Drone maker DJI reboots its most popular UAV with the Phantom 3
DJI has officially revealed the Phantom 3, a remote controlled imaging platform built to replace what is arguably the most popular consumer drone of all time, the Phantom 2. With upgraded motors, an improved battery and greater stability control, the new model should be much easier for drone pilot novices to get flying.
According to Michael Perry, DJI’s Global PR Manager, the Phantom 3 was built “to make aerial imaging as simple and intuitive as smartphone photography”. This was done by upgrading the motors, making them start and stop much faster than the previous model, expanding the network of satellites available to Phantom drones for its on-board GPS stability systems, and improving DJI’s own visual positioning system (VPS) for when GPS is unavailable. VPS uses a pair of ultrasonic sensors to ping the ground, combined with a downward facing camera that creates a real-time map of the ground beneath the drone. An larger battery also extends flight time to 23 minutes.
The Phantom 3 Professional also gains an upgraded camera system, with a 94-degree field of view lens and a larger image sensor capable of 4K video in 24, 25 and 30p, plus 12-megapixel stills in both JPEG and DMG RAW file formats. The Phantom 3 Advanced drops 4K video recording for 1080p, but increases the frame rate to 60fps. Both models use a 3-axis stabilised gimbal for smooth footage.
A redesigned remote control now lets you take pictures, start filming, adjust aperture and preview photos while keeping your hands on the flight controls. This is a big improvement over the Phantom 2, which forced you to let go of the controls to take pictures. DJI’s Lightbridge technology is integrated into the controller, meaning you still get a stable 720p live view feed from the drone’s camera in near real-time, from up to 1.6 kilometres away.
DJI’s Pilot app is now compatible with the Phantom series for the first time, having previously been exclusive to the high-end Inspire drone. The interface automatically simplifies when a Phantom is detected, but still lets you control white balance, shutter speed and aperture control from within the app. It also tracks the Phantom 3’s location and height relative to your position.
A new addition for 2015 is YouTube Live integration, letting you stream video directly from the drone straight to YouTube. A stage demo during the announcement showed live video from the skies above Los Angeles, Greece and Singapore – the footage was mostly clear and interruption-free, despite being streamed from half-way around the world.
New pilots will be able to use the Pilot app’s Phantom simulator to train themselves virtually before taking the actual drone out into the world. It uses the same sticks you will eventually be using to pilot the Phantom 3. Flight logs will give you recorded feedback on each flight too.
Finally, a Director mode now selects specific moments of video from each flight, cutting clips into a template for quick editing without having to trawl through hours of footage. The DJI Phantom 3 is available to order from today onwards here in the UK, and will set back would be drone pilots £899 for the 1080p Advanced model and £1,159 for the 4K Professional.