Drone photographers are used to travelling far and wide in search of epic scenes to shoot, but sometimes the practicalities can get in the way of that sense of adventure.
A good example is storage space. If you’re shooting in 4K over the course of a trip, memory cards are going to get full quickly. Organizing your media on the go is paramount – the last thing you want to be doing is deleting footage just to make room for the next stop.
There are plenty of solutions to this challenge: spare SD cards, transferring everything to an external hard drive or laptop, shooting in a lower resolution to save room. But none of them offers much flexibility.
Spare SD cards aren’t ideal if you want to go over footage during stops; shooting in a lower resolution is an annoying sacrifice to make; laptops have limited room, too, even if they do allow you to organize and edit on the move.
LaCie, a subsidiary of storage specialists Seagate, has come up with a solution in partnership with DJI.
The DJI Copilot: A BOSS solution
The first thing we should say is that ‘Copilot’ is a slightly misleading name. Instead of taking over the controls when you need a bathroom break, this is a smarter-than-average external hard drive that acts as both storage solution and a sort of media organizer. It’s relatively small, lightweight and easy to use, making it an ideal backup on-set solution.
So yes, it has got your back in a sense. But Copilot might be pushing it.
The LaCie DJI Copilot manages to tick all of those boxes because it’s much more than just a 2 TB hard drive. For starters, it has a built-in battery, an LED display and connects to the LaCie DJI Copilot app on your smartphone. This allows it to copy media cards or device data with the touch of a button, rather than needing a laptop to act as a go-between.
Key to its functionality is the fact that this drive can be connected to just about anything. There are four different ports that cover Apple and Android smartphones, as well as SD and USB ports for memory cards and laptops. These make it ideal for drone pilots, DSLR photographers and anyone who wants to back up media on the go.
Once you’ve plugged in your device or SD card and copied your media across, you can use the Copilot app to view, watch, rename, organize and delete files as you choose.
There are a few other useful elements to the LaCie DJI Copilot. First of all, it also acts as a charger for your smartphone. It’s in no way designed to be as powerful in that regard as a dedicated portable charger, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless.
The Copilot is also rugged, splash, dust and drop resistant. It’s certainly solid enough that you can throw it in your bag and not worry about it being damaged during an outdoor adventure. It’s also bigger than carrying around a bunch of loose memory cards, which has to make it more difficult to lose, right?
Aside from that, the LaCie Copilot comes with one month’s free access to Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite and Seagate’s rescue data recovery services.
The LaCie DJI Copilot: How much does it cost?
The DJI Copilot offers a capability pretty much unmatched by its rivals, wrapped up in a relatively small drive that’s ideal for using on the go. For a drone pilot the appeal is simple: you can now travel, backup and organize your media with a single, uncomplicated device. For many pilots that will be enough.
Another factor is exposure, just not in the photography sense. All too often drone pilots and photographers head out into the wilderness with thousands of dollars worth of gear in their rucksacks. Not everyone enjoys that kind of exposure. With the Copilot, you can at least leave the laptop at home without compromising your ability to store media and make space for another day of shooting. So it can be seen as a weight off your shoulders in more ways than one.
There will be plenty of people used to carrying spare memory cards or backing up media onto a laptop once a shoot has finished. But the LaCie DJI Copilot offers a handy alternative in specific scenarios: if you’re on a long road trip, hiking to a shoot or trying to be a bit more spontaneous with your drone.
The One downside, as you might expect, is the price. This doesn’t come cheap.
The LaCie DJI Copilot will set you back around $349.
Our take? If you’re a serious photography enthusiast, someone who likes to shoot in rugged, adventurous locations or a drone professional, it’s well worth the investment. If not, you might want to consider lugging your laptop to shoots for the foreseeable future.