We didn’t make the X8+ powerful and reliable for technology’s sake. We want you to be able to build on this platform, to use it to solve problems, do real work and realize your aerial ideas. Here are a few options for innovation that the X8+ unlocks — but what will you build?
Mounting different gimbals and cameras for pro aerial photography
We’ve always wanted to see and document our world from above — be it sending cameras up with balloons, kites, or even pigeons — and personal drones have opened the aerial perspective to more people on the planet than ever before. We understand that photographers don’t necessarily want drones — they want the shots. Until the X8+, however, if you wanted to put anything other than a GoPro in the air you’d have to shell out big time for the platform that could handle it. But for professional photographers, a GoPro sometimes just won’t cut it. That’s where the X8+ comes in, the first modular and expandable aerial platform available at a true consumer price point.
Because the distance between the lens on your drone and your subject is very real, serious aerial photography requires better zoom capability than a GoPro, whose 20 mm lens is incredibly wide, especially from the air. The X8+ can carry a GoPro and stabilizing gimbal (either 2 or 3 axis), so you can get great map-like views or capture sweeping scapes. However, it’s tough to really get tight on a subject with a GoPro; for that you’d need to put a bigger camera in the air. The X8+ has the additional payload capacity to hard mount high-resolution mirrorless cameras like the Panasonic LX100, whose 24–75 mm (FFE) lens gives you options for choosing focal length. This means that the X8+’s payload capacity ultimately translates into the ability to fly farther away and still get tight and focused shots. This is also incidentally good for safety: If you wanted to get tight with a GoPro, the props would be so close they’d blow hair around. So, beyond a Creed music video shoot, your options there are sort of limited.
You can actually hard mount a variety of point-and-shoot cameras to the X8+, including the Panasonic LX100, or the Canon S110, SX260 or any other mirrorless cameras of similar size and weight. You just need a GoPro mount kit and a small extra piece that attaches to the mount with a 1/4”-20 adapter — these run between $5–10. Screw the mount tightly into the camera, align the camera on the X8+ so it will face forward in flight, then slap on the adhesive from the GoPro mount kit. Now you’ve got a hard-mounted professional camera capable of capturing incredible stable aerial shots with variable focal lengths.
And because the X8+ is built to be expandable, if you add an on-board optical flow sensor you can get remarkably accurate and stable position-hold capability, much superior to GPS. This means the copter will stay exactly where you tell it to stay so that you can precisely stage and capture the shots you want.
If you don’t want to hard mount your camera, the lifting power of the X8+ also unlocks new options for stabilized photo and video capture. The flexibility of the platform allows you to attach longer legs so that you can carry bigger, low-hanging gimbals. You can buy the quad kit legs from our store, and make a few modifications to attach them. First, hack off the lip of the quad legs so you just have the straight leg left, then drill a set of holes into the original X8+ leg so the extended legs are the length that you need. Lastly, file down the lowest standoffs on the original leg so that the replacement leg will slide in — with one edge on the outside, one edge on the inside — and then screw the two together.
The X8+ supports the Tarot 2D 2-axis brushless gimbal, available from our store, as well as a 3-axis DYS BLG3SN gimbal, the industry standard for advanced stabilization, and any number of similar 3-axis gimbals on the market. In addition to stabilizing the tilt and roll axes, the DYS stabilizes on the yaw axis, enabling steady panning shots. Both of these gimbals allow you to control camera angle while flying via the tilt knob on the X8+ controller. In addition to pro level point-and-shoots, the DYS can also support the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, enabling you to get film-quality footage from the air. You can get the DYS from Range Video, FPV Model, or even Amazon, but if you’re not an experienced drone builder, installation can be tedious and difficult; it’s probably best to let someone do that work for you so you can just worry about flying and filming.
Lastly, you can pair the X8+ with our Bright View™ FPV kit and link the monitor with the camera, letting you see exactly what your camera sees as you’re taking photos. After all, that’s what we really want in the end — not the technology, but the shots that it gets us.
Much more than a flying camera
Drones can be much more than flying cameras. With the X8+ we’ve created a modular and expandable platform with significant payload capacity to power aerial ideas of all kinds. We’ve thought through a lot of uses for the X8+: autonomous delivery, professional photography, 3D modeling and many more. But what really excites us about this release, and what’s always excited us about the possibilities of drones in general, is the openness and versatility. We’ve taken care of building a durable and versatile aerial platform, now we want to see what you can do with it.
Because the X8+ can carry 800g comfortably, and up to 1kg if you’ve got some flight time to spare, you have room to build on this ultimate DIY platform. Perhaps it’s best to think of the X8+ as an intelligent tool, a power drill that you can outfit with different bits; you have options to experiment with your aerial projects. We’ve seen innovative users take stunning photographs and video, deliver medicine to remote areas with electromagnets, and survey and protect land, people, property, animals and natural resources.
For instance, if you’re interested in experimenting with the delivery or transportation of small goods, you can outfit the X8+ with an electropermanent magnet. Unlike a standard electromagnet — which siphons constant voltage from your battery — an electropermanent magnet only needs a single shot of current to turn it on; it then stays activated until you give it another shot to turn it off. You can even automate the injection of current via the Pixhawk, then link it to a waypoint on your autonomous mission where you’d like to drop off your payload, and voila — a fully automated delivery system. The same principle applies if you want to install an arm that can grab, pull and carry small items.
The X8+ is easily the optimum Pixhawk platform for DIY innovation. It’s powerful so it can do more, and redundant so that when you’re flying, you’re not experimenting with your experiment. For instance, you can stack the Pixhawk with a companion computer like a BeagleBone or Intel Edison and extend your computing even further, opening up options for adding navigation sensors like LIDAR and optical flow. Optical flow is especially effective for position hold because it recognizes variation of movement exceedingly well. With an optical flow sensor on the X8+, you can pinpoint and stage precision angles for photos and video, or hold the copter still for industrial inspection or any survey application that requires specific focus over time. And if your copter loses a prop or motor, your high-tech payload won’t drop out of the sky.
But again, these are just a few ideas that we’ve already seen or thought through ourselves. The reason that we say drone technology has nearly limitless potential is because future drone users — all 7 billion of them — have limitless potential. We want to be able to power that potential, to be able power the aerial ideas that you’ll build on our back. The X8+ gives you that power to do more.