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New DJI drone offers obstacle avoidance, reduces learning curve

Rich Hein | March 2, 2016
DJI had a huge consumer hit with the Phantom 3 series of drones, and it’s looking to keep the momentum going with the announcement of the Phantom 4.

TapFly flight mode

DJI is offering new flight modes, apart from the five intelligent flight modes. One is called TapFly. It eliminates the need to learn the two-axis flight controls associated with radio controllers.

Active Track

Another impressive new feature is ActiveTrack. This allows you to use your tablet or phone to draw circles around points of interest, like say a lighthouse. The DJI software than builds a 3D model of the subject and automatically tracks the subject to keep it centered in the shot. You can make adjustments to the shot or let the drone take care of the heavy lifting for you.

It's faster

Another recent addition to the feature set reported by The Verge is "sport mode." Sacrificing flight time for speed, this setting will boost the Phantom 4's top speed from 33 mph to 45 mph.

Intelligent flight modes

These are all in addition to the other five intelligent flight modes: heading lock, course lock, point of interest, waypoints and follow me. This level of automation allows one person to do the work of many.


The newest unit has redundant inertial measurement systems (IMUs) and dual compasses to make it more reliable. A new type of propeller-locking mechanism is also included in the Phantom 4, along with an improved 4K camera and gimbal.

Increased flight time

The new unit boasts a slightly larger battery, pushing the flight time of this unit from 25 minutes up to 28 minutes, which is surprising given the weight of additional cameras and sensors.


The price on this model is expected to be a little higher than the Phantom 3 at $1,399. However, given that the risk of crashes have been reduced and the learning curve to fly has been removed, that's pretty impressive.

DJI recently began offering drone insurance, something that will further remove the risk of flying for some users. Another interesting move is that DJI is partnering with Apple to make the Phantom 4 the only drone sold in Apple stores.

Final thoughts

Putting this kind of machine in the hands of the masses begs a question: Does this fly in the face of the FAA regulations and guidelines? Do we really want people with no flying experience operating drones that can fly over 45 miles an hour and potentially fly at over 10,000 feet? DJI says it expects each drone owner to responsibly learn and follow the rules. Whether that is a reasonable expectation remains to be seen.


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