Adventure filmmakers just got an impressive new tool to help them create their masterpieces. Yesterday, DJI – the makers of the popular line of Phantom drones – released their latest UAV, and it is a dramatic step forward in technology and control.
The new Phantom 4 features an impressive set of upgrades designed to make it more intelligent and autonomous than ever before. DJI has equipped their latest product with a set of sensors and two onboard camera designed specifically to allow it to “see” the environment around it, and automatically avoid obstacles in its path. This will help keep the drone safer while inflight, and avoid causing damage to things around it, including people.
That obstacle avoidance system is just the tip of the iceberg however. The same technology that allows the Phantom 4 to plot its own course through an environment also allows it to track and following moving objects too. Using a touch screen controller such as a tablet, the pilot can simply tap on an object – including vehicles, people, animals, etc. – and the drone will lock on to it, and stay with it no matter where it goes. DJI says the Phantom 4 can travel at speeds up to 44 mph (72 km/h), so it won’t be easy to outrun it either.
Another new feature is something called “TapFly.” This allows the pilot to spot a location through the drone’s camera on his or her screen, and then tap on that location to tell the UAV to fly to that point on its own. Using its obstacle avoidance system, the Phantom 4 will find its way to that destination completely on its own.
It should be noted that all of these independent actions are handled without using GPS. The drone is autonomous thanks to its onboard sensors, which is impressive to say the least. Even when it is following a moving object, it is doing so completely on its own. Other drones that follow often have to connect to another device that someone is wearing, but that isn’t the case here.
DJI has made some other nice upgrades to the Phantom 4 as well. While the UAV looks like previous generations of the Phantom series, it has been subtly redesigned to make it more aerodynamic. The onboard battery has ben upgraded as well, extending flight time to 28 minutes despite all of the new features, and a heavier body.
All of this new technology and new features is good news for perspective filmmakers. At times in the past it would take two or three people to operate a drone, with one flying and another operating the camera. But since the Phantom 4 is more intelligent and autonomous, it frees up the pilot to do more things. For instance, when shooting a mountain biking video, it is now possible to tell the drone to follow the rider, which it will do completely on its own. This lets the person operating it to worry about capturing the best footage possible.
The DJI Phantom 4 is available for order now, and will begin shipping this month. Additionally, it’ll also arrive on shelves at all Apple Stores starting on March 15. The new drone is priced at $1399, which is about $150 more than the Phantom 3 cost when it was first revealed. That drone has now dropped to about $1000, while the Phantom 4 becomes the new flagship model.
Check out more in the video below.