DJI Inspire 1 review

A professional drone with a price tag to match

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

Combining excellent build quality, features and handling with superb video performance, the DJI Inspire 1 is one of the best drones in the air right now. It's certainly not for the amateur user or those on a budget, but for industry professionals it's highly recommended.

For

  • Stable and speed performance
  • 4K video recording
  • Feature-rich mobile app
  • Excellent bundled remote

Against

  • Battery life could be better
  • Price puts it out of reach for many consumers

While many consumer-level drones are aimed at people who want to take long-range selfies or eye-catching Instagram photos of notable landmarks, DJI's range of UVA devices takes things a little more seriously. These are drones created for professional users who want crisp 4K aerial video footage and pin-sharp photos, and they come with price tags which befit this status. 

  • The best drones available in 2017: DJI, Parrot and more for pros and beginners

The Inspire 1 may be getting on a bit now – it was first released in 2014 – but it's arguably one of the most powerful and capable drones money can buy, offering an astonishing amount of control, a robust build and the ability to upgrade certain elements such as the camera, battery and propellers.

Price and availability

As we've mentioned, like the company's other drones the DJI Inspire 1 doesn't come cheap. Having said that, the price has fallen since it was launched a few years back, and you can now purchase it direct from the manufacturer for £1,849.00 (US$1,999, AU$3,399.00).

That's certainly a long way from being in impulse purchase territory, but this is one of the best drones money can buy – it just happens to take a lot of money. Outside of DJI's own store, you'll find that the Inspire 1 is available from multiple specialist retailers worldwide.

Design

The DJI Inspire 1 is a truly fearsome-looking drone, even if you're accustomed to using these kind of devices. A fusion of metal, carbon fiber and plastic, it looks like some kind of robotic killing machine when it's in full flight; it even has moving arms which rise when it's in the air in order to give the camera a completely unhindered view of the world.

In marked contrast to some of the pocket-sized UVAs we're seeing hit the market at the moment, the Inspire 1 boasts beastily proportions – DJI has even produced a massive flight case for transportation and storage. It goes without saying that you shouldn't expect to pop this one in your rucksack before heading out on a hike.

The Inspire 1 has four quick-release blades which clip onto each arm; this process has to be repeated each and every time you fly the drone, as it can't be stowed away with the blades in place – it even has to be placed in a special 'transport mode' before it can be stowed in its case.

The same goes for the camera, which is mounted on a gimbal for movement during flight. On the back of the unit is the battery, which has to be unclipped and removed from the main body for charging.

Build and handling

The overall build quality of the DJI Inspire 1 is incredibly robust – so robust in fact that we wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of a collision with this particular drone, especially when it's travelling on around 49 mph, which DJI claims it's capable of when there's minimal wind resistance.

During our testing we were very impressed with the overall speed of the Inspire 1 – it's certainly one of the fastest drones we've flown, thanks to its powerful brushless motors. It's also quick to stop and turn – flying this drone is a very enjoyable experience indeed.

The Inspire 1 is controlled using the bundled remote, which boasts a twin-stick configuration as well as various inputs to control elements such as camera angle, video recording and return-to-home functionality. The remote connects to your phone or tablet via a wired connection, using the device's display to present the drone's view of the world.

Unlike many other drones on the market, the video stream suffered minimal drop-outs due to signal problems, thanks to the powerful antenna on the top of the remote and DJI's Lightbridge HD video downlink technology. If you're feeling particularly adventurous (and flush with cash) you can even connect a second person to the drone with another remote, and have them control the camera independently.

Performance

Once the DJI Inspire 1 is airborne it's hard not to be thoroughly impressed by its capabilities. Not only is it easy to control, incredibly stable and surprisingly nippy, it comes with a wide range of features, settings and options, all of which are accessible via the DJI GO application, which is available on iOS and Android.

This app can be quite intimidating at first, purely down to the sheer amount of options it presents; taking some time to learn the ropes is definitely recommended before embarking on your maiden flight, and DJI has thoughtfully included a beginner's mode to help ease you in. This creates a virtual safety net which prevents the drone from flying too far, giving you the chance to get comfortable with its controls before venturing further.

The Inspire 1's GPS lock is amazingly precise, and even when left to hover for a prolonged period of time it doesn't drift like many other drones do. Perhaps the most important function to acquaint yourself with is 'Return to Home', which really does put your mind at rest when you've got a piece of tech that costs a considerable amount of cash soaring high in the air.

Should the connection between the remote be broken, or the battery run dangerously low on juice, the Inspire 1 will automatically return to its take-off point, which should prevent it from getting lost when flying over long distances.

The Inspire 1's powerful motors, cutting-edge CPU and 4K video recording naturally call for a lot of juice, and the drone comes with a meaty 5700mAh battery. This is rated for around 20 minutes of flight time, although your  mileage will vary depending on the flying conditions, and what kind of activities you're partaking in.