China is already home to the world's largest drone manufacturer in DJI, so in a way it seems only natural for one of the country's biggest electronics players to come in for a slice of the pie. Xiaomi has just revealed its debut consumer drone, a modular quadcopter with a handy suite of autonomous features and a price tag that might make its local counterpart a little uneasy.
Xiaomi's drone is simply dubbed Mi, in keeping with its category of consumer products by the same name. And it certainly has some resemblance to DJI's Phantom series, with an all-white body and a camera dangling underneath.
Two versions will be available, both carrying spherical video cameras attached to a 3-axis gimbal shooting in either 4K at 30 fps or 1080p at 60 fps, while images are captured in both JPEG and RAW with a Sony 12-megapixel CMOS sensor.
The dual-joystick controller features buttons for automatic takeoff, landing and return to home. It is claimed to work at up to 2 km (1.24 mi) away from the drone using the user's smartphone as a viewfinder, while the 1080p version has a range of 1 km (0.62 mi).
Mi has a flight time of 27 minutes and its other autonomous capabilities include the ability to circle a point of interest, fly on its own to a pre-determined destination and follow user-set flight routes.
These are all features we have seen on consumer quadcopters before, but there are a couple of points of difference that could give Mi en edge. One is the modular design, allowing the gimbal and camera to be detached and landing gear to be folded up for easier transport with an optional backpack.
The other is the price. DJI's Phantom 4 is priced at US$1,400, while its 4K shooting predecessor the Phantom 3 is priced at $800. The 3DR Solo drone with 4K shooting capabilities will cost in excess of $1,000, while Yuneec's Typhoon H costs $1,799.
For the specs listed and the handy automated flight modes, the price tag of 2,999 yuan (US$460) seems awfully reasonable. The 1080p version is cheaper still at 2,499 yuan (US$380). Whether the drones perform as expected, and the camera quality is as solid as hoped, well, we will have to wait and see.
The Mi drone will enter beta testing in July and will become available some time after that. You can check out the promo video below.
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