the drone and gimbal manufacturer DJI in china has a growing international reputation – and international outlets and support agencies. i talked to the german branch yesterday via chat because i (not the first time) had a customer support problem: i had ordered a few accessories for my DJI drone last week and hadn‘t received a shipping notice. since i‘m currently on the azores (portugal) i had entered a portuguese address as the shipping address and was slightly concerned about the delay. i gave the support chap my order number and he immediately replied that there was a shipping problem:
his reponse, translated into english:
our system found inappropriate letters/symbols in the address. unfortunately this can only be changed by our collegues who also handle portugal.
the inappropriate letters/symbols were obviously portuguese umlauts, so nothing strange at all, trivial for all international carriers and shipping agencies. but not to DJI.
when i asked the guy what he would recommend, he gave me dutch DJI support phone number and asked me to call them. i said that would cost me time and money and asked him to contact his collegues. he said he can‘t ring external numbers – and recommended me to cancel the order immediately. which i did.
when cancelling an online order, you usually get a receipt of this action via mail a few minutes later. not so with DJI: it took 12 hours when an email came telling me that my order is being checked. whatever that means. certainly not money back within a day or two.
probably due to the intervention of @DJIsupport i got the money back within 1 day (paypal). however, although the company knows the problem and that i am in need for at least one extra battery, they did not come forward with a solution. i‘m not the only one. here a posting from today on twitter:
hier das sehr langsame video dazu. rohmaterial, deswegen weniger gesättigt als das bild oben.
drone video, not edited
here are four quickshots i did on day 4 with the DJI mavic pro drone. all shots are the originals from the drone, not the (probably smaller, but accelerated) ones from the DJI Go 4 app. i used the default video settings with automatic white balance, exposure etc.
the first one is the circle. the drone had a problem locating the target (the tree) because it was looking for details which obviously disappeared when looking at the tree from a different angle. however, it did a perfect job.
circle mode around a tree
with the circle you are relatively safe in terms of close-by trees etc. the default circle keeps the mavic close to the target. the same applies to the next two quickshots, rocket and asteroid. the rocket mode shoots the drone up while still looking at the target. in this case the automatic white balance did unpredictable things (not DJI’s fault), and the tree is slightly out of the center of the video.
rocket mode, without acceleration
the dronie does not make much sense with a tree, but here we go. in the app it’s accelerated and looks certainly cooler.
dronie (= drone selfie) of a tree
i proceed to the asteroid shot, which has that white balance problem again:
the asteroid mode with included 360° stitching
finally the spiral, a very cool quickshot mode with the problem that i have no idea how to keep the spiral close to the target. i chose the smallest circle in the settings, 42 meters or so, which is quite a lot. i had the impression that the drone did fly an ellipse rather than a circle. so, use it with care!
what i don’t demonstrate here is the boomerang shot, because i’m not sure how it works. if the elliptic motion has its widest dimension behind the target rather than in front of the target, this might cause a crash problem. more later…
i finished the session with → this conventional autobahn shot which shows the excellent performance of the drone and the 1 inch sensor.
for day 1 see → this entry.
it’s been my third flight session, with only one battery, so restricted to slightly less than 30 minutes. i was still focussing on flight patterns rather than on the camera. the inflight videos were all of great quality. the shot after having landed safely has a ton of chromatic aberration. see below.
i flew all quickshot modes today, and they all did a great and very precise job. the spiral and boomerang are a bit irritating at first, because you have no control about the extension range of those kind of flight. and i still don’t know how to direct a boomerang ellipse into a special direction. imagine you’re climbing a cliff, you want to make sure the drone does fly away from the rocks rather than into them!
some modes give you extra options when you touch the icon again on the screen, others don’t, or they give you just rudimentary options like flying a pattern clock- or counterclockwise.
it’s nice to see that the drone comes back to it’s starting point once it has finished the quickshot flight. it does not repeat the flight, however. once the circle is finished, it is finished.
the videos are stored internally (on the internal 8 GB flashmemory bank or on the microSD card) in the original resolution, but the more interesting versions (in probably lower resolution) are sitting on your smartphone. example: all quickshots are accelerated in the smartphone version, whereas they playback in realtime when downloaded from the drone itself.
i’ve flown the mavic pro 1 for over a year and sold it to a man who uses it for flight only. he’s been a fan of radio controlled “model” airplanes since he was a kid, and he always wanted to fly a versatile, agile drone. he flew the mavic much more professional than i.
the more i get to know the automated flight modes, the more i know that flying the drone is cool and challenging, but much more interesting for me is taking precise videos and photographs for wikipedia and the german press agency dpa. so, the new automated flight modes plus the 360° obstacle detection come in extremely handy.
as to chromatic aberration: massive. there’s nothing lilac or pink on my bike. this detail is of 100% resolution:
for day 3, pls check out → this blog entry.
the first mavic was a masterpiece in many respects: the first affordable, reliable, small drone with a better than decent photo quality. i praised the device → a year ago when i had flown it for a couple of months. in the meantime i’ve flown it 22 hours in total before i sold it to a gilder pilot last week.
during the last months DJI released a platinum and an air model which did not really interest me. but the new mavic 2, just released two weeks ago, did. i flew it only once, this morning. here are my first impressions:
the drone is significantly heavier (about 100 grams, which is more than 10%) and feels slightly more bulky, although it’s not really bigger in size. i still have to get used to holding it, because it’s covered with sensors which i don’t want to put my fingerprints on.
connecting everything and calling up the DJI Go 4 app which i had used with my previous mavic, worked, but registration of the new drone failed. i uninstalled and reinstalled the app, then registration worked fine. however, the drone wanted a firmware update, which failed. it would have flown with the current firmware, but it wanted to be updated. many customers have that problem. we never had it with the mavic 1.
my workaround was this: i uninstalled the DJI assistant software from my PC and reinstalled it, in version 2. i connected the drone via USB and could get the new firmware loaded into the device. it took about 15 minutes.
having set up everything for flight again, the controller moaned. it wanted a new firmware, too. after one error message it worked. 5 minutes or so, then the drone was ready to go.
it starts up differently from the predecessor, with much less power, quite sweet actually. when taking off it was obviously more quiet than the mavic 1. i flew it in P-mode and had the impression that if flew somehow more precisely, although i never had a problem with flight precision of the mavic 1. very nice to fly. and very fast.
i tried out two quickshot modes, the “dronie” (which basically is an animated selfie where the drone shoots away and keeps me in focus all the time) and the “circle”. the object recognition is so super precise, the UI of the app is elegant. not comparable to the previous model, excellent.
i did not have much time to check things out and flew the drone home after 20 minutes or so. the battery indicator still was in the middle, so i could have flown quite a bit longer.
the camera? later, folks. no time for that today.
DJI is a thriving chinese company which manufactures excellent gimbals and drones. however, it is lacking quality in terms of customer treatment. for example DJI offers an affordable total insurance (“care refresh”) for their drones, and by total i mean: they even replace a drone which gets lost, and this twice!
see below for a response from DJI to this issue.
as good as this sounds, many customers complained that the service is a) slow and b) has its drawbacks. for understandable reasons DJI wants to see the flight log, but if the pilot used a different app, like litchi or drone harmony, rather than the genuine DJI app, the warranty fails. since DJI has an interest in other people developing apps for their drones (or gimbals) and holds the right to certify their safety, this is not understandable.
here’s another typical problem. when you order a product from DJI’s website, it’s usually shipped directly from the production facility in shenzhen. as soon as it’s shipped, you get a link with the DHL tracking number. for many customers who recently ordered a new drone, the tracking stalled and stated something like this:
after seeing this page for a day i sent an email to DJI customer support and received an automated reply with a ticket number. a day later still no reply. i rang DHL express international and got quite a detailed info: my parcel is one of “very many” sitting on the “british islands”. the whole bulk is worth “many digits of euros”, but cannot be proceeded further because of missing “receipts”. if DJI does not supply the papers in time, the whole delivery will be returned to china after 30 days.
i sent this information to the DJI customer support with high priority and after two or three hours received a reply stating that up to 5 business days are normal for delivery and that i should keep an eye on the tracking site.
i posted this on twitter and immediately got a reply from @DJIsupport to provide them with my order number – which i did not give them via twitter, just the email address.
the case is interesting because a company which became the no 1 photo drone producer worldwide and grew its business immensely, is lacking transparency in terms of shipping and insurance. there is a high learning curve ahead.
here’s a third example where DJI creates a great product, but does not comply to modern western world data privacy standards: the osmo mobile is a very affordable gimbal which you use in combination with your smartphone. the standard control app is by DJI, urges you to create an account with DJI and asks to accept ridicolous details about you and your phone. (at least on android) if you don’t accept them all, the app and thus the hardware just does not work.
example no 4:
when i ordered the mavic pro 2 last week, i got an email that i was eligable for DJI SELECT. i had never heard of that before. costs 30 € per year. it automatically landed in my online shopping basket. one advantage: 50% off of the DJI CARE cost = ~ 70 € – under the condition that both items were purchased at the same time. fine, i thought.
when the drone arrived this morning i wanted to add DJI CARE to my shopping basket, as soon as possible, because DJI insists on getting the insurance within 48 hours. so i entered the serial number and was led to the checkout counter. however, no way to check out the SELECT item as well. so i paid the full amount for CARE and then SELECT and contacted customer support. the very competent guy told me, i should have purchased SELECT before actually ordering the drone. did he say “i should have”? yes, he did.
i asked him if it would make sense to revoke the CARE insurance? he said, no. his advice was to send the drone back to china, cancel (with money back) the CARE insurance and order both packages new. an amazing procedure. and a steep learning curve in terms of customer support.
*a person from DJI responded to the problem with warranty (above) and pointed out this:
… zumindest von schräg oben, denn als anständige drohnenpiloten achten wir natürlich auf die vorgeschriebenen sicherheitsabstände.
das → kraftwerk neurath bezieht seine braunkohle per schiene vom direkt westlich angrenzenden braunkohle-raubbau-gebiet garzweiler. es ist die zweitgrößte CO2-schleuder unter den europäischen kraftwerken.
technisch entstand das foto als eins von acht segmenten eines automatischen drohnenpanoramas. es ist oft so, wenn ich der drohnenkamera sage, sie soll ein panorama aufnehmen, dass dann überraschende einzelbilder zustande kommen. die grüngelb-sättigung produziert die abendsonne. wenig später ging sie als großer ball tiefrot unter.
180° umgedreht im gegenlicht die türme des → kraftwerks frimmersdorf.
die gegend ist regelrecht vollgepflastert mit kraftwerken:
das historische archiv der stadt köln bekommt zusammen mit dem rheinischen bildarchiv eine neue bleibe, gerade in der zweiten bauphase. die stadt köln hat wie wir wikipedianer ein interesse, das bauvorhaben von oben zu dokumentieren. das taten raimond, elya und ich am heutigen sonntag ausführlich in zwei schichten. das material ist ➡️ hier zu finden.
der amerikanische fotojournalisten-verband NPPA hat sich über die verwendung von drohnen in diesem berufsfeld gedanken gemacht. neben selbstverständlichkeiten wie sicherheit und privatheit sind zwei punkte interessant:
- man sollte als nachrichtenmedium drohnenmaterial ablehnen, das nicht legal gewonnen wurde (oder die wirklichkeit verzerrt). ein youtube-star wie casey neistat nennt sich selbst journalist und fliegt seine drohnen überall – mitten über amsterdam, niedrig, durch die kölner kranhäuser und über den rhein usw. er hat eine sehr eigene foto/film-ästhetik entwickelt, das steht aber auf einem anderen blatt. ein weniger bekannter amerikanischer youtube-„creator“ namens kraig adams fliegt hemmungslos über paris und andere europäische städte. die reglementierungen für drohnenpiloten in deutschland (und sicher anderswo auch) sind nicht ideal und zu streng gefasst, behörden sind zu starr, um besondere fluggenehmigungen zu erteilen, selbst wenn man ordentlich und als fotojournalist anfragt. aber die ansage von neistat und anderen touristen, man fährt ins ausland und fliegt einfach drauf los, weil man die regeln nicht kennt, ist natürlich unterirdisch. casey neistat hat mit seinen 1,5 millionen abonnenten drohnenpiloten positiv beflügelt, aber auch schamlos in die irre geleitet.
- der zweite punkt hängt mit der nachbearbeitung zusammen. raymond, robert und ich hatten diese diskussion, als wir den abriss des immerather doms für die wikipedia dokumentierten: sollen wir unter das (stille) drohnenvideo atmo von unten oder gar musik legen? der drohnenethik von NPPA zufolge ist auch das beschleunigen und verlangsamen von drohenvideos problematisch, weil es eine dramatisierung erzeugen kann, die dem material seine neutralität nimmt.
es stellt sich eine zentale frage, die hier nicht angesprochen wird: worin unterscheidet sich drohnenvideografie grundsätzlich von fotografie auf dem boden? technisch auf jeden fall, wegen der gefahr des absturzes und der verletzung von menschen. sonst aber nicht. man könnte auch über eine ethik der 360°-fotografie und VR-journalismus nachdenken. oder über die verzerrung der so genannten wirklichkeit durch tele- oder makrofotografie…
das foto ist auch in den → wiki commons.