Sunday, 16 November 2014

Chinese company unveils ‘Inspire 1′ quadcopter, betting big on commercial drones

China’s SZ DJI Technology Co. is betting that the drone market for casual consumers will continue to expand with its latest offering: an upscale “quadcopter” that can take high-quality footage at only a few thousand bucks a pop

DJI announced it would start selling Inspire 1 this month, a powerful upgrade to its Phantom camera-equipped quadcopter, which debuted in 2013
Phantom has proved successful with hobbyists and filmmakers, according to a Wall Street Journal report, making DJI a leader in the growing commercial drone market. The company believes the Inspire is the next logical step: an improved version for professionals with greater performance demands
At $3,000, Inspire will be more expensive than Phantom, which sells for $1,000, but with that price tag users will get a 4K camera that can capture footage at four times the quality of a typical high-defintion camera found on the Phantom. The camera will also be able to turn 360 degrees
DJI’s vision is to make drone platforms that are accessible and customizable, expanding usage to everyone from companies to individual consumers and professionals
DJI is also aiming to make the platform “open,” in that programmers can create their own apps to control the drone and to change the type of information it can gather, making it a versatile platform. Although Phantom already allows for such apps, Inspire would be more flexible by providing a camera that is detachable, making the hardware more customizable. Phantom’s camera is locked in a front-facing spot on the drone
For example, a Phantom could collect data to create a three-dimensional map, or assist emergency workers in searching for missing persons
DJI faces some obstacles. In the United States, Federal Aviation Administration policy prevents commercial drone flights for the most part, allowing only recreational use. However, the FAA is — in light of the proliferation of drone usage — taking a closer look at those rules and could allow wider use of drones in the next couple of years
Drones are already becoming common commercially in countries like Canada and Germany, which have been more open to commercial drone use
DJI Innovations was founded in 2006 in Shenzhen, China. It has been largely focused on aerial survey and surveillance roles for its micro unmanned air vehicles, but the company has big ambitions for making drones more widely used
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