Three years ago, DJI introduced the world to its Phantom drone. Since then, DJI has become a brand synonymous with drones, both amateur and professional, for those wanting to take their photography and cinematography to the sky.
Today, the Chinese UAV manufacturer unveils its fourth and latest iteration of its Phantom drone, the Phantom 4. While designed much like its predecessors, the updated drone packs in a plethora of new features users have been waiting for.
The most notable addition is the inclusion of a new automated system that avoids objects by using five onboard cameras—two on the front of the drone, two on the bottom and the main 4K camera. Using the imagery captured by the cameras and ultrasonic sensors on the underside of the device, the Phantom 4 runs the footage through an onboard computer system to create a 3D model of its environment.
If it notices something such as a tree or building that it needs to avoid along the flight path, the onboard computer system will calculate whether or not to adjust flight variables to avoid a collision with it or simply stop all movement and hover in place until the user is able to manually acknowledge the obstruction and bring the drone back down to safety.
For those who fly drones in more confined environments, this feature can be turned off so that complete manual control is given to the operator.
Another new feature is something called TapFly. This new feature downplays the role of the manual controller by making it easier than ever to fly the drone. Press one button, choose how far you want your drone to be able to travel, tap the live view feed from the drone being displayed on your camera and the Phantom 4 will automatically pan out away from the center of the geofence you set for it.
Another autonomous feature introduced with the Phantom 4 is ActiveTrack. Using the live view feed being shared with your tablet or smartphone, you can now tap on a subject you want the Phantom 4 to track and the drone will automatically create a 3D rendering of the object in order to track it within the frame of the onboard camera.
Not only will this make for far smoother operation when trying to track fast-moving subjects, such as cars and boats, it also makes it far easier to do 360º shots around a subject, be it a person or property.
As far as the actual design of the drone goes, DJI has made a few small changes. Most notably, DJI has opted for a glossy finish on the Phantom 4, a change of pace from the matte finish on its predecessors. Also, the overall form factor has gone on a bit of a diet with a smaller body and slimmer legs, a move DJI claims reduces drag and improves the drone’s center of gravity.
Although the drone might be smaller than the Phantom 3 series, it comes in about 100 grams heavier, a bit of weight put on thanks to a 5350 mAh battery, which is said to improve battery life from 25 minutes to 28 minutes on a single charge—impressive considering how much new tech and how many new sensors they’ve packed into the thing.
Overall, it appears DJI has been working full steam ahead to further set themselves apart from the competition. The Phantom 4 improves upon an already impressive lineup of drones and is sure to attract a plethora of people who are interested in taking their imagery to the skies.
Below is an overview video of the Phantom 4 provided by The Verge.
Naturally, it comes with a cost. The Phantom 4 will retail for $1,400, more than even the most advanced version of its predecessor retailed for.