Smarter, lighter, faster, better – DJI’s Phantom 4 is a seriously clever drone


DJI has just taken the wraps off the Phantom 4, setting the new standard for drones with some top new tech.

The Phantom 4 is an evolution of the Phantom 3 Professional we saw last year, and rightly leaves the Phantom 3 Standard standing – on account of the whopping new 73km/h top speed.

The quadcopter got its maiden flight at the launch event in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen district, with DJI showing off new features like automatic subject tracking and improved collision avoidance.

Built-in cameras spot obstacles and measure their distance as you approach, automatically flying around them. If it can it’ll keep the original trajectory after dodging, but if it can’t it’ll just hover in place – saving you a costly repair.

The vision detection sensors on the front and undercarriage also add collision detection when in Return to Home mode, and wider landing gear will make those landings smoother and safer when it’s windy.

phantom-4-still-11-1024x768With previous drones, you had to control the camera and fly the thing at the same time, but with the Phantom 4 you’ll be able to tap the screen to select a subject, then have the camera automatically follow it while you concentrate on flying. This Active Tracking has been on other drones for a while, so it’s great to see it at launch for the Phantom 4.

You’ll be able to send it to an object just by tapping it, too, with the drone handling the flying (and avoiding any obstacles in the way, of course).

DJI has given the whole thing a visual overhaul, making it look sleeker from the top but a little thicker from the sides.

The LED running lights have been moved to sit directly underneath the four motors, which should make it easier to avoid obstacles in low light. Those motors are more efficient, too, with quick release propeller blades for faster replacements when it’s time to pack up and head home.

The gimbal-stabilised 4K video camera has received a few upgrades too. It’s now held on both sides for added stability, which should make for even smoother videos.

Flight time has been boosted to 28 minutes, up from 23 on the Phantom 3, thanks to a bigger battery. That unfortunately means you’ll have to buy all new batteries, even if you had an older Phantom, but on the plus side you’re getting twice the flight time as you would with a Phantom 1 or 2.

If you don’t mind burning through the battery, engaging the new Speed mode boosts the top speed to a frankly terrifying 73km/h, which is 16km faster than the Phantom 3.

Naturally it will be covered by DJI’s new Care program, meaning you won’t have to spend a fortune to get it fixed should the worst happen and you bin it into a lake or tree.

There’s no Professional and Advanced versions, either; just a single model, which will retail for $1399 (R22,000).

The Phantom 4 will be going on sale on the 15th of March, with pre-orders from DJI already active.


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