DJI’s Phantom 4 drone is coming later this month with a new obstacle avoidance system


Today DJI has taken to the skies to announce the new Phantom 4 that looks to be the biggest upgrade in the history of its consumer-focused line of drones. Aside from its somewhat minor (but welcome) cosmetic changes, this new quadcopter offers impressive technology advances as well. Leading the parade of fresh additions is obstacle avoidance and a camera-based smart follow feature that tracks subjects automatically during flight. So what’s it going to cost? Full details below.

The new DJI Phantom 4 is beneficiary of a bevy of upgrades that will be appreciated by entry-level and professional pilots alike. One of the biggest hinderances for beginners is the intimidation of keeping a new drone safe. DJI’s “Obstacle Sensing System” utilizes two cameras just above the landing gear to spot objects and measure their distance. This allows the drone to maneuver as needed around the object or fly above if that’s the safest route.

DJI first brought autopilot features to its line of Phantom 3 drones last year. Today’s announcement brings a whole new level of assistance for pilots. The Phantom 4 allows you to choose any object in sight (via the iOS or Android app) and it will automatically track, follow and keep it in frame. While the previous generation offered GPS tracking, this is taking the auto-follow feature to a different arena of capabilities.

Along those same lines is a new addition called “TapFly”. This simple software feature is activated by tapping a spot on the video feed and the Phantom 4 will fly to that location, avoiding obstacles along the way. DJI has clearly taken steps to curb the intimidating experience of flying a drone for the first time. New features like TapFly and obstacle avoidance are welcome additions to DJI’s latest release.

The optics are slightly improved on the Phantom 4. A built-in camera offers 4K video at 30fps or 1080p at 120fps for slow motion filming. A newly designed lens offers “dramatically” improved sharpness. It is also able to capture 12MP still images.

We’d be chagrined if we failed to point out the Phantom 4’s slimmer design. Gone is colorful paint scheme and attention-grabbing model identification. DJI has opted for a glossy white look with aluminum brushes throughout. Additional improvements include 28 minutes of flight time and a top speed of 45MPH (a 10MPH jump from the previous generation). Like the Phantom 3, it will ship with the smartphone-compatible remote for handheld piloting.

So what’s it going to cost, you ask? The Phantom 4 will retail for $1,399. For comparison, the Phantom 3 Standard currently goes for around $500. It will initially be available in Apple Stores and online from DJI on March 15th with Amazon and other retailers shipping on April 1.

You’ll have to judge the difference in features to justify the significant difference in price. Also worth noting is that DJI is only releasing one Phantom 4 model at this time. This is a change from previous generations that included different feature sets for varying skill levels.

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DJI Launches New Era of Intelligent Flying Cameras

NEW YORK, March 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — DJI, the world’s leading maker of unmanned aerial vehicles, on Tuesday launched the Phantom 4, the first consumer quadcopter camera (or “drone”) to use highly advanced computer vision and sensing technology to make professional aerial imaging easier for everyone.

The Phantom 4 expands on previous generations of DJI’s iconic Phantom line by adding new on-board intelligence that make piloting and shooting great shots simple through features like its Obstacle Sensing System, ActiveTrack and TapFly functionality.

“With the Phantom 4, we are entering an era where even beginners can fly with confidence,” said DJI CEO Frank Wang. “People have dreamed about one day having a drone collaborate creatively with them. That day has arrived.”

The Phantom 4’s Obstacle Sensing System features two forward-facing optical sensors that scan for obstacles and automatically direct the aircraft around the impediment when possible, reducing risk of collision, while ensuring flight direction remains constant. If the system determines the craft cannot go around the obstacle, it will slow to a stop and hover until the user redirects it. Obstacle avoidance also engages if the user triggers the drone’s “Return to Home” function to reduce the risk of collision when automatically flying back to its take off point.

With ActiveTrack, the Phantom 4 breaks new ground, allowing users running the DJI Go app on iOS and Android devices to follow and keep the camera centered on the subject as it moves simply by tapping the subject on their smartphone or tablet. Perfectly-framed shots of moving joggers or cyclists, for example, simply require activating the ActiveTrack mode in the app.

The Phantom 4 understands three-dimensional images and uses machine learning to keep the object in the shot, even when the subject changes its shape or turns while moving. Users have full control over camera movement while in ActiveTrack mode – and can even move the camera around the object while it is in motion as the Phantom 4 keeps the subject framed in the center of the shot autonomously. A “pause” button on the Phantom 4’s remote controller allows the user to halt an autonomous flight at any time, leaving the drone to hover.

By using the TapFly function in the DJI Go app, users can double-tap a destination for their Phantom 4 on the screen, and the Phantom 4 calculates an optimal flight route to reach the destination, while avoiding any obstructions in its path. Tap another spot and the Phantom 4 will smoothly transition towards that destination making even the beginner pilot look like a seasoned professional.

The Phantom 4’s camera, still the world’s best aerial-optimized 4K imaging device, has undergone an upgrade that includes improved optics for better corner sharpness and reduced chromatic aberration. The Phantom 4 also has DJI’s signature Lightbridge video transmission system onboard, allowing users to see what their camera sees in HD and in real-time on their smart devices at a distance up to five kilometers (3.1 miles).

The Phantom 4’s form factor, still the classic quadcopter style pioneered by DJI, has been redesigned and redefined to emphasize elegance and smoother, more-aerodynamic lines. Its frame incorporates a lightweight composite core to provide enhanced stability and more-agile flight. The core now features a redesigned gimbal that provides more stability and vibration dampening, and has been repositioned for a better center of gravity and to reduce the risk of propellers getting in the shot.

Refinements to motor efficiency, power management and a new intelligent battery have extended the Phantom 4’s flight time to 28 minutes, which means more time in the air to capture professional photos and video.

DJI crafted the Phantom 4 with reliability in mind, including redundant inertial measurement units (IMUs) and dual compasses onboard. It uses new push-and-lock propellers that are faster to install and more secure in flight.

In addition to intelligence and ease-of-use, the Phantom 4 is built for fun. Its new “Sport Mode” for advanced flyers gives a taste of what drone racing feels like. In “Sport Mode,” the Phantom 4 can fly 20 meters per second (45 miles per hour) and ascends and descends more rapidly than in other modes. The craft’s acceleration and top speed in “Sport Mode” also mean it can reach locations for shots faster and capture shots you couldn’t get before.

“Though the Phantom 4 is easy to use, let’s not forget it is a high-performance aircraft powered by unparalleled DJI technology,” said Senior Product Manager Paul Pan.

The Phantom 4’s U.S. retail price is $1,399.


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