Drone Hack – Adding a HD Monitor to your Controller

This is a simple hack to overcome the intermittent and lagging display that plagues the second controller of the DJI Inspire 1. The solution is a HDMI video monitor that produces consistent visuals to aid your gimbal control.


DJI Inspire1 aerial filming drone with Dual-Controls
Image courtesy of DJI

The DJI Inspire 1 is a fantastic workhorse for aerial cinematography. One of the main features is the dual ground controllers. The main controller is for the UAV pilot to manage the drone flight controls. The second controller is for the aerial cinematographer to control the camera gimbal. This tack team effort is needed to create dynamic aerial filming shots that cannot be done with a single controller drone like the DJI Phantom series.

However, the second controller suffers from intermittent visuals from the DJI Go App. I believe the DJI Inspire intentionally give “signal priority” to the main controller, which is more crucial for drone control and safety. This issue is not a problem when the signal strength is high because there is enough bandwidth to share between the 2 controllers. But when the signal strength is low, the second controller loses visuals very quickly while the primary controller still performs ok. The situation is made worse when the signal returns to normal but video lags horribly after that, as it tries to regain real-time video display. This situation can happen anytime and pretty often, especially in urban settings where signals are affected by buildings and other wireless devices.

As an aerial cinematographer, having no visuals means shooting blindfolded. These experiences are both frustrating and scary at the same time. There are moments where there is no signal for several seconds and I thought I lost my $8000 drone… only to regain visuals later to much relief.


DJI Inspire1 controller with HDMI monitor above
The solution is a video monitor connected to the HDMI output. But mounting it requires some DIY tricks.

The good news is that both the DJI Inspire controllers have HDMI video outputs that allow users to attached an external video monitor for viewing. The video display is much more consistent via HDMI, compare to the mobile device display from the DJI Go app.

However, attaching a HDMI monitor to the ground controller requires a hack. So we created an L shape plastic holder with velcro to mount it above the mobile screen holder. The position of the HDMI monitor is at the perfect position right below my eyes. A professional video monitor like the SmallHD 500 series with a sun hood helps me make better exposure and focus adjustments as well.


plastic holder for monitor
A simple plastic holder with industrial-grade velcro does the job.

So this is a probably the most valuable addition to my drone aerial filming kit that I cannot live without. If you have any drone filming hacks, please share them by contacting us.  Click here to find out more about Skyshot.

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