a typo it is 1.5 (instead of 12 megapixel/3968 x 2976) when you are in Gesture Mode.

Compare –

Spark Image | EXIF Only

Phantom 4 Image

Sports Mode
Kinda useless when the camera can’t keep up. You get tilted videos the second you need to change directions. Useful for getting back to landing point, quicker. Normal non sports mode is slow.

Range
The spark transmitter connects to your phone via wifi and the usual RC channels 2.4ghz or 5.8ghz to the Spark. We used 5.8ghz, we managed to fly 300 meters and it’s really pushing it. It keep dropping video while we have full control of the Spark but if you can’t compose shots, it’s as good as useless to us.

On the way back to land from 300 meters, at 105 meters, we tried flying over trees to take some shots, RC link lost, video feed lost. Only trees and leaves made us lost connection.

GESTURES
TL;DR version – DO NOT USE IT.

But we’re very sure, people won’t listen till they try it. So try it in a big field with no obstacles.

It worked half the time. We get 50/50 success rates. First don’t do this indoors, it’s so unpredictable but of course, we had to try.  We thought it’s the lighting, so a sunny bright day, we went flying the Spark and tested it again.

During 1 take-off indoors, the spark refuses to land on our palm and keep moving around ever so slightly. We had the transmitter on at all times so we took over using the transmitter and landed in manually.

Sometimes it takes off after double tapping the battery button, the camera scans up and down for a face, most times it does not and goes back to waiting. When it works, gesture controls will make your arm ache trying to get it to obey your palm. Waving at it worked once from the 5 times we tried it. Y arms to bring it back and land worked when waving worked. At all times, the transmitter can be used to take over the Spark to manual flying. You’ll have to land the sparky with the transmitter once you fly it around for a while.

Battery/ Flight Time
15 mins. A mixture of sports mode and normal flying but mostly, we get around 10 mins playing with gesture mode and a little manual flying. Landing and taking off again and again tends to drain battery quicker.

The transmitter now connects to your phone via wifi and not cable, then the transmitter to the drone with the 2.4 or 5.8ghz RC connection. So your phone batt is constantly drained.

Conclude
As a selfie drone, this is quite fun to have. Small and dandy, easy to bring around. For shots like the below, 30 to 50 meters, it’s not bad to remember a holiday, a trip.

Taking selfie from a height of 5 to 10 meters showing the surrounding with you and your loved ones, not too bad but could be easier to setup a tripod or place your camera on a ledge or in a tree.

Filename – DJI_0005.JPG – Exif here.

Low altitude flying on grass fields is quite fun, we can imagine using this on a calm day flying over padi or tea leaves fields. See video below.

BUT, If you want to take some shots of a building from 50 meters height, do not use this.

The DJI Spark is available for rental at Camera Rental Centre Singapore. Check them out.

 

State of the hobby

It is end June 2016. A round up of what is the current status of multicoptors to us.

We’ve always love folding quads. Just look at our fleet. 30 builts later, we’ve partnered up and now flying Phantoms and Inspires do make us ponder and wonder.

The neatness of these ready to flys. Less hassle of packing things. We primarily fly for aerial videos and photos. Seldom fpv racing/ mini quads. We have a few (See our fleet) but its just for speed and fun mostly. It also means less things to be messing around with. Gains, programming knobs, it’s great knowledge but the hassle with so many China based made with crude documentations, don’t get us wrong, even leaders like DJI has manuals that seems written by school students but they’re getting there…slowly but surely.  

 

 

Being able to push out products in a lot shorter time frame and putting in technologies that they heard feedback from is critical. We all don’t need that new iPad or iPhone, that new Android tablet or new graphic card or cpu,it however makes your competitors play catch up.

Gimbal
Even powering up our good old Phantom 2 with a Hero 4, on a H43D seems a hassle now. You power up the Phantom 2, the Hero 4, connect your antennas to the Black pearl monitor, turn it on….

With the Inspire 1 or Phantom 4. Power up, connect iPad/ your phone, wait for GPS, fly, enjoy the scenery.

Auto Modes/ follow me, circle/ polar
It’s ridiculously easy with the DJI Go app for the POI or follow me.

We love to DIY. The smell of solder get us going and the ability to mix and match motors and ESC and learning the different Flight Controllers can be both fun and frustrating at the same time. If you’re the casual flyer, do not hope to purchase one but hope to have an aerial shot of your holiday or a one off shot of your loved ones having fun flying a kite or spending a day skating, consider renting as even buying one has some maintenance to be done. The least is the firmware updates for your drone and at times, all the bits that come with it, the batteries, gimbal, camera etc etc may all require update(s).

Another important point is, on tiny Singapore and with strict DJI No Fly zone implementation, we weren’t able to take on some past assignment with the church sitting on the edge but inside the no fly zone. On Google Map, go to 1.373587, 103.898441. From the church, you have to fly past 5 blocks of more than 12 storeys high buildings, cross a river and then a forested area of about 500 meters even then, you’re only at the edge of the airport. We needed the church tower video-ed and it’s no more than 20 meters tall…the solution? A DIY hexacopter.

There’s even guys who are certified circumventing this by disconnecting their GPS from their Inspire 1 and fly it in ATTI mode. Go google…

We hope one day, DJI will release what is in the DJI Go app to any Naza DIY-ers that they can build and making the geo-fencing a little more flexible.

Till the day comes and for all commerical jobs we received, seems like mostly, Inspire 1 and Phantoms prevail…for now.

How a crash looks like in Flytrex

 

Flytrex is a great, cheap and lightweight tool to help, to a certain extend see what may have gone wrong. It doesn’t however include input from your transmitter.

An example below from a crash, speed and altitude has a sudden drop within 2 secs. It’s regardless there is no other logging as the crash was caused by a broken propeller mid flight after reviewing the onboard video footage.

crash

Comparing, a normal flight does not have erratic lines or a sudden fall in speed and altitude.

normal

Simple analyzing of these cannot really help in determining if it was pilot input error but does help somewhat.

Lithium based batteries on planes

Created 2 March 2016
Reviewed – 28 Dec 2017
Updated 2 Feb 2018

In what was problem that was actually caused by the manufacturers, passengers are actually penalised on how much watt hours worth of batteries you can hand carry on board planes.

Watt hours is what airlines uses. We are lucky there’s the Internet. It’s actually not much, for example, we use the popular 5200mAh and 5000mAh 4S lipos.

Converted, they are 76.96 and 74 watt hour respectively.

Convert using this or use

(mAh)*(V)/1000 = (Wh)

Other popular batteries (values are per battery) –

DJI Mavic – 43.66 Wh
DJI Phantom 3 – 68 Wh
DJI Phantom 4 – 81.3 Wh
DJI Inspire 1 – 129 Wh

***Do Not Check in Any Batteries in luggage. Always hand carry.***

Singapore – Cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries will be banned from passenger aircraft from April 1 to reduce the risk of onboard fires.

Gist of it:

index

Jetstar Asia – carry on only, two lithium-ion batteries under 101 (6824.32 mAh 4S Lipo) watt-hours each that are part of electronic equipment.

– Only one other spare battery under 101 watt-hours may be carried on board,

  • There are no restrictions for batteries under 101Wh (eg found in mobile phones, laptops)
  • All spare batteries must travel as carry-on baggage.
  • Batteries in checked baggage must have the ON/OFF switch protected to prevent accidental activation.
  • Batteries between 101Wh and 160Wh (eg in medical equipment) require airline approval, which you can request by emailing dg@qantas.com.au.
  • Any batteries over 160Wh must be sent by Qantas Freight (except motorised mobility aids, see below).

(Source)

taindex

Tigerair – board personal devices with a capacity of up to 160 watt-hours (10810.81 mAh 4S Lipo).
(Source)

unnamed

Singapore Airlines allows laptops and mobile phones with less than 100 watt-hours (6756.75 mAh 4S Lipo) and a lithium content of less than 2g as onboard items.

But the move will not apply to personal devices that are carried on board, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) said yesterday.

The United Nations aviation agency’s precautionary step comes after years of industry concerns that lithium-ion batteries could fuel undetected fires in the cargo hold of planes.

Most airlines now do not allow passengers to check in lithium-ion batteries unless they are contained within personal devices such as laptop computers and mobile phones.

While there have been no serious incidents so far, lithium battery-powered equipment is suspected to have caused a fire in an empty aircraft parked at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said ICAO’s latest restriction will be conveyed to airlines and other relevant industry players.

“Currently, passengers are permitted to carry portable electronic devices containing lithium batteries in checked-in or carry-on bags,” she said.

“However, spare batteries, including power banks, are not permitted to be carried in check-in bags. They are permitted in hand- carry bags only.”

Singapore carriers also have their own guidelines, on top of what is now required by the regulator.

On Jetstar Asia flights, those who wish to carry the items onboard are allowed two lithium-ion batteries under 101 watt-hours each that are part of electronic equipment.

Only one other spare battery under 101 watt-hours may be carried on board, said a spokesman.

On Tigerair, passengers may carry on board personal devices with a capacity of up to 160 watt-hours.

Singapore Airlines allows laptops and mobile phones with less than 100 watt-hours and a lithium content of less than 2g as onboard items. A mobile phone typically uses a battery that is less than 10 watt-hours.

CAAS conducts regular audits and inspections to ensure guidelines are adhered to, said a spokesman.

ICAO president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said: “Safety is always our most fundamental priority in international civil aviation.”

The prohibition, coming after extensive reviews, is an interim measure until a new lithium battery packaging performance standard is introduced, possibly by 2018, he said.

The latest move has been eagerly awaited by aircraft manufacturer and pilots associations, which have been the most vocal advocates for the new safety measure, he said.

160Wh per battery. You are permitted 2 pieces. Total 320Wh. (That’s 8 x Mavic batteries per passenger.)

“Maximum of two spare batteries in carry-on baggage only”

(Source)

Smart baggage are allowed as checked baggage provided it meets the following requirement:
  • The battery must be removed
  • The battery must be kept in a protective pouch
  • WH (Watt Hour) of the battery must not exceed 160Wh
  • Ensure the Wifi/Bluetooth/GPS is switched off
  • A maximum of 2 spare batteries in the cabin baggage is allowed*
    160Wh per battery. You are permitted 2 pieces. Total 320Wh. (That’s 8 x Mavic batteries OR 4 x Phantom 4 batteries per passenger.)

(Source)

Cathay

160Wh

(Source)

Build: 650X6

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It’s been a while since we built a hexacopter. We’ve chosen the Hobbyking 650X6 for it’s affordable price. This will be more for use to lift heavier loads with redundancies.

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When folded this hex is 9250mm with 10 inch prop from center motor to opposite center motor.

680mm motor center to motor center and width 340mm when folded.

When opened and ready to fly, it’s 680mm than the named 650mm X6.

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Above: No love for the 650X6, not even a box. It comes in plastic bags. You pay for what you get. It’s only USD $29…

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One page instruction.

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Tubes are 15mm x 15mm

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Above: Design of the motor mounts. Cumbersome and hard to install thus we only installed only 2 of them…it lead to bad choices. See flight video at the end.

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Motors fitted, Emax 2213 with 10 inch prop. Going to run 4S on this.

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Above: Note the mounting of the horizontal bars under the hex for these are about 71mm center to center of hole on the rubber.

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Above: Messy cabling, get it flying first. Tidy up later.

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Build:

– Hobbyking 650X6
– Emax 2213 motors
– Gemfan 10 inch propellers
– 4S 5200mha Multistar
– DJI Naza M V2 with GPS, miniOSD
– Frsky D4R II

Flight:

Nothing broken but one motor came off during flight. We did hear some wierd sound thus the really low flying and came close to take a look…then flew out and the motor came off. Time to install more of those cumbersome nylon poles.

We flew the DJI Inspire 1 for 3 days – what we think

DSC09898

We took the Inspire 1 out and had a great time for 3 days and posted briefly on what we felt in the middle of May 2015.

 

Thanks to @camerarental for the #dji #inspire1. It’s been a great 3 days. Our thoughts, it’s stable but has hidden costs, you can’t fly with just any Android device. It must be an iPhone or iPad of certain version eg ios 8, iPad mini2. If you started out with nothing or if you were DIYing your tri or quad or hex or octo…. It may not be for you but if all you care is getting footage, 4k footage that is, this totally rocks. Repairs is something we’re concern, it’s a whole lot proprietary. . There is of course mention on #flitetest that it may not be a bad thing. Dji has engineered their inspire and phantoms to work efficiently, with their props, motors, Lipo etc etc at an engineered weight, matching apps etc etc. So there’s always 2 sides to a coin. You gotta know what you want and how much you are willing to spend. . – Battery life gotta be longer – Hidden cost, you need almost the latest ipad or iphone to run their app – Android is buggy, does not run on all Android devices/ android tablets or android phones. – For a few thousand dollars, we expected a camera record button god-damn-it! Anyway, you can start recording using the remote button if you are not using the DJI pilot app and fly the a inspire line of sight. – the arms that moves out of the way is simply engineering marvels. The inspire 1 is available for rental at Camera Rental center. Check them out. They have the Phantom range too. Of course, don’t forget they have Canon, Nixon and a whole range of video cameras for all your needs in Singapore. #dji #camerarental #inspire1 #phantom #dji pilot #4k #🚀 #✈ *opinions are our own.

 

A video posted by =In The Course Of Work= (@itcow) on

 

Here’s a more detailed write up of the experience.

We were excited in trying out the Inspire 1. It has been about a year since we’ve flown our DJI Phantom FC40, totally trashed it and migrated it’s parts to a few frames and now on a Xugong Pro V2. We thought, it’ll be nice for a change to not worry about motors KV, lipo mAh, prop size and all the other mambo jumbo, FPV, fiddling with the gimbal setup, tweaking our FPV.

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Apart from the launch video of the Inspire 1, we have never flown or seen one before. Before receiving it, we downloaded the manuals, went through it on paper first. The documentations are awesome. They are clear with diagrams and clear warning when they want your attention on certain aspect in that section (eg a 2.4Ghz warning telling you not to use similiar equipment near the Inspire 1).


 After collecting the Inspire 1 from the kind folks at Camera Rental Center (CRC), we went cracking.

CRC always provide their equipment checked and fully charged. We were immediately ready to fly.

We tried out 3 x Android handphones, all of them do not work then an iPad 2 that told us to upgrade to iOS8, ok, we did then installing it again, app store told us that the app is not compatible. It should have told us straight it’s not compatible from the start. Does app store only check the OS version and can’t tell the hardware version? Maybe.

We noted:

– An iPhone 6 or iPad Mini 2 is required. From what we think, it could be fair to say, DJI want you to have a good experience flying the Inspire 1 with new-er hardware, faster processor and faster video displaying with a iPhone 6. Thus no support for older iPhones or iPads even if they are upgradable to current iOS version. The built in lightbridge transmission of course, will require some kind of image/ video processing to be displayed either via the DJI Pilot app or using the HDMI out. We however, never managed to got it working in time and flew line of sight for all 3 days.

DSC09903

– Battery life need to be extended somehow. The slot for the Inspire 1 is fixed. Lipo size grows as the capacity goes up. Fitting other lipos in future may be not possible without affecting the looks of the whole craft. Technologies improved, maybe someone will be able to shrink lipo size.

– Repairs is something we’re concern, it’s a whole lot proprietary. There is of course mention on Flitetest that it may not be a bad thing. DJI has engineered their inspire and phantoms to work efficiently, with their props, motors, Lipo etc etc at an engineered weight, matching apps etc

– No camera record button and no indicator led on the camera. You won’t know if the camera is recording, turned on or doing nothing if you are flying line of sight. DJI has made it compulsory to fly with their app installed and running. You will know the camera was running after landing and touching it. It feels hot, not warm, it is hot when we recorded for a whole time it took off for one single lipo. You can however, use the record button on the transmitter (top left) to start recording.

– The arms that moves out of the way is simply engineering marvels. Seeing it “transform” when in the air is awesome!

– The included bag that holds the Inspire 1, spare propellers, transmitter, 4 batteries etc etc seriously need to come with WHEELS options.


 

There are of course some great things about the Inspire 1.

 – Footage are rock stable even when we try “crazy” flying. Straight flight at full speed then sudden and aggressive yaw or 360 spins, continuously. No problems for the Inspire 1.

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– Some do not like the included bag, we love it. It’s sturdy and packs the Inspire 1 in nicely. When at home, it’s good for storage of the Inspire 1 as well.

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The Sonar sensors/ Optical Flow baby!

– Sonar is magic. We flew it indoors and the sonar works really well. The Inspire 1 hovers and the footage is as if the camera was on a tripod. yes, it was THAT stable indoors.

DSC09889
The Inspire 1 – before transforming/ arms are in down position.

 – Looks. We buy and fly a lot of quads based on looks, no matter what function it has, if it can make coffee in the air or shoot fireworks…if it looks ugly, no one will buy one. The Inspire 1 looks great.

Repairs is something we’re concern, it’s a whole lot proprietary. . There is of course mention on #flitetest that it may not be a bad thing. Dji has engineered their inspire and phantoms to work efficiently, with their props, motors, Lipo etc etc at an engineered weight, matching apps etc etc. So there’s always 2 sides to a coin. You gotta know what you want and how much you are willing to spend. . – Battery life gotta be longer – Hidden cost, you need almost the latest ipad or iphone to run their app – Android is buggy, does not run on all Android devices/ android tablets or android phones. – For a few thousand dollars, we expected a camera record button god-damn-it! Anyway, you can start recording using the remote button if you are not using the DJI pilot app and fly the a inspire line of sight.    Remember…The inspire 1 is available for rental at Camera Rental Center. Check them out. They have the Phantom range too. Of course, don’t forget they have Canon, Nixon and a whole range of video cameras for all your needs in Singapore. Follow us, on Instagram.  

 

Footage

Last Words:

The Inspire 1 is not cheap. It’s about the price of a Canon 5DMK3. It takes 4k video, it’s rock stable in the air. Made us not worry about all the tech stuffs and just enjoy flying it after installing the propellors and waiting for the GPS signal(s).

Cost:

Minus the cost of say a Hero 4 that does 4k video now at around SGD $750.00, the Inspire is “only”, “actually”, SGD $3700.00 with dual remotes or $3080.00 for a single remote system.

ATTI:

The flight of it feels “locked in”. It’s not that manoeuvrable even in ATTI mode but in ATTI mode, it does gain quite a bit more speed. It depends on the kind of footage required anyway. We won’t be speeding up and down a strip of road to get good footage. Usually slow (or slower) pan or even yaw-ing the whole craft produce most production/ good shots.

Links:

Available for rental at Camera Rental Center Singapore
Flitetest’s review of the Inspire 1
DJI

2 Launches soon, 3DR and DJI

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DJI Phantom 3 is imminent and looks like indoor flight that’s uses sonar on the Inspire 1 will be on the new Phantom 3, the DJI even is tonight, 8 April 2015, Singapore time 11.30pm. 3D Robotics (3DR) is launching something new too on 13 April 2015.