I do my landscape photography from the air (via a drone) and from the ground. I go to some rough places, dust, moisture, the usual evils we all have to contend with. Backing up on location can therefore be tricky. Enter, LaCie DJI Copilot.
Earlier this year hard drive maker LaCie and drone maker DJI offered a joint product to give photographers some secure backup for our SD and mini SD cards.
The device is the LaCie DJI Copilot. It's a rugged 2 TB hard drive with a variety of connectors to let you easily backup your images and then later transfer them to another device, like a laptop, or desktop computer. It can also transfer your files to a smartphone, where they can be viewed, edited and sent, or posted to social media. As a bonus, but not a terribly useful one, the CoPilot can charge a device like a smartphone from its built-in battery. I think I'd save the Copilot battery for transfers. The Copilot sells for $349.99.
2TB is pretty generous storage, so off I went into the field to see how the Copilot worked.
My Sony A7III already can backup its SD card as I shoot, but having all your backups on one device can be risky too, so I put the Copilot to work.
I took a bunch of photos, popped the SD card into the Copilot and its LCD screen asked if I wanted to copy the SD card to the Copilot HD. One click on the large button on the side and the copies began. It takes a few minutes to empty a 64 or 128 GB card, but it was faster than dumping the files to my MacBook Pro from a card reader.
Of course the Copilot also can function quite nicely as a regular hard disk storage device. It comes with USB and USB-C cables to plug it into a computer, and your files are there for further editing or backup.
You can also use the Copilot with your Smartphone. You can download the Copilot BOSS app, and that makes this device even more useful, as I'll explain below.
Copilot BOSS App
With the included lightning or Android cable, you plug the Copilot directly into your phone, then run the app and you can view, edit, share, or delete files.
The app will also detect when the Copilot needs a firmware update, and that is easily accomplished with a couple of screens that walk you through the process.
To charge the Copilot, LaCie/DJI provides a wall wart. That's less than ideal because it requires AC to charge it. USB charging should also be allowed. Battery life is good, I would expect the Copilot to be able to backup several full SD cards before it needs to be recharged.
I don't usually carry a laptop with me when I'm shooting, so I can't really call this a laptop replacement. However, it's a great backup device, that doesn't require a lot of fooling around. As noted, insert your SD card, press a button, and everything works. If you are using a mini SD card, like many drones use, there is an adaptor for that.
The Copilot fits in well with my backup workflow in the field. I wait until a card is full, then back it up. I don't erase that SD card, but put it in my bag, taking out a fresh SD card to replace it. When that's full, I'm usually done. One caveat: the Copilot doesn't know what is already backed up, so incremental backups are a no-no. If you back up say half a card, replace it in your camera to go back to shooting, and then put it back in the Copilot, the Copilot will back up that card again, making duplicates of the files you have already saved. These rules are the same of course, whether you are using an SD card of a drone mini SD card.
The Copilot looks well built, it's surrounded by a stiff rubber outer body, and there is a port cover made of the same material. It's not waterproof, and like any hard drive it should be treated with respect.
That brings up another point. The Copilot contains a regular mechanical hard drive, not a solid state drive with no moving parts. That makes it less rugged than it could be. Putting in an SSD would likely have raised the price even more, but I'd feel more secure with an SSD. That said, the Copilot has been rock solid on several photo treks in less than ideal conditions.
What's in the Box
- DJI Copilot drive
- MicroSD adapter
- USB-C drive-to-laptop cables
- USB-C (USB 3.1)
- USB-C to USB-A
- Phone and tablet connectors
- Lightning cable for iOS devices
- Micro USB cable for Android
- USB-C cable for Android
- Wall charger
What I Liked
- Easy to carry and store in a camera bag
- Operation is simple and intuitive
- Comes with all needed cables
- More than adequate storage
What I Didn't Like
- Requires wall wart for charging. It should allow USB charging
- Not an SSD
- Would like better weatherproofing
- No incremental backups
I liked using the Lacie DJI CoPilot. It was reliable, easy to use, and like a Swiss Army Knife does a lot of things very well, but is not perfect at each talk. I do think it's a good backup solution if it fits in with your workflow.