DJI Phantom 4
The DJI Phantom 4 is the most advanced and easiest to fly Phantom yet, and it arrives even as DJI dominates the US consumer drone market.
The DJI Phantom 4 sports the same 4K camera as last year’s Professional and 4K models, but there’s a new lens and gimbal system. The camera rig has been slightly repositioned to keep the propellers from creeping into the frame. DJI says its new shooter has better corner sharpness and less chromatic aberration, and that it improved the lens based on customer demand. The gimbal now has a pair of swivel joints, connected to each side of the camera, to provide more stability and shake-resistance.
That built-in camera is one of five on the new DJI Phantom 4 drone. As with previous models, two downward-facing ground sensors help with landing. But the newest cameras—and the most interesting ones—are the pair of optical obstacle sensors just head of the landing gear. They drive the drone’s obstacle-avoidance system; you can plot a flight path with the DJI Go app, and the drone will automatically avoid any objects in its way. Even in “Return Home” setting, the UAV will bob and weave to avoid redwoods and people on stilts.
Impressive, but not foolproof. DJI says the system can be blinded if the drone flies into direct sunlight. The system also isn’t sensitive enough to avoid things like power lines. For the most part, objects must be directly in front of the UAV to be “seen” by the avoidance sensors, and the system is built to correct its path vertically rather than laterally. Anything above and to the sides of the Phantom 4 can fall in the drone’s blind spots.
This new DJI Phantom 4 flies longer and faster, due to a better battery, a streamlined design, and more efficient motors. The DJI Phantom 4 gets 28 minutes of flight time per charge, three minutes better than lower-end Phantom 3 models. There’s also a “Sport Mode” that pushes the flight speed to 45 mph, up from about 35mph on previous Phantom models.
That added performance comes despite the fact the DJI Phantom 4 is about four ounces heavier than previous models, tipping the scales at just a bit more than 3 pounds. But everything makes it look smaller, from the aerodynamic gimbal to the smooth curves and contours. There have even been some new nips and tucks for the propeller system: The motors below them are now exposed to aid cooling, and the props have a new twist-and-lock mechanism to ensure they don’t fly off in a crash.
Two new flight modes in the DJI Go app are sure to get a lot of use. TapFly lets you double-tap a destination on a map interface and have the drone find the best way to get there. It also lets you set waypoints for longer flights. In ActiveTrack, the drone can track moving objects and keep them centered in an aerial shot; just double-tap a subject on the screen, and the drone will center its attention on it without needing to sync with a phone, a controller, or a tracking device.
So far, DJI have not given us an official launch date for South Africa, but stock is expected some time in the middle of April. We also do not yet have a South African price yet, but it is estimated to be just over R30000.