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.
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’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.
Jeremy Hsu has been working as a science and technology journalist in New York City since 2008. He has written on subjects as diverse as supercomputing and wearable electronics for IEEE Spectrum. When he’s not trying to wrap his head around the latest quantum computing news for Spectrum, he also contributes to a variety of publications such as Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, and others. He is a graduate of New York University’s Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program.