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DJI Phantom 3 Drone Gets Control Upgrades, Powerful Cameras

The world's most popular camera drone, dji phantom 3, is now even easier to fly

2 min read
dji phantom 3 drone
Photo: DJI

The best-selling Phantom drone has received upgrades that make it even easier to control as a flying camera. The two new versions of the Phantom will likely help boost the popularity of DJI, a Chinese tech startup based in Shenzhen, as a leading commercial drone maker.

The new Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced drones feature a “visual positioning system” that allows them to hold precise hovering positions indoors without the benefit of GPS guidance. Users can order the drones to take off and land with the “push of a button,” maintain control at a range of up to 2 kilometers away, and live stream HD video footage straight to YouTube.

DJI announced the new versions of the Phantom drones during media preview events held in New York City, London, and Munich last week. “We pride ourselves in creating a flying camera that fits in a backpack and can be ready to take professional quality videos from the sky in less than a minute,” said Frank Wang, CEO of DJI, in a statement

dji phantom 3Photo: DJI

Both new Phantom drones have 3-axis gimbals that stabilize their video camera views in mid-flight regardless of tough wind conditions. The Phantom 3 Professional shoots 4K video at up to 30 frames per second, whereas the Phantom 3 Advanced can take video with up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. They can also both take 12 megapixel photos with a 94 degree field of view.

Phantom owners can fiddle with the camera settings using either the physical controls on the drones’ remote controllers or a DJI Pilot app for mobile devices. The app also allows users to practice flying the drone through a flight simulator or automatically edit video footage from flights into “best of” short videos.

dji phantom 3 controllerPhoto: DJI

DJI’s focus on creating easy-to-fly drones has prompted rapid growth since its founding in 2006. The Chinese commercial drone maker grew from just 50 employees to 1,500 in the past three years, according to Bloomberg News. DJI reported US $500 million in revenue for 2014 alone, and could become the first commercial drone maker to reach $1 billion in sales this year, The Verge reports.

The popularity of DJI’s Phantom drones has led to their presence at a number of newsworthy events. For example, a Hong Kong newspaper used Phantom drones to capture sweeping aerial views of the protests that rocked the country last year. Earlier this year, a Phantom also made headlines in the United States when a federal worker accidentally crashed his drone on the grounds of the White House.

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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