Heavy lift drones.
This has always been the big leagues. Lifting a cinema sized camera is no joke and can produce some amazing results, but the cost of failure can be devastating. Crashing a $30K drone with a $100K camera can ruin your whole day!
DJI Heavy Lift drones
The DJI S900 and S1000 were mainstays for a couple years. The S1000 (which is an Octocopter – 8 arms and motors) could lift heavier cameras somewhat respectably, and was relatively inexpensive. The S900 (a hexacopter 6 arms…) was the replacement for the S800 which perfect for the GH4 and was pretty much considered a camera specific drone. The S900 had great flight characteristics compared to everything else at he time because the arms had a *dihedral angle enabling it to decent faster.
*Here’s your vocabulary lesson for the day, and a way to look like you know what you’re talking about: DIHEDRAL ANGLE where it relates to multirotors: Arms angled slightly upward, angling the motors outward to allow the drone to slip downward thru it’s own column of wind, with less resistance or interference.
Now there’s the Matrice 600 which is a bit enigmatic. It a large frame, needs 6 batteries (which is problematic in of itself as DJI batteries have proprietary chargers which take an hour+ to charge), but isn’t really designed to carry large cameras. DJI shows pictures with it with X4 & X5 cameras on it (which are small) so it doesn’t make sense over an Inspire unless you need 45 minute flight times. The gimbal that it comes with will comfortably carry a Canon 5D, but above that you have to modify it and use a different gimbal. I had an experience with an impatient operator from an Aerial company from Beverly Hills who called me a “Debbie Downer” for pointing out how over-weighted the drone was and the flex of the gimbal and told me “that’s what insurance is for”. IMHO Good piloting requires proper planning, not insurance.
*An interesting side-note Just recently the US government has banned all DJI products on military bases because DJI instituted a policy of having to connect with DJI directly and all flight records are uploaded to DJI’s website so it poses a security risk because it could potentially give the Chinese access to classified information. There’s also been some rumbling in the industry about homeland security banning DJI products if they don’t stop transmitting their data back to China. My hopes are that this will pave the way for an American company to develop something viable as I think healthy competition is good for any industry. But DJI has been the industry leader for years and unless they choose to thumb their nose, at homeland security, or pay us back for the recently imposed tariffs, I’m betting they will make the adjustments to keep the US’s large chunk of their 2.7 BILLION dollar annual revenue.
There’s a drone built by DJI called the Storm, which is a monster of a drone! It’s much heavier than the legal limit in country which is 55lbs. There’s only 5 of them ever built and it’s rumored two of them are for sale for $80k each. These bad boys are built to incorporate the Ronin 2 which weighs 12.1 lbs, and have a payload of 40 lbs.
The DJI Storm is the largest drone, that is built by the largest drone company, and only five exist on the planet.
Freefly Alta Heavy Lift drones
Then there’s the Freefly Alta 6 & 8 and the recently released Alta X. Freefly was a pioneer in the heavy lift arena with the Cinestar (that’s our Cinestar from 2013 as the featured image), and everyone is probably familiar with the Movi electronic stabilizers. Freefly has a soft spot in my heart because they’re the only real American company that makes drones anyone cares about. We also own a MoVI XL and are a boutique Freefly dealer.
The Alta 6 is good for DSLR’s, up to a stripped down RED. But putting anything large on that drone is a bad decision. Last year I on a shoot with a certain “Octocopter-company” that took a “I think it’ll work?” approach and flew an Alta 6 over the ocean. We ended up flying the Inspire because of the Alta’s short flight times and the amount of dust the Alta it kicked up. The wedding that was taking place nearby appreciated the choice the producer made.
But the Alta 8 which has a 2 pound higher carrying capacity sort of made the Alta 6 obsolete. While two pounds doesn’t seem like much, it’s a lot when you’re talking a larger lens or focus control AKA Fizz Control.
The recently release Alta X gives the flight crew the option of flying up to 40 lbs, Of course the more weight you pile on it, the less time it will fly, but Freefly builds a hearty bird that is reliable and has some pretty useful built in features.
Then there’s a handful of smaller companies that have heavy lift drones. Gryphon Dynamics, or Shotover U1, or custom builds by for lifting a Phantom 4K, a 360 ball, or 3D dual-camera rig. But chances are if you’re looking in this category, you probably don’t need to read this article. If you do need this sort of power, we’d be happy to help!
Please don’t hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to help you with all your aerial and dynamic camera shots.
To continue to the final post PART 5 “Do they speak camera?” click here
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