DJI’s next Phantom dodges obstacles, follows automatically, cruises at 45 mph

With innovation at the core of what makes DJI so successful, it should come as no surprise the world’s leading manufacturer of consumer drones has just announced the next generation of its Phantom lineup, the Phantom 4. According to a press release, DJI’s latest quad is the first camera-toting drone to make use of “highly advanced computer vision and sensing technology,” meaning even beginners will feel like seasoned vets while flying. Moreover, with its included ‘follow me’ mode, obstacle avoidance, and tap-to-fly features, the Phantom 4 is undoubtedly the smartest quadcopter DJI has ever released.

So how excited should you be for the next generation Phantom? In one word, very. Despite the fact DJIjust upgraded its Phantom 3 lineup with 4K cameras roughly two months ago, the China-based UAV purveyor has made some massive strides with the Phantom 4. As mentioned above, the drone’s assortment of smart features is where it arguably shines brightest, affording pilots an ease-of-use not previously seen in DJI’s Phantom line.

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

This creative collaboration comes via two newly added features: ActiveTrack and TapFly. Concerning ActiveTrack, users have the ability to continuously keep the Phantom 4’s onboard camera focused on a selected subject no matter the direction it flies. To set the desired subject, pilots simply tap the person on their smartphone or tablet screen and the drone instantly locks in on them while recording. While locked in, the drone actively assesses the image, even if it changes shape or direction, and has the ability to change its flight pattern while keeping the subject centered and in focus.

With TapFly, pilots are essentially given the capability of manually setting waypoints for the Phantom 4 to navigate to. For instance, a quick double-tap of the flight screen sets a preferred destination and in a matter of seconds, the quadcopter assesses and execute an optimal route to the waypoint. If a user double-taps another location during flight, the drone smoothly transitions to the new location and yet again finds the best possible route. This is the feature filmmakers and photographers should be salivating over.

Phantom 4 Action 3

Additionally, while flying, the Phantom 4 also makes use of its brand-new Obstacle Sensing System, which allows it to send and avoid any obstructions around it. By utilizing two front-facing optical sensors, the quadcopter frequently scans its surroundings for nearby hindrances and allows the Phantom 4 to make sound on-the-fly adjustments. What’s perhaps most intriguing about this feature is that if the drone senses it won’t be able to safely make its way around an obstacle, it simply stops flying and hovers in place until redirected.

Though DJI dramatically raised the bar with the included extras native to the Phantom 4, the company also improved a slew of existing Phantom features. With a new power management system and included intelligent battery, pilots should expect roughly 28 minutes of continuous flight time even while using the onboard camera. Speed junkies should also take note as the Phantom 4’s new Sport Mode setting allows it to reach speeds of 45 miles per hour while also ascending and descending faster than any other iteration.

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

Unparalleled technology, indeed, and a release which should only continue to pad DJI’s comfortable edge on its competition. Preorders of the Phantom 4 began Tuesday, March 1 via DJI’s website and will put you back about $1,399 in the United States.

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