Drones

Ahead of the game: DJI's Phantom 4 introduces obstacle avoidance, ActiveTrack and Sport Mode

Ahead of the game: DJI's Phant...
DJI's impressive new Phantom 4 features the first true obstacle detection and avoidance system we've seen on a consumer quadcopter
DJI's impressive new Phantom 4 features the first true obstacle detection and avoidance system we've seen on a consumer quadcopter
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DJI Phantom 4: The Phantom 4's 28 minute effective flight time is an increase of of 25% on the Phantom 3 Professional
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DJI Phantom 4: The Phantom 4's 28 minute effective flight time is an increase of of 25% on the Phantom 3 Professional
DJI Phantom 4: TapFly mode lets you tap on the live view on your smart device screen to control the quadcopter
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DJI Phantom 4: TapFly mode lets you tap on the live view on your smart device screen to control the quadcopter
DJI Phantom 4: Multiple flight modes include Position, Attitude, and a new Sport more for quicker response and faster top speeds
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DJI Phantom 4: Multiple flight modes include Position, Attitude, and a new Sport more for quicker response and faster top speeds
DJI Phantom 4: Higher prop position will make for cleaner shots during maneuvers, and the new push to release props allow more aggressive flying
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DJI Phantom 4: Higher prop position will make for cleaner shots during maneuvers, and the new push to release props allow more aggressive flying
DJI Phantom 4: Sport mode adds extra agility and speed
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DJI Phantom 4: Sport mode adds extra agility and speed
DJI Phantom 4: new magnesium core increases the stiffness and rigidity
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DJI Phantom 4: new magnesium core increases the stiffness and rigidity
DJI Phantom 4: Lightbridge technology means you can see what the Phantom sees in 720p HD at up to a ridiculous 3.1mi (5km) away
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DJI Phantom 4: Lightbridge technology means you can see what the Phantom sees in 720p HD at up to a ridiculous 3.1mi (5km) away
DJI Phantom 4: The obstacle sensing system constantly scans what's in front of the drone and automatically initiates avaoidance maneuvers
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DJI Phantom 4: The obstacle sensing system constantly scans what's in front of the drone and automatically initiates avaoidance maneuvers
DJI Phantom 4: The Phantom 4 is noticeably more streamlined than previous models
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DJI Phantom 4: The Phantom 4 is noticeably more streamlined than previous models
DJI Phantom 4: ActiveTrack mode can follow a subject optically, from altitudes above 9 feet.
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DJI Phantom 4: ActiveTrack mode can follow a subject optically, from altitudes above 9 feet.
DJI Phantom 4: The Phantom 4 design sees a higher center of gravity for better handling
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DJI Phantom 4: The Phantom 4 design sees a higher center of gravity for better handling
DJI Phantom 4: The Phantom 4's 28 minute effective flight time is an increase of of 25% on the Phantom 3 Professional
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DJI Phantom 4: The Phantom 4's 28 minute effective flight time is an increase of of 25% on the Phantom 3 Professional
DJI's impressive new Phantom 4 features the first true obstacle detection and avoidance system we've seen on a consumer quadcopter
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DJI's impressive new Phantom 4 features the first true obstacle detection and avoidance system we've seen on a consumer quadcopter
DJI Phantom 4: The camera boasts a 56% reduction in chromatic aberration and a 36% reduction in lens distortion compared to the Phantom 3 Professional
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DJI Phantom 4: The camera boasts a 56% reduction in chromatic aberration and a 36% reduction in lens distortion compared to the Phantom 3 Professional
DJI Phantom 4: In Sport mode the Phantom 4 can hit 45 mph (72 km/h)
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DJI Phantom 4: In Sport mode the Phantom 4 can hit 45 mph (72 km/h)
DJI Phantom 4: The latest push-and-release propellers make the P4 super quick to set up and tear down, and make the aircraft more agile and responsive
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DJI Phantom 4: The latest push-and-release propellers make the P4 super quick to set up and tear down, and make the aircraft more agile and responsive

With the 3DR Solo hot on its heels and a GoPro drone getting set to launch, DJI's Phantom 3 has been coming under pressure lately. No longer. Ever a step ahead of the game, DJI today released an impressive new Phantom 4 that features the first true obstacle detection and avoidance system we've seen on a consumer quadcopter. Enhanced autonomous flight modes let it track targets and fly itself better than ever before. There's also a new Sport mode that lets the Phantom match the Inspire One's top speed of 45mph, as well as a redundant secondary compass and IMU to make the Phantom 4 one of the first consumer quads that's starting to approach industrial levels of reliability.

The Phantom 4 is essentially an upgraded version of DJI's Phantom 3 Professional with multiple improvements to that device's vision positioning, propulsion system, gimbal, camera and remote. The company also added the aforementioned obstacle avoidance system, a tap fly function, and ActiveTrack mode that gives the drone the ability to optically track and follow a moving object, provided the drone's at least 9 feet (~3 metres) in the air.

The obstacle sensing system constantly scans what's in front of the drone, and makes decisions on whether to pull up and stop, fly around or rise up over any obstacles it finds, provided they're at least 500 pixels in size on the camera sensors. It works in conjunction with the tap fly function, which allows you to fly in any direction by tapping the destination on the view screen instead of relying solely on the remote controller. When combined with the Smart Return Home function, the Phantom 4 will return home safely, avoiding obstacles along the way, as long as they're in front of it and not above.

DJI Phantom 4: The obstacle sensing system constantly scans what's in front of the drone and automatically initiates avaoidance maneuvers
DJI Phantom 4: The obstacle sensing system constantly scans what's in front of the drone and automatically initiates avaoidance maneuvers

It's a bit sad that the obstacle avoidance cameras only feature on the front of the P4 - because that's where you can see them as a pilot anyway. It seems fairly clear that a future version of the Phantom will have these cameras on all sides, giving you the ability to fly sideways and backwards for a shot without worrying about crashing - and that'll be great.

The Phantom 4 remote now includes three different modes: Position, Sport and Attitude. Sport is an interesting one - it appears to be a high rate GPS mode that retains the GPS hover stability of P mode but lets the aircraft tilt much further over and gives it extra thrust and responsiveness for a top speed of 45mph. Battery capacity is increased from 4480 to 5350 mAh, boosting its flight time to 28 minutes instead of the Phantom 3's 25.

DJI Phantom 4: Sport mode adds extra agility and speed
DJI Phantom 4: Sport mode adds extra agility and speed

Setup and teardown will be quicker than ever due to a new click-on, push button release propeller design, presumably similar to what's available on the Inspire One. DJI says this more secure prop system is part of what makes the Phantom 4 able to accelerate so much harder than the P3.

The biggest improvements in the 4K camera include a 56% reduction in chromatic aberration and a 36% reduction in lens distortion compared to the Phantom 3 Professional. Those upgrades, when combined with changes to the camera firmware, now allow for much clearer images, although there's no mention of a technology fix for the shutter shadow problems you can get flying in bright sunlight - so you'll still need to get yourself an ND filter or two.

A new slow motion mode gives you 120fps in 1080p, but the frame will be effectively zoomed right in when you do it. That's no bad thing, as the frame is super wide in 4K at 20mm and you've got to be almost dangerously close to a subject to get great detail. The improved camera and its gimbal are now integrated into the body of the Phantom 4 and positioned closer to the drone's center of gravity for even greater image stabilization. The props are slightly elevated to help keep them out of shots when you're moving fast, and that's a nice touch.

DJI is taking pre-orders on the Phantom 4 at a cost of US $1399, although that price may increase after launch.

Take a look at the video to see the Phantom 4 in action.

DJI - Phantom 4 - Your Creative Sidekick

Source: DJI

1 comment
habakak
If the camera is mounted on a gimbal and turns, then the landing gear can get in the way of the shot. Not that easy to fix though, unless you have retractable landing gear (which might be the next 'big thing' for drones once they reach some level of maturity).