The Workhorse: Why the DJI Inspire 1 is the standard for public safety UAVs

Largely hailed as a drone ahead it’s time, the DJI Inspire 1 is still the leader of it’s class. When it came out in December of 2015, it was leaps ahead of other consumer drones - retractable landing gear, a 4K camera, and transmission distances of over a mile. It also featured the ability to connect two controllers - one for flying, and one for controlling the camera.

DJI upped the ante in 2016 when they added the Zenmuse XT camera, powered by FLIR technology, to the Inspire 1 arena. This camera is still the only fully-integrated thermal imaging camera on a consumer UAV platform, and works seamlessly within the DJI app universe.

For all of these reasons, the Inspire 1 became the platform of choice for hundreds of public safety agencies around the country, and continues to be so today. The drone itself costs less than $2,000, and comes standard with the X3 camera - a 4K camera on a 360 degree swivel, one remote, and one battery. Add as many long-life batteries (20 minutes in this case) to the Inspire 1, and a quad battery charger, and you’ve got a system that will perform all day long.

Retractable landing gear means no legs in your shot, but it also means the ability to drop a payload with the optional Skyzimir Stork system - a $125 add-on that uses the retractable arms to open a claw.

The Inspire 1 will take a payload of 4-5 pounds, allowing you to easily drop a life jacket, a radio, or even pull a tag-line across a raging river.

The addition of the Zenmuse XT camera allows you to see heat signatures, both day and night, improving the usefulness of your drone for search and rescue, fire surveillance, HAZMAT, high-risk warrant service and SWAT callouts.

DJI release the Zenmuse Z3 camera, a 3.5x optical and 2x digital zoom camera for the Inspire 1 as well, another huge and useful feature for this bird.

The drone itself retails for $1999, the Z3 goes for $899, and the Zenmuse XT ranges from $5700 - $14,000 depending on which of the 32 configurations you choose.

The XT is available in 2 resolutions - 336x256 and 640x512. Each of those comes in both a 30Hz and 9Hz frame rate option (9Hz is typically for export purposes), and four lens configurations for each of those cameras. Each camera is also available in a radiometric version, which allows you to get accurate temperature readings from each pixel in the image, even after you’ve landed the aircraft.

The two most common configurations for public safety: The 336x256 resolution, 30Hz frame rate and 9mm lens, which has a field of view of 35 degrees ($5980); and the 640x512 resolution, 30Hz frame rate and 19mm lens, which has a 32 degree field of view. ($10,465)