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Insta360 invisible drone (mis)fortunes

In the last couple of years Insta360 has truly conquered the consumer market of 360 photography. They successfully released some staple models ranging from entry level Insta360 Go, through more advanced Insta360 One R and Insta360 One X2 (that are supported by professional platforms such as Matterport) to fully professional Insta360 Pro and Titan cameras. So how about invisible drone set up? The kind of set up where camera and the drone are not visible (to self) same as tripod is not visible in 360 camera shots?

The “prosumer” solution

It was just a matter of time for me that ambitious company like that will look at such complementary market as drones. in 2020, somehow quietly, Insta360 released One R aerial mod. The set up has separable 360 lens that mounts on top and at the bottom of the Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 drones with mounts provided. It uses the regular Insta360 core and vertical battery mod. The execution is good, but not perfect.

The main issue? GPS loss, leaving the Mavics almost unusable for typical consumer – the issue is so severe, that they changed the target market from typical DJI “prosumer” to a professional drone pilots. The issue is apparently more noticeable with Mavic 2 than Mavic Pro.

So how come they did not notice this relatively to fix (yes, indeed) issue? Well – Insta360 are not drone designers. They are camera designers and they failed to notice, that any wifi or bluetooth unit is very likely to interfere with GPS of a drone is positioned too close to drone’s GPS unit.

The solution is simple – add an option to switch off the wifi and bluetooth on the unit and link the functions to buttons. Camera itself does not need wifi to function, it only needs it to communicate with the app. Yes, functionality will be affected by lack of app control, but the safety of the flight will be greater.

I have actually just bought the Mavic Pro version yesterday and will be testing it very soon 🙂

The FPV solution

The GPS loss concerns were so severe, that Insta360 seems to have given up work on solving a simple problem, teamed up with Beta FPV and released toothpick style Invisible Drone package. The package is called X-Knight 360. Again it uses Insta360 One R core inside the Beta FPV drone. But… it also had serious issues. It didn’t handle the vibrations very well and the modules were getting disconnected.

More stable frame was needed, so Insta360 teamed up with NewBee and released yet another invisible drone based on same camera configuration, but different, cine frame. And they got it right, because even the same, very fair and impartial Nurk FPV who reviewed the “toothpick” version badly, reviewed the NewBee quite well – see his review below

I have a different issue with the design though.  As it bases on regular One R configuration, you could potentially change the mod to 4K or 1 inch, but it would be pretty useless because of the way camera is mounted.  Actually, Insta360 went a bit further and also released “naked” One R.  This version is smaller and lighter than the 360 version in the “invisible” package, but it is not 360. At 30 grams it is one of the lightest action cameras to integrate with an FPV drone.

More to come?

It is clear for me that Insta360 will continue looking into drone industry and keep developing their range.  I would like to see the NewBee with tiltable mount, so that I can change the camera mod if I want to. I would like to see a fully configurable drone camera – with an extra mod – a simple USB controlled release that can be configured to an RC. Perhaps I haven’t explored enough, but currently this cannot be done (you have to set camera to record either manually or with the app).

I also cannot wait for Insta360 to actually team up with someone like DJI, Autel (not very likely…), Parrot or Yuneec who have footprint in consumer, not necessarily the challenging FPV market and design something together, not in isolation to each other, because I know for a fact that it will be a beast! Although FPV and other GPS unassisted flight modes yield some awesome shots, the risk of crashing and damaging the exposed lens of any 360 camera and potentially an expensive drone is also very high.

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