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We are proud to announce the latest project we have been working on: The MFD 5000. The MFD 5000 is the ultimate heavy lift drone, which allows pilots to fly heavy payloads with ease. Originally designed as a custom aircraft for Jordy Klein at XCam Aerials, we quickly realized that this aircraft could be a game changer shortly into the design process. We have been flying the Red Epic and similar sized professional level cinema quality cameras on RC Aircraft for over 6 years, starting back in 2011 with our RC Helicopters. In the last five years, the technology that has allowed these high quality cameras to be flown has grown by leaps and bounds. As far as it has come, we still felt that the current aircraft in the market that could carry these cameras did not meet our requirements. The aircraft themselves were just fine, but we couldn’t find an aircraft that had the power and agility to carry a camera with proper lenses and lens control with solid performance.

We recently got our hands on a DJI Ronin 2 gimbal. About 2 minutes after setting it up and testing it out, we knew that this would be the ultimate gimbal for a drone. It is powerful, intuitive, accepts practically any camera possible, and has an incredible wiring system which allows us to mount a camera and all necessary wiring within minutes. Long gone are the days of the rats nest wires everywhere…

When it came time to finding a drone that could carry this gimbal, we felt that nothing on the market would cut it. The goal of this aircraft was to design and build a heavy lift drone that can be operated just as easily as a DJI Mavic, Phantom, or Inspire. This is a tricky task! Everything must be quick release, easy to transport, interface with DJI’s GO App, and most importantly be ultra-redundant and reliable. We believe we have accomplished that feat and believe that any serious drone operator who needs to fly a heavy payload will love this drone.

Designing The Beast

The aircraft was designed around the power system: The DJI E5000 Pro. This amazing product is the motor, esc, folding propeller, and motor mount… all in one.  It makes our life much much easier from a design perspective. Next, we designed an incredibly strong frame structure that could hold everything together with minimal flex. We then contacted the guys at DamperZen and had a custom iso damper made for the aircraft, which is a crucial part to the design. This component is a buffer between the aircraft and gimbal which takes away most shakes/vibrations from the gimbal that are generated by the aircraft. This provides rock solid camera footage. Next was designing and installing a quick release mechanism for the arms so that it can easily fold into a case. Lastly, we designed an intuitive quick-release battery tray system, which allows the change of all four flight batteries in a jiffy.

The aircraft itself was designed in about two months utilizing Solidworks. This allowed us to get a real time idea of weight, aesthetic, fit, and overall bill of materials. Check out some of the CAD renderings and images…. kinda looks like the real thing!

Components

After being in the drone world since its inception, we knew we wanted the most reliable and high performance components possible for this aircraft. We have had incredible success with DJI components. Period. Whether it’s flying their Mavic pro, or using their LightBridge 2 system with other aircraft- their components have come through for us time and time again. Therefore we chose their components to be included with this aircraft.

Components for the MFD 5000:

  • POWER: DJI E5000 Pro Motor / ESC / Prop / Motor Mount
  • GIMBAL: DJI Ronin 2 (Slightly Modified by Watts Innovations In-House to Accept Landing Gear)
  • GIMBAL POWER: Powered With 2 x TB-50 Batteries (Powers Gimbal and Camera for 2.5+ Hours)
  • CONTROL: DJI LightBridge 2 (x2) (One for Pilot, One for Gimbal Operator)
  • GUIDANCE: DJI A3 Flight Controller w/ Redundant GPS & IMU

Flying the Aircraft

The aircraft is quite simple to operate really. Simply unfold the arms, connect the aircraft to the gimbal using the DJI Ronin 2 Dovetail quick release, and install the batteries. Turn on the DJI Lightbridge 2 transmitter and plug in the batteries. Lastly, turn on the Ronin 2 and power up your camera. You are now ready to fly! At this point, it is just like flying an Inspire (1 or 2), with two operators. The pilot operates the aircraft and the gimbal operator operates the gimbal/camera. At the moment, carrying a Red Epic with Super Speed lenses and a 10,000 mAh battery pack (four 6s 10,000 mAh packs), gets us about 10 minutes of flight time. That can be increased by moving up to 6s 16,000 mAh packs.

Moving Forward

After successfully using the MFD 5000 on multiple shoots, we are confident that it is the proper aircraft for the job. With that being said, we are beginning to manufacture a second aircraft for XCam Aerials for them to use on their shoots. At the same time, Watts Innovations is happy to manufacture, build, and test fly more of this aircraft for any customer who wants to step up their drone game. Some of our favorite aspects of this aircraft from a pilot’s perspective:

  1. Super easy to transport / setup
  2. Redundant power system / flight control system
  3. Extremely maneuverable and fast! 45+ mph!
  4. Plenty of power to punch out of any sketchy situations
  5. Hovers in one spot complete hands off (let’s not take this feature for granted with big machines)
  6. Low RPM motors – sounds great – doesn’t sound like a giant swarm of tiny hornets
  7. Utilizes the DJI Go App, which opens up incredible opportunities and capabilities
  8. All of DJI’s intuitive features available at your finger tips (like Intelligent Orientation, Point of Interest, etc.)

One Last Thing

Not only will this aircraft lift large cinema quality cameras, this aircraft/gimbal combo will lift practically any camera or sensor package imaginable. We are still testing maximum weight capabilities, but with over 150lbs of thrust, we can sure lift some heavy cameras.

With that being said, this is really just the beginning for this aircraft. We really look forward to seeing where this aircraft takes us!