Unveiled: Walkera TALI H500 Hexacopter with 3-Axis Gimbal
At a Glance:
- 12-channel transmitter + 5" fpv monitor
- Flight time of up to 25 minutes
- 3-Axis brushless gimbal for GoPro HERO3/HERO3+/HERO4
- Retractable landing gear
- Hyper-intelligent orientation control
- Orbital flight mode
- One-key auto take off
- RX-100 version coming soon
The GoPro HERO has come a long way from being a miniature camcorder that pioneering users rigged to their helmets or surfboards. Although aerial use could never have been imagined by its creators, it is hard to imagine a camcorder more perfectly suited to mounting on a drone than the HERO—not only by virtue of its weight, but by the extreme wide-angle field of view its lens provides. The latest flagship model, released just last month, is the HERO4 Black, which is capable of recording 4K UltraHD (3840 x 2160) video at 30 frames per second. However, the boost in resolution comes at a price: flaws that are imperceptible even in 1080p become glaring in 4K. The biggest concern in this regard when it comes to aerial video is stability; and the well-known limitations of a "rolling shutter" CMOS sensor only compound the issue.
Stabilization is the key, and the 3-axis brushless gimbal has made this possible. In the bundle currently offered by B&H, the TALI H500 comes ready to fly with all you need to get started, except for the GoPro itself. This includes the transmitter (radio controller), gimbal, flight battery and charger, and a case. But the TALI H500 gives you more than just a flying camera platform; it gives you FPV and OSD out of the box.
Fear not if you've never heard of FPV or OSD. The RC aircraft world loves jargon and acronyms almost as much as it loves drones. FPV means "first-person view"—in other words, strapping a camera to a drone and sending the video feed back to the ground, bringing the virtual experience that much closer to actually being in the air. Until recently, FPV was very much a do-it-yourself affair. You rigged a camera that was somehow powered from the flight battery, repurposed a video transmitter (perhaps one intended for surveillance), and contrived a way to power a monitor and video receiver at the ground end. For the most part, the quality was too poor and footage too shaky to make any of it worth recording.
Well, the days of rigging are gone. With the TALI H500, the video transmitter is a tiny module that straps to the outside of the drone with a small piece of hook-and-loop fastener, and there is a 5" LCD screen plus wireless video receiver built into the transmitter; no more do you need a tripod to hold up a field monitor. On top of that, an OSD (on-screen display) system is integrated with the flight electronics, providing overlays of vital flight data, such as battery voltage, directly on the video image. A lot of other systems that have FPV still require installation of a separate OSD unit that the video feed passes through, and which takes up space you may not have inside the body shell. Plus there is a composite video port on the transmitter, enabling the connection of a separate monitor, if you so desire, or FPV goggles like the Zeiss Cinemizer OLED video glasses.
Most of what the gimbal does is automatic. It keeps the horizon of your shot level and keeps the lens at the same angle relative to the ground. This way you can maneuver without substantially affecting framing—even in a hover, wind turbulence may buffet the aircraft. In addition, you can control tilt and roll manually using dials on the transmitter. Tilt is obvious, since you may want to angle the camera down to capture a subject below the aircraft. Roll (known to cinematographers as cant) typically isn't used, but if you ever want to capture a Dutch angle it's nice to know it's there. The landing gear retracts at the flip of a switch, ensuring it stays clear of your shot.
Autonomy has made the multi-rotor possible. Equipped with GPS, the flight control system (the brains of TALI) features all of the automated flight modes pilots have come to expect. This includes Hyper IOC (Intelligent Orientation Control), which keeps stick movements intuitive even if the aircraft gets flipped around, i.e., right is always right and left is always left from the pilot's perspective regardless of which way the nose is pointing. It has a one-button return to home and will automatically return to home if contact with the receiver is ever lost. It also features an auto takeoff mode that brings the TALI H500 up to 15 feet, and then holds it in a fixed hover until the pilot takes control. Particularly beneficial to videographers is "Orbit Mode." Don't be misled: the H500 isn't quite powerful enough to breach Earth's gravity. Rather, the H500 will fly at a fixed radius around a static point, allowing you to create a 360-degree aerial tracking shot.
The included 5400mAh flight battery boasts up to 25 minutes of flight time. Of course, depending on how you fly, this figure may vary substantially. My guess is that around 15 minutes is realistic for an average flight. The battery is powerful and takes up most of the interior of the body shell. It is also a serious RC LiPo battery, so care must be taken when recharging. Correct battery parameters must be entered first and you must manually discontinue charging once the battery is full.
Coming Soon: 3-Avis Gimbal for Sony RX-100
In addition to the current model, B&H will soon be carrying a bundle that features a 3-axis gimbal for the Sony DSC RX-100. At about double the weight of the GoPro HERO4 Black, you can expect reduced flight times, but you gain the Sony's incredible low-light performance, as well as the ability to film from tighter angles. We do not have exact data as to when this version will become available, so watch this space.