The DJI S1000+: Wild Arms
There are few sights like seeing an octocopter roaring around. If what you want is to lift the heaviest payload, few things are going to do it like eight independently-powered props working together.
The whole point of big multirotors like these is to allow film and photography professionals to use the camera equipment of their choice as opposed to the “take what you get” packages drones like the Inspire 1 or Voyager 3 represent.
In addition to this, drones like the S1000 are more reliable and safer than quads, since they can overcome the loss of a rotor. If a quadcopter loses a rotor you can say bye-bye to flight control and hello to crash city. Not so with eight rotors to spread the load.
This is not necessarily a “ready to fly” package, and that’s not a bad thing. You can choose how much or how little you want to buy in one go, as well as what equipment you’ll use. DJI recommends that you use their A2 flight controller package, but of course that’s up to you.
They also recommend that you use the Zenmuse Z15 3-axis gimbal, which is a fine piece of equipment as far as I know, but you are free to attach anything in its place that will fit to the platform.
If you take the S1000+ with the A2 and the Z15 you’re well on your way to a 5K investment. That’s before you actually include the camera that you’ll fit to the gimbal.
That Z15 gimbal is worth talking about for a minute. The Z15 can keep a camera stable at high speeds and has a control angle precision range of +-0.05 degrees.
Look at this test footage from an S1000 using the Z15:
The list of cameras supported by the Z15 is limited, however, so be sure to confirm the camera selection before committing.
The Z15 has various control modes that help you get the right shots, especially if you are piloting and working the camera at the same time.
Part of the reason the stability on the 15 is so good is that it has its own gyroscopes and accelerometers; it doesn’t rely on the telemetry of the drone itself. It also has an independent controller not associated with the flight controller, while still receiving commands from the main autopilot system.
Like the DJI Inspire, the S1000+ has found a way to deal with the problem of landing gear obstructing the camera’s view. The landing gear is retractable, letting the gimbal look in any direction without catching a glimpse of either a rotor or landing strut.
The airframe design is also pretty innovative. The arms fold down for traveling (as do the propellers) and their flight angle has been calculated to provide more stability during roll and pitch shifts.
Unlike the S800, the S1000 has a carbon frame instead of composite material. So it should have some crash resistance and better flight characteristics, although of course at the price you see.
One of the main advantages of an octocopter is how much thrust it has, and the S1000+ blows a lot of air around. Each individual arm has a maximum thrust of 5.5 lbs. That’s a combined maximum thrust of 44 lbs.
Given the current limitations in battery technology, all this power does come at a price. The flight time of the S1000+ is limited to about 15 minutes. But it allows a takeoff weight of between 13 and 24 pounds.
A Real Trooper
I love the tethered endurance test video of the S1000+ tethered to external power.
72 hours of continuous flight is a pretty strong show of faith in the speed controllers and motors. This is really the sort of quality you should be getting at this price. Of course this says nothing about the flight controller reliability, as many of this video’s commentators rightly point out. In the past, DJI has caught some flak for its early models going haywire and just flying away, or the dreaded “flip of death”. But I’m unaware of those issues in their newer drones, so I can’t say anything about that as it relates to the S1000+.
Still, if you don’t trust the A2 flight controller from DJI, then you can simply get a different one. That’s one of the great things about a modular professional multirotor aircraft.
Rendering a Verdict
Without a doubt the S1000+ is one of the top airframes for the money. DJI may have a somewhat spotty reputation for customer service and an occasionally dodgy flight controller, but if you are in the pro drone game you should have insurance against these sorts of things. You can’t deny the S1000+is a tech miracle. Seeing that stabilized gimbal camera platform fly around is nothing short of amazing. Just look at this:
You don’t get much better than this when talking about civilian drone technology. If you need the best, then the S1000+ should definitely be on your shortlist.