In this article, I review the new Brother AirScouter WD-300C Head-mounted Display, that I have been using for the last 3 weeks. In much of my commercial drone work, I am a single operator drone pilot. That means I am having to control the drone and the camera simultaneously. That translate into looking down at my tablet and back up to the drone, so I can fly safely and still get the shot. I am finding that using a headset even helps me do a better job when I am piloting and have a second operator controlling the camera because I can see what the camera is doing and adjust my flying to get a better result.
What is the Brother AirScouter WD-300C Head-mounted Display?
From their promotional literature…
- A uniquely adjustable lightweight HD head-mounted display for users on the move
- The AiRScouter WD-300C puts a high definition display where it’s most convenient: right in front of your eye!
- A bright and crisp 720p HD display offers a virtual screen size comparable to that of a 19” monitor
- Adjustable focus lets you fine-tune the display’s image and helps minimize eyestrain as you work
- A full-sized HDMI port connects seamlessly to your gear without proprietary apps or hardware
- A micro-USB port lets you power it with nearly any standard USB battery
- A flexible arm allows you to easily position and angle the display just where you want it, over either eye (even if you’re wearing glasses)
- An IP54-rated display enclosure lets you work with peace of mind, even in rainy or dusty conditions.”
Why use a headset?
Now I have tried a number of these kinds of headsets because it makes me more efficient and effective as a single operator pilot when I can see what the drone is doing at the same time as what the camera is seeing and in my case with a DJI Inspire 2 Drone, I have an FPV or first-person camera that is independent of the cinema camera and it points forward, so the cinema camera can be pointed somewhere else, and I can still tell what is in front of the drone.
Up until now, none of the previous headsets from other vendors that I tried worked for me. The biggest problem with the other headset was that FAA Rules required that I keep a line-of-sight with my drone at all times. So that means both of my eyes cannot be blocked. The other problem with earlier headsets was that you could either see the drone or the display but they didn’t do either very well.
Setting up the Brother AirScouter WD-300C Head-mounted Display
The AirScouter WD-300C setup is very straightforward. You plug in a battery source via the micro USB port and connect up an HDMI cable to the Miniature Control Box (see below), adjust the Direct-view Head Display Unit (see below), adjust the focus and you are ready to go. The headset has an optional strap you can attach. I found I liked using this as I was able to tighten or loosen the headband so it felt very secure without being uncomfortable.
The Miniature Control Box is where you plug in your HDMI Cable and that cable is plugged into the back of the DJI Remote Controller. You plug the micro-USB connector from your USB to micro-USB cable, to the Miniature Control Box. This is what provides power. Once you have power and the HDMI cable plugged into both the Miniature Control box and the remote then you are ready to power up the AirScouter. There is a power button on one side and a lock and brightness button on the other.
Setting up DJI Go 4 App to use the AirScouter WD-300C
I found that setting the HDMI output to 720P60 provided me with the best quality in AirScouter display. To set this, go to the GO 4 App and press the three dots in the upper right of the screen. Then select HD. In HD select the Output Format dropdown list and select 720P60. Remember this unit only supports 720P.
Then select the Output Mode. The Inspire 2 options included PIP Image Transmission, FPV LiveView, and Photo Image Transmission. These options gave me the ability to view the Cinema Camera and the FPV camera at the same time, the FPV camera only, or the Cinema Camera only. Other drone models will have different options.
How I Attached the AirScouter WD-300C to My Remote Controller
In my setup, I already use a tray for my remote control. Perhaps it is because I learned to fly on large RC Helicopters, but I always prefer a tray. The tray allowed me to add a battery and some connectors to allow me to attach and remove the headset and battery quickly and easily and allowed me to suspend the AirScouter WD-300C control box from the left side of the tray. The unit doesn’t come with a battery and so you can choose what size you want to use with it. I had a spare Anker Powercore Mini 3350mAh and according to the documentation, it should last 5 hours.
This is the Miniature Control Box connected to the HDMI cable and the micro USB to USB cable.
You plug in the HDMI cable to the back of the DJI Remote Controller
This is the Anker Powercore Mini 3350mAh battery.
Now that you have it connected and working, you can push the brightness button on the Miniature Control box to cycle through the brightness levels. Also note that if you hold down the brightness button for more than 3 seconds, this will change the size of the screen displayed in the Headset. This can be useful if you need to see the edges of the display more clearly. I found that in some instances I liked the smaller size and then in other situations, I liked it larger. Having the option is nice!
Finally you can make your settings and slide the lock button down and this locks out any changes until you slide the lock button up.
Looking through the Headset
I wanted to show you what you can expect to see on the headset display. It was difficult to photograph the display accurately. The image you will see on the actual headset display will be brighter, crisper, and the text will be sharp.
Commercial Project Use
The AiRScouter WD-300C is the first headset that actually works for me. It works with and without glasses. It even works with my polarized sunglasses. While I would like the display to be larger, it still works very well. I have now used this on three commercial projects and the AirScouter WD-300C made them easier to get the results that my client wanted.
Manufacturing Plant Project
The first project was indoors in a large manufacturing plant and I was a single operator on it. There was a lot of machinery and equipment in the areas the client wanted us to fly and capture video. Without the headset, it would have been almost impossible for me to do that safely. With the headset I was able to see the actual drone, see the FPV camera and the cinema camera quickly and easily, and it allowed me to get the shots required by the client.
Outdoor Shoot in the Woods Project
This shoot was dual operator project. I was the pilot on it. We were in a heavily wooded area and having the ability to see the drone, the FPV camera, and the Cinema Camera without looking down at my tablet, allowed me to do a better job piloting and anticipating what the camera operator needed.
I’m changing screen size and display brightness for the headset display in this photo.
Roof Inspection and 3D Modeling Project
In this project, I was a single operator. Having the headset made the process simpler and faster because I was able to keep my eye on the drone and position the drone where I wanted it for each photograph without having to look down at the tablet. There were a lot of trees and wires around the home, so I needed to keep a close eye on where I was flying.
- It is fast and easy to set up.
- Once I set it up, I just plugged it in, turned it on, and it worked.
- It allows me to see the drone, the cinema camera, and the FPV camera at the same time.
- It allows me greater control over what I photograph or video because I don’t have to look down at my tablet to see what the camera is seeing.
- In situations where there are a lot of obstacles around what I am shooting, it gives me greater confidence in avoiding the obstacles, because I can keep my eye on the drone rather than having to look down on the tablet and back up at the drone.
- I have better control over the drone because see all the screen information on the headset display. I know what altitude I am at and how far away the drone is and what the battery levels are without looking at the tablet.
- It works with glasses and polarized sunglasses!
- The focus works very well on it.
- It is comfortable and lightweight.
- The headband works and with the strap, combination work very well in keeping the headset secure.
- I would like the image displayed in the headset to be larger, of course ;)
- There were a couple of times where I needed to unplug and plug in the HDMI cable to get the display to work. I mention to be thorough and it wasn’t a big deal.
- It takes some practice, switching focus between your two eyes close up and then far away, but after a little bit of time, it became pretty natural.
- In the beginning, my judging the depth of field was a little off, because of having the display over my left eye, so be careful when you are first walking or moving around with the display covering your eye. Again with some practice, this quickly went away.
- On my Inspire 2 using ProRes in El Mode, the display didn’t reflect the current ISO. In all other modes, it displays ISO correctly. This may not be the headset’s problem. It could be the way the HDMI port is putting out the information in EL Mode.
- Price wise it is expensive, but no more so than the competing options.
I want one! Not much more to say than that. :)
You will find the Brother AirScouter WD-300C Head-mounted Display for sale at B&H Photo here.
You will find the Brother AirScouter WD-300C Head-mounted Display fact sheet here.