The DJI Matrice 100
hasn't made the sort of high profile entry into the world that its more stylish sibling the Inspire 1
made at the end of last year. But our technicians were still keen to get their hands on the first one to arrive at Heliguy HQ.
The DJI Matrice 100
An Inspire 1 with a serious face
This drone is not a toy or even the sort of craft that a commercial operator might use for videos or photography, although it could be. Instead it's an Inspire 1 with a serious face. It's an angular, chunky piece of kit which is designed to be experimented with, either by a university or a business where the configuration of the sensors, data transfer, controls and batteries can be played with.
Inside the DJI Matrice 100
Getting it together
The Matrice 100 took longer to build than we expected but then again it was our first. On paper it looks very straightforward - flat mounting plates with lots of screws and cables but the diagrams in the instructions didn't quite match the reality. Perhaps there'll be a V2.0 of the paperwork soon. There was also a bit of flex in the design so lining up screws and screw holes sometimes required a second pair of hands to make sure everything was spot on.
Lining up holes was a little tricky at the first attempt
Up to 40 minutes flight time
We attached the same camera and gimbal that the Inspire uses - the X3 - and mounted the optional second battery to the bay on the top of the craft. In ideal conditions and with no extra payload, DJI estimate that the Matrice could hover for 40 minutes.
After doing all the necessary calibration work we decided to take it for a tentative, tethered flight just to be on the safe side. With its legs splayed out horizontally from all four corners it seemed bigger than the Inspire and certainly heavier because of the double power pack.
Pre-flight checks on the DJI Matrice 100. Batteries top and bottom. X3 camera.
Tethered test flight
Two of our technicians, Dan and Jack, took the Matrice for short, low test flights. It was very stable but it was a little sluggish in the climb and there was a tendency for it to yaw about 10 degrees without any stick input. That may be due to the gains and/or the extra battery. After all, they were comparing it to an Inspire 1. The controller is exactly the same as the Inspire's so switching between the two isn't a problem. It also uses the same DJI GO app as the Phantom 3
and the Inspire.
We were a bit puzzled by the shock absorbing feet. There doesn't seem to be a gradual compression of the rubber boots, as you might expect. It all happens quite quickly. Perhaps there's a reason for that.
A tethered check flight
How does the Matrice 100 handle?
After some adjustments and re-calibrations it was time to take it for a proper test flight at our regular field. This time everything went well. The Matrice responded promptly and was very stable.
With the extra battery still attached, the handling characteristics were a bit like an Inspire 1 in landing mode with its legs and props lowered. With the top battery removed and therefore with a lower centre of gravity, it will definitely handle better. This time there was no yaw problem and it turned on its axis very smartly. It was also more enthusiastic when climbing.
Overall it handles in a more sedate fashion than the Inspire and this is probably a good thing. As we mentioned earlier, it is going to be used by researchers or company operators who will be after smooth and reliable rather than the zippy and twitchy.
We are really looking forward to checking out Guidance
- DJI's collision avoidance system that's been designed to work with the Matrice. It will open up all sorts of possibilities for using the Matrice and presumably future aircraft from DJI because it detects obstacles and then avoids them. We'll be fitting that and testing it very soon so watch this space.
A DJI Matrice 100 fitted with Guidance
The DJI Guidance system