DJI is one of the top drone makers in the world, but they’re not for the casual enthusiast. Instead, they have truly professional applications--and the DJI M600 is no exception. One of the premier flying platforms on the market today, the Matrice 600 is a stellar solution to nearly every aerial and photography need you could conceive.
Below, learn why the DJI M600 gets such strong reviews, who it’s for (and who should never fly it, ever), and--in case you don’t have upwards of $5,000 to spend on a drone, uncover some of our favorite, less expensive options (we’ll help explain where you can cheaper and where you shouldn’t).
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What Is The DJI M600 And Who Is It For?
DJI, the M600’s creator, calls this drone a “new flying platform designed for professional aerial photography and industrial applications” and we feel that about sum things up. The Matrice (M stands for Matrice) is, most obviously, much more than just a drone.
One of the most obvious and powerful assets the Matrice brings with it is integration. It works with powerful technologies created by DJI (including their Lightbridge 2 transmission system and A3 flight controller) to become useful for everything from aerial inspection to aerial videography.
Easy To Use Out Of The Box
For a multi-thousand dollar drone, you’d expect some ease of use, but you’d also expect some complexity. The DJI M600 wows early thanks to how modular and easy to operate it is. It comes ready to use and stores simply in its case (more on that later); it also has retractable landing gear.
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You’re also able to install DJI’s Zenmuse cameras and gimbals, as well as the Ronin-MX gimbal, which is universally compatible with whatever camera you’re accustomed to using now (or might want to use in the future).
Pleasing Level Of Payload
The DJI M600 can carry 13lbs (6kg) for about fifteen or sixteen minutes, or less payload for longer thanks to six intelligent batteries (you can get up to 37 minutes of flight time with some configurations). Just more than 3 miles (5km) is how long you can expect to transmit your new drone (that’s three unobstructed miles, of course).
Speaking of transmitting, you’ll be able to get a live HD view on the DJI GO app (along with the DJI Assistant 2). Also on the app, you can check your battery status, the status of your redundancy controls, the strength of your transmission frequency and the camera itself. This is where you adjust shutter speed, ISO, and so forth. You can also utilize Assistant 2 to get firmware updates and the built-in flight simulator.
The Star Part
Perhaps, however, the real star of DJI’s show here is Lightbridge (the current Matrice is running Lightbridge 2). Lightbridge is DJI’s proprietary broadcasting system that enables HD live streaming and high frame rates. You’ll get video output as high as 1080p/60fps with USB, 3G-SDI, or mini-HDMI plugs, and DJI puts the broadcast standard at 720p/59.94fps and 1080i/50fps.
Who Shouldn’t Fly This Drone
At more than $5,000 (closer to $10,000 once you’ve purchased the integrating equipment and box) and not four, not five, but a whopping six props (redundancy is built in to the final prop), the DJI M600 is for professionals--people with hours of flight time handling complicated and high-tech drones and people with a reason to spend so much.
That said, those individuals (and companies) will love this system for what it can do for them, especially when it comes to making movies.
What Comes In My Kit?
Here’s what you can expect in your box from DJI when your order the Matrice:
- Six batteries and two charging hubs
- The Lightbridge 2 radio controller
- The drone, which needs some assembly (usually takes about 2-4 hours) but comes ready to fly (GPS included)
How Will The DJI M600 Impact Your Work?
One of the first things to understand about the DJI M600 is that it’s been engineered with safety in mind. Most reviewers claim it’s one of the most stable drones they’ve ever flown, and DJI has built numerous redundancies into the flight system.
Multiple Redundancies So You Don’t Lose Your Work
For starters (we’ve already mentioned this), there are six props, but the drone only needs five props to fly. So, if there’s a mid-flight problem (you hit a bird or a tree branch, for example), you won’t lose the whole drone. Likewise, there’s a lot of redundancy built into the batteries.
The ‘cotper has six batteries but can fly with only five. It’s not designed to do this (don’t try this at home!), but if you lose power on one of the power sources, you’ll be able to safely land the device without damage.
The kit comes with six batteries in the box (you can purchase additional batteries separately), as well as two chargers. Each charger can power four batteries at a time, though they charge in sequence, so it takes some time--as long as overnight, in some cases.
The final additional redundancy is the A3 GPS redundancy, which means you won’t lose your drone. Since this is such a heavy investment, this is a must.
Gimbals That Fit Your Needs
The DJI M600 is designed to work with several different gimbals to suit your personal needs. The largest and most adaptable is the Ronin MX, which works with everything from a RED to an Arri Alexa to a small DSLR. However, the Ronin is heavy, which means you’ll be limiting your flying time.
If you want something lighter, you can choose from one of DJI’s many Zenmuse options (or even the available thermal imaging camera gimbal), though these work only with specific cameras.
One of the perks to the gimbals used with the Matrice is that they can be removed to be used in hand, or connected back onto the M600 to get a better view (as seen in this video on an action set in China).
DJI is a full stop shop, allowing you to mix and match a variety of platforms, gimbals, and cameras. You can also purchase the Matrice 600 Battery Travel Case, which comes with wheels for ease of travel and can hold as many as eighteen intelligent batteries, charging them without requiring you to remove the batteries from the case.
Keep in mind, also, that it’s possible to save some money by purchasing the Matrice with the accessories--purchasing the Matrice with a gimbal, for example, will save you money. There are also accessories available from other makers besides DJI. Aerial Media Pros, for example, has created a case specifically for batteries so that you can easily access them and swap out power sources on the go.
What Do The Pros Think About The DJI M600?
There’s no doubt that the Matrice is a powerful drone, and most professionals feel the same. It’s as accurate as anything you can buy today and as technologically advanced, as well. For most, it comes down to the application; does the situation call for this kind of investment, or would a smaller, lighter, less expensive rig fit your needs better?
Not Just For Photographers
The M600 has many applications outside of video and photography. It can help with firefighting, drone deploy for mapping, search and rescue, and industrial inspection. It’s especially useful in situations that are remote and hard to get to, and thanks to the many redundancy features built into the unit, you won’t need to worry about losing it, even in challenging situations.
In addition to noting how stable the M600 is, and how smooth and easy to fly it is, over and over again, professionals point out how accurate it is. This drone is accurate to centimeter level and can fly to specified coordinates, fully confident that your camera data is matching your drone’s location.
Here’s What We Don’t Like About The Matrice
To begin with, it’s expensive. While it comes ready to fly, the gimbals aren’t included, nor is the case or extra batteries, so you’re going to have to spend quite a bit more than the base price (which hits just under $5,000) when things are all said and done.
If you’re already in the market for equipment in this price range, it won’t be a surprise to you that you’ll need to make extra purchases, as this is common for gear at this level (we’re not sure if it’s to help minimize stick shock or to better help you customize your complete package--maybe both?).
And while it’s certainly the best from a completely objective and general point of view, it might not be the best for you. You’ll still only get about fifteen minutes of airtime when you’re running the Ronin with a large camera so that it won’t be truly useful in some applications. Plus, we don’t like how the chargers are sequential; we feel like it takes way too long to charge.
Less Expensive Options
Whether you love and have no problem springing for the DJI M600 or not, there are quite a few other options, depending on your needs. Here are a few of our favorites:
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The Matrice is often compared to the Phantom 4 regarding flying ability, but the Phantom is about one-sixth of the price. It’s designed for consumers, not pros, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t adequate for professional jobs. Thanks to how easy it is to fly and how stable it is, the Phantom is well suited for commercial purposes.
Plus, it comes with a built-in gimbal (the latest version, the 4, comes with a better-designed gimbal less prone to breaking). You’ll be able to use the Phantom’s subject tracking and recognition, and capture video in 4k and photos in raw and JPG with the included gimbal-mounted camera.
These capture specs aren’t particularly impressive, and they won’t go nearly as far for you as the Matrice’s will.
However, if you want something to practice with or simply get used to flying, or you need to capture still aerial shots, the Phantom 4 is a much better (and cheaper!) option than the M600.
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Surprise! DJI is a major player in the drone world, and for a good reason--it’s managed to create impressive unmanned devices on the high end and the low end. At slightly under $3,000, the Inspire 2 is about half the price of the Matrice 600 but comes with more features and performance than the Phantom 4.
You’ll get a sturdier body, for example (the Inspire’s is made from magnesium alloy), with 5.2k video capabilities and a high-speed sport mode. You’ll also be able to swap out cameras, which is something you can’t do with the Phantom.
If you’re looking for an intermediate level drone that still provides included extras like gimbal and dual-operator control, the Inspire 2 ends up being considerably less than the Matrice, and just as functional for all but the most professional of videographers and photographers.
These aren’t the only two options, of course, but our main goal was to show you two other competitors that are less expensive, so you get an idea of why the DJI M600 is so expensive--and why it might still be worth it, even at that price.
Our Final Thoughts On The DJI M600
If you need a top quality, ready to use out of the box drone, you can’t beat this one from DJI. The Matrice is remarkably easy to use so that you’re not wasting time trying to put it together when you could be out flying it. Plus, thanks to DJI’s exceptionally thoughtful approach to accessories and other gear, you’ll be able to get a maximum level of use out of this drone for years to come.
For us, the bottom line is that if your situation calls for a drone like this, we have no qualms recommending that you make this purchase. Happy flying!