There are lots of portable hard drives around these days but the Lacie DJI CoPilot offers a couple of things that most don’t – a cable connection to your smartphone and a built-in display.
It’s a 2TB drive developed by Lacie and DJI as part of the BOSS (Back-up On Set Solutions) range. It’s designed to provide storage when photographers and drone pilots are away from their computers. With this in mind, there’s an SD card slot built-in so you can back-up images easily. There are also USB-A, USB-C and microUSB ports.
The CoPilot comes with three smartphone connection cables. One of these has a Lightning connection for connecting iOS devices while the others are for Android phones or tablets with microUSB or USB-C ports.
These connectors are embedded in a block that matches the hard drives surround. Once pushed home, these are quite hard to remove. There’s also a groove around the drive’s case that can store the cable. So provided you don’t swap between different phone or tablet types on a frequent basis, you can leave the connection in place.
As well as allowing you to backup files from a camera or drone, the USB-A port allows the CoPilot to act like a power bank. So if you’re stuck, you can charge your phone.
The USB-C port is there to connect the CoPilot to a computer to transfer images. Helpfully, an adapter cable is supplied for older computers that don’t have a USB-C connection.
The drive has a built-in battery that needs to be charged before you head out on a shoot. Odd this has dedicated connection rather than a USB port.
Once the battery’s charged, or it’s connected to the mains, the screen will indicate a connection when an SD card is inserted into the slot or a device is connected via the USB-A port.
You’ll also see a message asking if you want to copy the contents of the card or device. Pressing the large button on the front of the CoPilot confirms the action. If you press this button for 3 seconds the action is cancelled.
The progress of the transfer is displayed on the CoPilot’s screen.
CoPilot BOSS app
If you connect your phone or tablet via one of the supplied cables, you can use the free Copilot BOSS app to control the transfer. And when the transfer has finished, you can see the images on your phone. Seeing your images assures you that the back-up has taken place in a way that a flashing light or progress bar can’t.
The app also lets you save images to your phone or share them from the drive.
Video can also be transferred to the CoPilot but you need an app to view them. The first time that you tap on a video file in the Copilot BOSS app you’ll be prompted to download another free smartphone app. Once this has been installed, you can review videos stored on the Copilot.
As it’s encased in a rubber-like jacket, the LaCie DJI CoPilot has a rugged, durable feel. There’s even a cover for the ports to keep out raindrops.
There’s only one button, so operation is simple and just a case of making a short or long press. However, I much prefer to use it via the app – you never quite know if you’ve pressed a button for long enough. The app makes it much clearer what’s going on and, of course, you can review your images/video.
While it would be annoying if you want to swap between iOS and Android devices, the cable connection seems very secure. The wrap-around storage for the cable is also a genius solution.
I had a couple of connection failures with the Copilot where it seemed to be searching and never quite recognised my phone. However, this was quickly resolved by restarting the app. In most cases, it worked perfectly.
Although the CoPilots internal battery can be used as a power bank, I would avoid doing so as transferring images and reviewing the odd video eats through the power quite quickly. For example, the battery power dropped by about 30% by transferring around 21GB of files spread across two cards while monitoring on an iPhone and briefly browsing the contents.
The LaCie DJI CoPilot is a really useful device for all digital photographers. It’s quick and easy to use, with no need to faff about making a Wi-Fi connection. You just plug in your phone to check your files are there and select the ones you want to share.
With 2TB capacity, there’s more than enough room for storing your videos and stills from a days shoot – whether you’re using a DSLR or drone.
The only disappointment is the battery life, but at least there’s a clear readout so you get plenty of warning.