Doing the Heavy Lifting: A Review of the DJI Matrice 600

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Drones are incredibly versatile machines that have been used in a wide range of applications. For many drone pilots, this wealth of choices can prove to be overwhelming. It’s also difficult to shift from one industrial application to another, as most commercial drones are manufactured with pre-set objectives in mind.

The Matrice 600 from DJI bucks this trend. By offering flexible payload options and an extremely powerful propulsion system, the Matrice 600 is one of the most versatile and reliable drones for professional drone applications. What exactly does the Matrice 600 offer and is it worth it? Read on to find out!

Overview

The DJI Matrice 600 is a hexacopter that is designed for professional drone applications such as mapping and filmmaking. It is one of the biggest drones from DJI, even the bigger than the S1000 Spreading Wings. The six-rotor design gives it a degree of redundancy, making it one of the safer and more reliable drone models available today. The six rotors are complemented by a provision for six batteries, giving the Matrice 600 a flight time of up to 35 minutes.

Despite the intimidating form factor, the DJI Matrice 600 is a ready-to-fly model. The drone comes with all the components you will need to start flying: a dedicated remote control, propulsion system, flight controller, onboard GPS module, video transmission system, several expansions bays, and compatibility with the DJI GO app. With top-of-the line motors and propellers, the Matrice 600 can carry payloads as heavy as 13.2 lbs. It is compatible with all camera and gimbal setups from the DJI Zenmuse line and can also accommodate many popular third-party accessories and sensors.

Controlling this behemoth is surprisingly easy with the A3 flight control system, an intelligently designed remote controller that comes with the Lightbridge 2 transmission technology. With an array of high-end technology packaged in a design that looks straight out of a science fiction movie, the Matrice 600 is the perfect drone for professional surveying, mapping, and for capturing big screen-quality footage.

Design

The professional branding of the Matrice 600 does not mean that it is a complicated drone to set up and fly. In fact, everything you’ll need to get the Matrice 600 up and flying is included in the box. From the moment you unpack the Matrice 600, it will only take a few minutes to have it up in the air.

The materials chosen for the build of the Matrice 600 strike a good balance of durability and weight. With an aluminum body and carbon fiber arms, this drone does not load up on unnecessary bulk but still manages to be robust.

It probably does not need to be stated, but we’ll say it anyway: this drone is huge. With its wings all spread out, the drone measure about 1.6 meters across.  Without any payload, it weighs almost 10 kg. However, you don’t need to worry about carrying around a drone that is bigger than most children. The Matrice 600 has a foldable GPS mount, foldable propellers arms, and removable landing gear. This helps keep the Matrice 600 somewhat portable, although this is still not the type of drone that you can throw into your backpack.

To keep your shots clear of any obstructions, the landing gear of the Matrice 600 can be retracted with a flick of a switch on the remote controller. A function on the DJI GO app can also be activated so that the landing gear will automatically retract once the drone is 1.2 meters above its take-off point. This ensures that the legs of the drone will not show up in your photos or footage. It also features several expansion bays for mounting of various official DJI or third-party accessories.

Flight performance

The Matrice 600 is equipped with the advanced E2000 Tuned Propulsion System. This combines the 6010 brushless motors with the large than usual 2170 propellers. All six motors are actively cooled, improving their long-term performance and reliability. The six-motor design comes with built-in redundancy, allowing the Matrice 600 to safely recover even when up to 3 motors fail.

Controlling the rotation of the motors are sine-wave driven ESCs that are smoother, quieter, and more efficient. Aside from extending flight time, the improved efficiency of the brushless motors means that the propellers can generate more lift.

Beyond the ability to lift heavy payloads, the large motors and propellers of the Matrice 600 also give it excellent maneuverability and flight performance despite its weight. The Matrice 600 is a remarkably stable and easy to fly drone even for novice drone pilots. Those who have a need for speed will not be left wanting, as the Matrice 600 can move at a maximum speed of 64.8 kph.

If you’re thinking of capturing drone footage at the top of a mountain, then the Matrice 600 still has your back. Its powerful propellers can provide lift up to a maximum altitude of 25000 meters above sea level. The ascending power of the Matrice 600 allows it to fly up at around 8 kph and descend at a safer rate of 4.8 kph

Payload capacity

The powerful propulsion system of the Matrice 600 allows it to lift payloads as heavy as 13.2 lbs. This capacity is enough for most high-end camera setups, even the massive Red Epic model. The Matrice 600 is not limited to carrying gimbals and cameras – it is a perfectly suitable drone for thermal imaging, multisensor imaging, and LiDAR mapping.

With its six-rotor design, the Matrice 600 can fly with utmost stability even when carrying huge loads. It is a combination of raw power and superior flight stability technology that allows the Matrice 600 to do heavy lifting without compromising flight safety.

Flight controller

The Matrice 600 comes with the revolutionary A3 flight controller equipped with Lightbridge 2 transmission technology. This allows livestreaming of 1080p video at 60 fps within a 5-kilometer range. It also supports dual operator setup, allowing for the camera to be controlled independent from drone flight. This is a very useful feature for professional filmmakers who want to be able to compose shots free from the distraction of having to fly the drone at the same time.

The A3 flight controller comes with several intelligent features, such as auto adjustment of flight settings in response to the weight of the payload. In case of motor failure, the controller triggers a built-in safety feature which automatically activates the return-to-home (RTH) function while the drone continues to yaw. The same failsafe measure will also be activated if the drone experiences signal loss or low battery power.

The Matrice 600 is compatible with the DJI GO mobile app which provides even more flight and camera control options. Through the DJI GO app, you can see important flight data such as the remaining battery level, transmission strength, and redundancy status among several other parameters. The app also augments controls with adjustments for shutter speed, ISO exposure, focus, and aperture

As with many of the recently released DJI drones, the Matrice 600 can interface with the DJI Assistant 2 for faster firmware updates, expanded configuration options, and calibration of sensors. The DJI Assistant 2 desktop software even includes a built-in flight simulator so you can practice flying your Matrice 600 in a risk-free environment.

The A3 flight controller can be upgraded to the A3 Pro version that comes with an additional GPS unit for enhanced accuracy and 2 additional IMUs for tripe redundancy. If you find that these upgrades are not enough for you, you can also augment your Matrice 600 setup with the D-RTK GNSS system. This is particularly well-suited for professional mapping and surveying applications, as it allows the drone to achieve centimeter-level locational accuracy. The RTK module comes with dual antennas for more accurate GPS measurements, and comes with built-in protection against signal interference from various electrical sources.

For industrial applications that require the use of multiple Matrice 600 drones, the Ground Station upgrade is a worthwhile investment that allows for multi-drone collaborative operations.

With the wealth of high-quality flight control and transmission technologies available for the Matrice 600, flying a drone this size has never been easier. The A3 flight controller can be customized and upgrade in several ways to make to uniquely suited to any number of professional drone applications.

Battery life

The Matrice 600 has a provision for six Intelligent Flight Batteries. Each battery can be turned on and off independently, although the drone will only take off when all 6 batteries are installed. The amount of power provided by the batteries allow the Matrice 600 to exceptionally heavy payloads.

The multiple battery array also provides another measure of redundancy to the drone. Should a battery fail mid-flight, the Matrice 600 will recalculate the remaining flight time considering how many batteries are still functioning.

The standard battery that comes with the Matrice 600 is the 4500 mAh TB47 battery, which can give the Matrice 600 up to 35 minutes of flight time when carrying regular payloads such as the Zenmuse cameras. For heavier payloads, this figure can go down to around 16 minutes. You also have the option of upgrading to the TB48 battery, which has a higher 5700 mAh capacity. However, you will have to upgrade all six batteries. The Matrice 600 will not turn on otherwise.

Gimbal and Camera

If it hasn’t been mentioned yet, then we’ll go ahead and say it: the Matrice 600 does not come with its own camera and gimbal. However, it is compatible with all models under DJI’s Zenmuse line of gimbals and several third-party cameras. This gives it a wide range of options from the Zenmuse XT thermal camera to the cinematic-quality Zenmuse X7 and the highly specialized multispectral and LiDAR sensors. Most sensors and cameras can also connect to the drone’s GPS system for geotagging of photos and other data.

For professional filmmakers and photographers, one of the best accessories that you can use with the Matrice 600 is the Ronin-MX gimbal. With its powerful motors that can resist high G-forces, the Ronin-MX was designed specifically for high-speed filmmaking. It is one of the most reliable gimbals that can maintain a horizon and shoot stable videos even in the most challenging and dynamic conditions.

The Ronin-MX offers full 360-degree rotational movement and a very wide tilting range. It can also support cameras with weights of up to 10 lbs., perfectly complementing the powerful lifting capacity of the Matrice 600. The Ronin-MX and the Matrice 600 can work together to improve video stability, with the Ronin-MX using the drone’s flight control for enhanced positional awareness.

Customizability

Aside from compatibility with a wide range of payloads, the Matrice 600 is compatible with both DJI Mobile SDK and API SDK. Drone pilots and developers can use the Mobile SDK to create custom mobile apps, such as the super popular PiX4D and DroneDeploy apps for drone flight planning.

On the other hand, the API SDK can be used to create scripts for custom flight commands. These can include pre-set camera positions, expanded control and monitoring of the drone using third-party hardware, interfacing of the drone with third-party sensors, or custom autopilot settings. The enhanced customization afforded by the two SDKs makes the Matrice 600 an exceptionally versatile drone that can be used in several commercial drone applications.

The physical build of the Matrice 600 has also been deliberately designed for customization. With its multiple expansion ports and universal CAN and API ports, the Matrice 600 can provide power and communication to a wide range of third-party accessories such as GNSS units for high-precision mapping.

Price

The Matrice 600 does not give any impression that it is an affordable drone. At almost $5000, this drone is clearly one of the most expensive options out in the market. Take note that this price tag is just for the drone – it does not come with a camera or gimbal. If you will decide to get a Zenmuse camera to go with your Matrice 600, it will easily set you back an addition $1000 to $2500.

If you’re in the professional mapping industry, then you would probably be interested in an RTK module and the upgraded A3 Pro flight controller. These upgrades, along with the cost of the gimbal, camera, and the Matrice 600 drone, can add up to close to $10,000. This is simply too expensive for the casual drone pilot.

In terms of quality and price, the Matrice 600 drone is clearly geared towards the professionals. Whether you’re a filmmaker, a surveyor, or a photographer, the Matrice 600 is one of the finest drones you could lay your hands on.

Final Thoughts

The Matrice 600 is a top-of-the-line DJI drone that was made specifically for drone-based professionals. As an upgrade to the S1000 Spreading Wings model, the Matrice 600 has advanced in several aspects. It is larger, stronger, more efficient, and more intelligent.

With the power of the E2000 Propulsion System, the Matrice 600 can lift even the largest camera and gimbal setups. Its six-rotor design, six-battery array, and built-in failsafe measures on its flight controllers builds layers upon layers of redundancy, making the Matrice 600 one of the safest and reliable drones around. This is a sigh of relief, considering how expensive the drone and its payload are.

The true highlight of the Matrice 600 is its level of customization. This drone gives the professional drone pilot the freedom to choose between different models of cameras, gimbals, and sensors. Expansion bays can also be used for other accessories, such as more accurate GNSS modules. On the software side, the Matrice 600 supports both DJI Mobile SDK and API SDK, giving developers room to create customized apps and flight controls.

Despite the price, it’s hard to argue against the fact that there is no other drone quite like the Matrice 600. It’s definitely not for everyone, but what it does, it does very well.