Consumer drones haven't been around all that long, but if there is a player in the game with some sort of pedigree, it's DJI. With a user-friendly learning curve and excellent aerial cinematography capabilities, its hugely popular line of Phantom drones became the go-to tool for many hobbyists – but they aren't so easy to lug around. Looking to bring its expertise to a more mobile market segment, DJI today released the Mavic Pro, a mobile flyer featuring a folding design, 4K camera and a suite of autonomous flight modes.
Camera drones seem to go hand-in-hand with adventure sports, be they snowboarding, kayaking, dirt-biking or hiking. But getting these relatively bulky and fragile machines out into the wilderness to capture your adrenaline-fueled exploits simply isn't practical all the time. For this reason we have seen a long line of folding, packable drones taking all manner of shapes and sizes, from models with rotor arms that simply snap inwards for easier carrying to aircraft that resemble thermoses, eggs and routers.
But now the bigwigs are arriving on the scene. One week after GoPro revealed its debut drone, the backpack-friendly Karma, DJI has now taken the wraps off the Mavic Pro, which bears more than a passing resemblance. Like GoPro's effort, the Mavic Pro features arms that fold inwards, but is a more compact offering in that state. For those concerned with the specifics, GoPro's packed up Karma measures 14.4 x 8.8 x 3.4 in (365 x 224 x 90 mm), compared to the Mavic Pro's folded up dimensions of 7.8 x 3.26 x 3.26 in (198 x 83 x 83 mm).
The Mavic Pro's camera sits on DJI's smallest-ever three-axis gimbal and shoots 4K at 30 fps, full 1080p at 96 fps along with 12-megapixel stills in Adobe DNG RAW format. DJI has so much confidence in its gimbal that it says the camera is stable enough to take two-second-long exposures, something that would open up some pretty cool opportunities when shooting from the skies in low-light scenarios. The camera also has the ability to flip 90 degrees to take portrait shots.
DJI has designed a new controller to go with the Mavic Pro, which can either control the drone on its own or with the help of a smartphone up to 4.3 mi (7 km) away for 27 minutes per flight. It also sports its own LCD screen for telemetry data, along with buttons for return-home and to pause during autonomous flight modes.
These autonomous flight modes include the ability to follow a subject, lead in front, circle above, track alongside and a new mode called Terrain Follow, which allows it to follow a subject up a slope while maintaining the same height (up to a max 10 m (33 ft)). DJI says it also updated its tracking tech, so the drone can better detect certain things you might want to automatically keep in the shot including subjects like people, bikes, cars, boats and animals.
When using with a smartphone, the drone can be controlled by a feature dubbed TapFly, which basically sends the drone wherever you tap on the touchscreen while avoiding obstacles along the way. There is also a set of selfie-oriented gesture controls, which allow the drone to find you, place you in frame and snap a photo. It can also stream live to Facebook, Youtube and Periscope through the app using Wi-Fi for data transfer.
And for pilots wanting a bird's eye view, the Mavic Pro can also livestream the view from its camera to a set of DJI's newly released Goggles (available separately). This is a feature available on some of Parrot's drones and is the kind of immersive experience that has driven the explosive popularity of drone racing.
The Mavic Pro will retail for US$999 with the controller included, and is available for pre-order now via the source link ($749 is the price tag for the drone alone). Shipping will kick off on October 15. You can check out the promo video below.