DJI Phantom 4

The world has come a long way as far as photography and videography are concerned. Modernization and development in the technological sector have given a new dimension to this field. Artificial intelligence has added to its glory giving it such a vast dimension that the range of possibilities in this field has risen manifolds. One such example is the DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter.

DJI is an acronym of Dà-Jiāng Innovations Science and Technology Company limited. It is a Chinese technology company based in Shenzhen, Guangdong. It manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, gimbals, flight platforms, cameras, propulsion systems, camera stabilizer and flight controllers. Its drones can be used for aerial photography and videography.

DJI is the world’s leading company in the civilian drone industry accounting for 70% of the global consumer drone market. The company was founded in 2006 by Frank Wang (Wāng Tāo). DJI manufactures a range of products including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), flying platforms, flight controllers for multi-rotors, helicopters accessories, aerial and handheld gimbals and ground stations. These products are intended for amateur as well as professional use.

The most significant advancement of the DJI Phantom 4 is that it cannot be described by a single feature. In fact, it isn’t a single feature but rather a combination of all the technology used in its manufacturing that makes it, by far, the easiest drone to fly in the world. Technology like GPS, obstacle avoidance, stabilization software, fly-by-touch, return to home and automatic lift-off has been used.

The result is a drone that is ideal for both beginners and advanced users. In fact, the company doesn’t even call it a drone anymore. It is called the “flying camera” and is being marketed as such. Both hobbyists and professionals can use the Phantom 4 to realize their photography and videography dreams. Some of Phantom 4’s absolutely amazing features are described below:

Obstacle Avoidance

Obstacle avoidance, evident from its name, uses 4 individual sensors in the front of the quadcopter to map out the environment and avoid obstacles that might be in the flight path of the drone.

If it senses that it will run into an object, the drone will automatically slow down and come to a complete stop (or rather, hover) instead of crashing into the obstacle. This feature is very useful for beginners learning how to fly the drone as drone crashes are very common when newly learning how to fly it.

The Phantom 4 is the first commercially available drone to receive this technology so if you want to stay safe, this is a big plus. Not only will it avoid walls, trees and buildings thereby saving you from potentially costly damages, it will also avoid people which mean it can save you from a potentially catastrophic situation. It even avoids chain fences meaning its identification of the nature of an obstacle is next level.

However, it still can crash if tried hard thereby making it not completely perfect. As the sensors are present only on the front of the drone, if moved sideways at rapid speeds or reversed, the sensors will not be able to pick up the object or obstacle and will definitely crash into it.

Active Track

Speaking of capturing cool action shots, the new feature using smart image recognition technology is called “Active Track”. This allows you to select a target on the radio’s display to track and follow. Once activated, the drone will fly on its own, following the target all while avoiding obstacles and it will do it’s best to keep the camera in the center.

In other words, you can set the drone to follow you through a field and then let it record you as you navigate through your adventure. However, at a certain point, it becomes imperfect. That happens while tracking rapid movements. Probably, this problem can very easily be solved with the program update and up gradation thereby improving the image tracking to a point where the drone can follow you down a narrow path.

Tap-to-Fly

The second important feature which makes this drone accessible to anyone is the “Tap-To-Fly” feature which, as the name suggests, allows you to tap on the display attached to the radio controller to tell the drone where to fly. The way it works is that the DJI controller allows you to attach a smart device (iPad, iPhone, and Android phones) to the radio controller.

In addition to providing you with a real-time video feed of what the drone sees (FPV), it also allows you to tap in any direction, and the drone will fly towards it until it reaches the target or reaches the maximum distance.  It will automatically account for wind, obstacles and fly itself towards the target. There are two major benefits to this:

  • If you’re trying to capture aerial shots, you can concentrate on the camera while the drone does the flying. You’ll capture beautiful videos without having a second operator
  • It means that anyone, even a 4-year-old, can fly a drone, even if you’ve never flown anything before!

Early drones crashed a lot. Flying them required either training or a lot of trial and error after which users finally learned how to handle them – or not. Crashing was common.

With the Phantom 4, this is not a problem anymore. Anyone can tap on a screen and fly the drone, you tell the direction, and the drone will go there itself, avoiding obstacles and all.

But, this isn’t a drone for amateurs alone. If you want to enjoy the true experience of flying, you’ll want to switch the drone to the manual acrobat mode which provides you with maximum flexibility. When in the acrobat mode, you can race around relatively quickly and even capture some pretty cool videos of yourself dodging obstacles “star wars” style.

Return to Home

When you’re tired, you can use the smart “return to home” function which will return the drone back to you. This is great because this means the drone will always automatically come back to you whether it loses signals and goes out of range or the battery is about to die. It won’t just come crashing down. It would simply come back to its ‘home point’. The smart part of this feature is that it will gain altitude and avoid obstacles on the way back. In other words, the drone won’t crash into a tree if you activate it in a park or otherwise crowded location.

Camera

Whilst some previous Phantom drones required the user to purchase a separate GoPro camera, the Phantom 4 comes with an attached camera. The camera housing is suspended from the drone body via a gimbal which serves to counteract the movement of the drone, providing incredibly smooth footage.

 

Phantom 4 Camera

In still photo mode, it is able to shoot at 1/80th and still get an adequately sharp image. The gimbal is motorized, allowing full wireless control via the controller. This allows the camera to be moved 90 degrees (i.e. a full range from directly in front to directly below). To turn the camera 360 degrees horizontally, you need to pan the drone body using the controller.

If you’re shooting a video, achieving a smooth pan with the sensitive controller sticks is quite tricky. The camera sends a live video feed to the controller, allowing the user to see a first person perspective of what the drone is seeing on your monitor. The video feed is responsive and great quality – it really is amazing that all this takes place in real time, often with the drone hundreds of feet away. The HD video it captures will want you to go on more adventures and make videos just to see how amazing the video quality is!

Better Flight Time

With more efficient motors used in this new model, Phantom 4 gives great flight and flight time. A brand-new battery pack adds to the longer flight time. This battery pack is both smaller and easier to swap out than in earlier models.

It is still based on a four-cell series design though with 15.2-volt output, but now boasts an impressive 81.3 watt-hour/5,350 milliamp-hour capacity, a significant increase from the 68Wh/4,480mAh of earlier models. To keep charging times down, the new pack comes accompanied by a 100-watt charger like that used with the Phantom 3 Professional, rather than the lower-powered 57-watt charger of other Phantom 3 models.

The Sensors

The Phantom 4 features a 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor, allowing it to capture 4k videos at 30fps (1080p at 120fps for smooth slow-motion) and 12-megapixel stills. The photos can be saved as Adobe DNG RAW, and video footage can be saved in flat profiles such as D-Log and Cine-D. The sensor offers an ISO range from 100 to 1600 for stills and 3200 for video. The Phantom 4 offers 4:3 and 16:9 image formats. 4:3 offers 4000 x 3000 resolution, whilst 16:9 crops the top and bottom, leaving you with 4000 x 2250.

Phantom 4 Controller

Most other features of the DJI Phantom 4 are quite similar to the earlier Phantom 3 Professional model. A similar controller is provided, although the Playback button is now replaced by an Intelligent Flight Pause button, and thanks to DJI’s Lightbridge Video Downlink, the system has an impressive working range of 3.1 miles while providing a 720p remote live view feed on your smartphone or tablet.

With the Phantom 4, DJI is pulling farther ahead of the competition. It is the first to market with serious autonomous features, and the implementation works really well. The addition of obstacle avoidance, tap-to-fly, and subject tracking makes this drone great for complete beginners, but one which can also help professionals capture more interesting and risky shots.

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