The LaCie DJI Copilot is a portable and rugged drive that you can use to offload your data when you can’t get to a computer.
The LaCie DJI Copilot is a portable and rugged drive that you can use to offload your data when you can’t get to a computer.

The LaCie DJI Copilot is large capacity external hard drive designed for the content creator on the go. No need to bring your laptop into the field with you, the Copilot should be all you need… right? Obvious from the LaCie’s partnership with DJI, the Copilot is designed for drone pilots. However, it will work well for other media makers as well.

The promise of the Copilot does come with a caveat. If you plan on offloading 100 gigabytes or more at a time, you might not like how long it will take for the data to transfer. If you shoot on a cinema drone like the DJI Inspire 2 with the Zenmuse X5s camera recording in 5K CinemaDNG RAW, you’ll be creating data at a rate of 4.2 gigabits per second. Just one hour of footage shot at that rate would completely fill up the 2TB drive. Additionally, it will take much longer to offload that data than it took to create it. LaCie, however, does promise faster speeds in the future thanks to an upcoming software update.

So who will the Copilot work best for? Photographers for sure are the biggest winner.

So who will the Copilot work best for? Photographers for sure are the biggest winner. If you start off with two large-capacity media cards for your camera, it’s unlikely you would be able to fill up your second card in the amount of time it takes to offload the first, giving you the ability to keep shooting without interruption. Additionally, if you shoot compressed video, you should also be able to make efficient use of the Copilot.  The data copy rate would be acceptable for most DSLR and mirrorless cameras on the market. Drones that don’t shoot RAW video will be in the same boat.

In the Field

Our first use of the Copilot was during a trip where we were shooting on nothing but action cameras and drones. With multiple cameras at multiple events each day, we needed to offload our data often. We didn’t want to fill up a card while shooting. When returning the cameras to our home base each day, we offloaded their SD cards to the Copilot.

To see how long it took to copy different amounts of data from various media options, we tested XQD, CFast 2.0 and SD UHS II and I cards along with SSD offload. At each level of data, we tested both a single file and many separate files to make up the same total amount of data copied. For example, we tested both a 25GB file and nine files that added up 25GB. For all tests, the size of the file had no effect on the speed of the copy. In fact, all but one media type shared the same data copy rate. XQD was the fastest media type to copy the data at a varying rate of between 5 and 25 percent faster.

In the Edit Bay

To test how well you would be able to edit off of the drive, we used AJA System Test Lite and Blackmagic Design Disk Speed Test to see what data rates you can expect from the Copilot. Using a USB Type C to Type C cable to connect to an Apple iMac Pro, the AJA test showed a 60 Megabytes per second write and 75MB/s read speeds. The Blackmagic test differed from that with 80MB/s write and 55 MB/s read speeds. That means you could play back files with bitrates up to 600 megabits per second, depending on what test you trust.

What We Didn’t Like

Regardless of how you are going to use the device, there is one feature that we feel you should avoid. The Copilot can work as a spare battery pack, but if you use all of the power charging a device, you can’t copy data. Because of that, it’s a feature we would try not to use except in an emergency. We tested how well it charged our devices and the results were pretty sad. With a cost of 25 percent of its power, the Copilot charged our iPad Pro only 6 percent in 40 minutes.

The charging system for the Copilot itself is bad, as well. Charging via the USB connection is very slow when using a Type C to Type A cable. You’ll want to use the AC cable unless you have USB Type C to Type C cable and a wall charger with a USB Type C port, which should speed up USB charging.

There are a couple of other design flaws that have us scratching our head. The first is the door that covers up all of the ports and SD card slot. It’s large and it doesn’t stay attached to the unit — not something that you’d easily replace yet important to the longevity of all of the ports. It requires the user to keep track of it or risk dusty ports.

Connection points protected by removable cover
Connection points protected by removable cover

Another flaw is its one-button operation. To operate, does it need more than one button? No. However, if you want to see what is stored on the Copilot, you’ll have to use your phone. A simple menu could have been integrated with a dial with a decent button to make the Copilot a truly stand-alone product.

We also noticed that, when left to copy overnight, the Copilot was completely drained in the morning because it didn’t go to sleep when done copying the data. Since then, there has been both firmware and app updates that have sped up the offloading time. Additionally, the Copilot now goes to sleep after data copy.

Marketplace

The Copilot is not the first in the market, not by a longshot. In fact, not only is it late in the game, but it’s also priced quite high. Take the WD 2TB My Passport Wireless Pro as an example: It costs just $180 and offers just about everything the Copilot does. The things you don’t get are the USB 3.0 transfer speeds and rugged exterior

Whenever we were copying any data, one point kept coming to mind “why not just buy more media, so you don’t need to make a copy on-site. This strategy becomes especially valuable when shooting high data rates because you can easily create data faster than this device can copy it. This makes investing in more media cards a valid consideration when assessing the Copilot’s value in the marketplace.

Final Thoughts and Recommendation

There are many users who would benefit from this easy-to-use and straightforward product. However, it comes with a larger price tag and has a list of oddities and design flaws. If you are a photographer, drone pilot or videographer who needs an on the go, rugged drive to back up your media, it’s worth looking at. However, you will have to weigh whether or not the value is there for you and what you do.

SUMMARY:

The LaCie DJI Copilot is a portable and rugged drive that you can use to offload your data when you can’t get to a computer.

COMPANY NAME: LaCie

WEBSITE: www.LaCie.com

STRENGTHS:

  • Large Capacity
  • Drop Resistant

WEAKNESSES:

  • Data Copy time
  • Single button operation

RECOMMENDED USES:

Documentary Filmmaking and Journalism
Corporate and Event Videography
Online Video Production

PRICE: $350

TECH SPECS:

Storage Capacity: 2 TB

Connection Interface:

1 x USB 3.1 (USB Type-C)

1 x USB 3.0 (USB Type-A)

Internal Interface: SATA (Unspecified)

Type: Hard Disk Drive

Form Factor: 2.5″

Bus Power: USB

Dimensions (L x W x H): 5.4 x 4.4 x 1.4″ / 137.2 x 111.8 x 35.6 mm

Weight: 1.177 lb / 0.53 kg

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