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6 Huge Releases from NAB: New VR and Modular Drones, and A Bevy of High End Cine Tools from DJI

BY Zacc Dukowitz
25 April 2017

As you know, drone land is the place for whacky and insanely clever inventions—in the last few months we’ve seen light shows at the Super Bowl, taxi drones, and drone cake baking, to name just a few of the more off the wall uses.

Last week’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference has brought us the next wave in drone tech, and this time the releases are more techy and nuanced than they are zany (unlike last year, where a highlight was Ehang’s drone you could fly by moving your head around).

The releases this year from NAB don’t focus on the novel or the wacky, but instead on high-end tools that provide extremely high quality for every aspect of aerial cinematography, from a new remote control to a drone that provides livestreaming at broadcast quality in VR.

We should note that there were rumors of a possible Phantom 5 and DJI Spark release at NAB, but those ended up just being rumors.

Here are the biggest releases from NAB this year:

1. The Flying Eye 6K VR Drone by 360 Designs

The Flying Eye is being touted by 360 Designs, its creator, as the world’s first broadcast-quality VR (or 360 video) drone.

The drone’s wireless video system offers near uncompressed, low latency, 6K video. It’s designed to carry the 360 Designs’ Mini EYE 3 camera (though it’s compatible with other 3-camera, HDMI or SDI-based VR rigs).

The Flying Eye’s livestreaming capability depends on a custom wireless transmission system known as the Breeze, developed by 360 Designs (not to be confused with the Yuneec Breeze, which also recently released livestreaming capabilities).

Using the Breeze system, live VR streams can be shared just about anywhere in the world via YouTube, Facebook, or VR headsets, and all in high quality.

“We wanted to create a broadcast-quality live 360 drone platform for professionals, so they can create stunning live VR productions, with or without the drone in shot.”

– Alx Klive, CEO of 360 Designs

The quality of this 6K drone is undeniable, but it does come with a steep price tag of $75,000.

Why this is a big deal: Livestreaming at 6K quality in VR. Need we say more?

2. DJI’s Cendence Remote Control with SDI Out

The Cendence remote control can only be used with the Inspire 2 and the Matrice series drones and is not compatible with other “lower end” drones in the DJI catalogue. This fact alone indicates the market DJI is targeting with the release—high end drone cinematography, and especially, it seems, the news market.

The Cendence features 16 user customizable buttons and dials, a built-in 1000-nit screen that should be useable outdoors, and it can display telemetry information. For a main display you can connect either a DJI CrystalSky monitor or attach an iOS device.

One of the most interesting features on the new remote is the addition of HDMI and SDI outputs right on the controller, which means it could hypothetically be used for a live broadcast on TV.

Why this is a big deal: Tools like this could potentially revolutionize the news by making livestream broadcasting via drone not just possible, but easy. We’ll be curious to see how soon adoption spreads in news organizations.

DJI Cendence remote control

Image source

DJI Cendence remote

Image source

An interview with a DJI rep about the Cendence at NAB

3. DJI’s CrystalSky

This monitor is BRIGHT. A prototype was shown at CES a few months back, and now these monitors are available for purchase.

DJI Introduces CrystalSky Outdoor Display for Drones

Why this is a big deal: The new CrystalSky monitor displays up to 2000 cd/m2, which is four times brighter than a typical smartphone or tablet, allowing clear screen visibility even in full daylight.

Details:

  • Available in 5.5-inch and 7.85-inch sizes
  • Can operate for up to 6 hours using a secondary external battery
  • Three configurations: a 5.5-inch, 1000 cd/m2 version for $469, a 7.85-inch, 1000 cd/m2 version for $699, and a 7.85-inch, 2000 cd/m2 version

4. DJI’s Ronin 2

The Ronin 2 is a three-axis camera stabilizer, with an enlarged camera cage and 50mm extendable arms, which can support DSRLs as well as full cinematic cameras and lenses up to 30 pounds.

DJI - Introducing the Ronin 2

Why this is a big deal: The Ronin 2 gimbal has a touchscreen controller and is able to handle a payload of up to 30lbs (13kgs), which is almost double the weight the previous version could handle. This thing will be great for heavy rigs designed to hold huge cameras in big budget films.

Details:

  • Completely redesigned, more intelligent, more powerful. Splash-proof design, multiple power outlets built-in. Also, a stand is built right into the frame, no extra stand needed.
  • Up to 5x higher torque. Built-in GPS. Dual hot-swappable batteries which can be recharged in 90 min. Up to 8 hours of uptime, 2.5 hours of operation.
  • Self-heating batteries, perfect for harsh environments.
  • Detachable Gimbal with a quick-lock mechanism, can be mounted to various setups.
  • Dual operator mode.
  • Completely redesigned remote control.
  • A bright LCD touchscreen is included which provides you with all kinds of crucial information.

5. DJI’s Tracktenna

The Tracktenna enables a pilot to fly a drone as far as 6.2 miles away and maintain a connection with his or her drone.

DJI Previews Tracktenna Long-Range Video and Control Link

DJI Tracktenna

Image source

The Tracktenna is a high-gain antenna that, according to DJI, “ushers in a new era of remote  wireless communication” by improving signal reliability over long  distances and resisting interference.

Its built-in sensors and two-axis  gimbal automatically point the antenna to the aircraft at all times,  bolstering the connection even while the operator is in motion or on a  vehicle.

Why this is a big deal: The new Tracktenna yet again increases the range at which a drone can be flown—and it can be mounted on a vehicle (just make sure you’re FAA compliant!).

Details:

  • 6.2 mile range
  • Will point towards your drone automatically

6. The X-Dynamics D-02 Drone

The D-02 is a next-gen professional, industrial grade octocopter designed for both cinematography and industrial applications, compatible with a wide range of accessories, sensors, and cameras.

D-02 XDynamics Drone

Image source

Why this is a big deal: The D-02 is designed with modularity in mind, and represents a new wave of drones that can be used for multiple purposes. The D-02 also comes equipped with “zero latency” wireless broadcasting technology, which is in and of itself significant. The X-Dynamics website tells us that it’s really more like 10 milliseconds latency…but we think that’s plenty close to zero for them to make the claim. 🙂

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