Earlier this week DJI introduced their next generation of the incredibly popular Phantom series drones. 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.

While not specifically designed for professional use, the new Phantom 4 does offer some major benefits over some of the larger UAV designs, most notably with its increased flight times which can run up to an estimated 28 minutes.  This means more time in the air and less time on the ground fiddling with all those extra batteries you always need to have on hand.

The camera sensor used in the new Phantom is basically the same as in the Phantom 3 Professional, but the lens is completely different. It has 8 elements and improves the image distortion by 36%. They have also reduced the chromatic aberration by 57% which will help in those high contrast shots. On top of that, the closest focus distance is now 3 feet from the drone, so even close up shots will still be sharp and in focus.  We’re waiting to see how much improvement they’ve accomplished in still photographs, as in our experience that was one of the biggest drawbacks of the Phantom 3, with many users complaining of blurry images (especially towards the center of the image).

There are 5 cameras pointed outward from the Phantom 4, the 4K/12-megapixel on-board camera, 2 cameras on the front, and 2 cameras on the bottom. Using these cameras, the Phantom 4 is able to create a 3D model of the world and use that data to navigate by itself, sensing obstacles up to 49 feet away.  Flying the Phantom 4 is as easy as double tapping your screen. The Obstacle Sensing System keeps the drone safe, and the smart return-to-home system allows you to call your drone back to your takeoff point when you’re done shooting (while also avoiding obstacles on the way back).

 

Changes to the Phantom 4

Fly with Tap – Double tap the screen to fly to your next point.  An obstacle sensing system keeps the Phantom safe as it goes, and with the help of the new visual avoidance system, the Return to Home feature returns the aircraft to you more safely.

Extended Flight Time – Larger more powerful motors, a highly integrated and more streamlined design combined with a larger battery capacity gives the new Phantom 25% more effective flying times.

Visual Tracking – ActiveTrack lets you track a subject automatically, no band or beacon required, while obstacle avoidance keeps you phantom clear of hazards.

Sport Mode – A brand new Sport mode brings responsive controls and the thrill of speed everywhere.  An integrated gimbal and new battery positioned to move the center of gravity close to the aircraft’s core combined with raised motors that increase torque reaction, and a reliable flight control system which precisely controls the aircraft movement to make flight at higher speeds safer.

Advanced Aerodynamics and Stability – Sleek, streamlined aerodynamics help the Phantom 4 slip more smoothly through the air.  The battery system, camera gimbal and propulsion system have also been adjusted to improve the crafts center of gravity for increase stability and flight control.  By moving the camera forward it will also decrease the amount of “blades in the shot” which was common in earlier models.

Sense and Avoid – Front obstacle sensors combine with advanced computer vision and processing to give the Phantom active obstacle avoidance that allows it to react and avoid obstacles in its path.

 

phantom-4-photophantom 4 - 1phantom 4 - 2

 

Like the older Phantom models, the Phantom 4 still relies on core sensor information from the IMU (inertial measurement unit), however it now has dual IMU’s and compass systems for better redundancy and improved accuracy. This means that even if one system fails, there will be a backup to get you back on the ground safely. The flight control algorithm has also been redesigned to improve power management and make better use of all the data coming in through the on-board sensors.

While we don’t expect the Phantom 4 to be a game-changer, it’s exciting to see what new technology improvements can be brought to the industry.  The light-weight, easy to deploy design of the Phantom series along with the considerable cost savings versus the Inspire 1 Pro and larger S900/S1000 series UAV’s, we expect the Phantom 4 will become a valuable tool for jobs which don’t require high quality still images.  Most of all though, the Phantom series has always been fun to fly, and we expect the Phantom 4 will be no different!

Shipments of the Phantom 4 should begin around April 1st, with the retail price here in Canada to be $1889.

 

Phantom 4 specs:

Weight (Including Battery): 1380 grams
Max Ascent Speed: 6 m/s (Sport mode)
Max Descent Speed: 4 m/s (Sport mode)
Max Speed: 20 m/s (Sport mode)
Max Altitude Above Sea Level: 19685 feet (Software altitude limit: 400 feet above takeoff point)
Max Flight Time: Approximately 28 minutes
Battery: PH4 – 5350 mAh – 15.2V
Operating Temperature Range: 32 degrees to 104 degrees F (0 to 40 degrees C)
Satellite Systems: GPS / GLONASS
Controllable range: Pitch -90 degrees to +30 degrees
Obstacle Sensory Range: 2 – 49 feet (0.7m to 15m)
Camera Sensor: 1 / 2.3″ – 12 Megapixels
Lens: FOV 94 degrees at f2.8
ISO Range: 100-3200 (video) and 100-1600 (photo)
Electronic Shutter Speed: 8s to 1/8000s
Max Image Size: 4000×3000
Still Photography Modes: Single shot, burst shooting 3/5/7 frames, auto bracketed frames at 0.7 EV Bias, Timelapse HDR
Video Recording Modes: UHD: 4096×2160 (4K) 24 / 25p 3840×2160 (4K) 24 / 25 / 30p 2704×1520 (2.7K) 24 / 25 / 30p – FHD: 1920×1080 24 / 25 / 30 / 48 / 50 / 60 / 120p
Max Video Bitrate: 60 Mbps
Max Transmission Distance: FCC Compliant: 3.1 mi (5 km); CE Compliant: 2.2 mi (3.5 km) (Unobstructed, free of interference)