DJI has updated its popular compact Phantom 4 drone for industrial and surveying use, with centimeter-level RTK positioning accuracy, an upgraded camera that also records extra metadata, precisely synchronized timekeeping and a purpose-built flight planning application.

DJI's consumer class-leading drones have always been among the best things on the market for recreational use, portable film-making and some light industrial uses, but some serious industrial applications were the domain of larger, much more expensive and more accurate equipment.

Now, DJI has announced an upgrade to the Phantom 4 platform that brings it up to an industrially competitive spec, while still offering the same backpack-sized portability.

The Phantom 4 RTK gets a hat up top of it to fit in a real time kinematic (RTK) positioning system, which combines with its other GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BeiDou positioning systems to offer extreme positioning accuracy.

The new drone knows where it is within 1 cm + 1 ppm, both horizontally and vertically. This means that at a height of 100 meters (328 feet), it can snap photos within a 5-centimeter range of the target point, and accuracy improves as you descend from there.

It's fitted with a new camera: a 1-inch CMOS sensor offering 20-megapixel photos and a mechanical shutter to eliminate rolling shutter blur. Recognizing that lenses vary slightly in manufacture, DJI will test each lens, and record any radial or tangential distortion into the camera's metadata, allowing a post-processing system to perfectly adjust each image.

There's also additional metadata added on from the RTK system, which writes all operationally-relevant satellite data into separate files that are perfectly time-synced to the images and flight controller data.

The Phantom 4 RTK comes with its own flight planning app, specifically designed for photogrammetry and waypoint flight, and the aircraft is fully compatible with the DJI Mobile SDK, allowing operators to create their own apps around the platform.

All this extra gear bumps the price up quite a bit. The Phantom 4 RTK sells for €5,700, or around US$6,550, with an extra battery. Those requiring surveying-level accuracy can improve things again with the addition of the D-RTK 2 Mobile station, which adds real-time differential data to the mix for even higher accuracy.

Either way, it sure beats the non-RTK solution of running around the survey area and putting down as many as 40 ground control points per square kilometer of area you're planning to record.

The Phantom 4 RTK and D-RTK 2 are available now direct from DJI.

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