DJI Inspire 1 Drone Puts 4K Cameras in the Sky

The DJI Inspire 1, at CES 2015.

The DJI Inspire 1, at CES 2015.

LAS VEGAS -- The secret to truly exciting photos often means putting cameras in new and exciting places, like the sky. The new Inspire 1 drone is ready to spark your creativity with its onboard 4k camera that can capture photos and video in 360 degrees. Developed by Chinese drone maker DJI, the Inspire 1 costs $2,900 with one controller.

Wanna share the exhilaration? For $3,400, you can also get the Inspire 1 with two controllers, so one person can fly it while the other directs the camera. First announced this November, the Inspire 1 is on sale now.

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Users control the Inspire 1 via an Android or iPad app, which communicates with the drone via a Wi-Fi connection. The mobile device is then clipped inside the accompanying controller, to boost the Wi-Fi signal to up to 1.3 miles. 

The DJI Inspire 1 controller, with attached tablet running the DJI app, at CES 2015.

The DJI Inspire 1 controller, with attached tablet running the DJI app, at CES 2015.

The Inspire 1 has an onboard camera with a 9 Element lens capable of taking 12 megapixel photos, and shooting video in two settings: 4K at up to 30 frames per second (fps) or 1080p at up to 60 fps. The camera is set in a 3-axis gimbal that dangles from the drone's bottom, allowing it to take images in 360 degrees. The two carbon-fiber arms on which the four propellers rest can raise and lower, to move out of the camera's path.

While you fly the Inspire 1, the video from its camera is streamed live in 720p to your mobile device via the app, so you can find the perfect angle for your shots. Footage is also saved on the drone's internal storage, which is accessible via a microSD card slot.

The Inspire 1 can get up to 18 minutes of flying time on its battery, which is around or just above average for commercial drones. The upcoming Parrot Bebop, for example, gets 11 minutes on its battery. DJI Inspire 1 owners can purchase extra batteries from the DJI website, and swapping batteries out is simple and fast.

The Inspire 1 is also faster and handles better than its predecessor, DJI’s Phantom drone. The Phantom’s top speed is 30 miles per hour; the Inspire 1 can reach 50. And, if you let go of the Inspire 1’s controls, the drone will come to a tight stop, while the Phantom will skid a bit in the air before it stops. 

Before you purchase a drone of any type, you should check your local laws to find out if it is legal to fly these mobile cameras in your area. We look forward to putting this, and other similar small drones, through its paces. Stay tuned for more.

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.