Polished may be the word that involves mind. Other drones I’ve flown aren’t necessarily more challenging to begin with with and pilot, but DJI makes doing these exact things painless and uncomplicated. (Though, if you have never flown one before, you will want to at least browse the quick-start guide or, god forbid, the entire user manual). This, together with the Phantom 4’s new Obstacle Sensing System (OSS) and streamlined design, are why it’s quickly been tagged to be ideal for beginners. At least, beginners with deep pockets: The Phantom 4 sells for $1,399 in america, AU$2,399 in Australia and £1,229 in the united kingdom.

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Last updated on June 26, 2022 10:04 am

The Phantom 4 might truly be the drone anyone can fly in fact it is certainly worth the amount of money if you it. Still, for however polished the knowledge is, it could be too much of a very important thing for absolute beginners.

Crashproof? Yeah, not really much
If you have read anything about the Phantom 4, you understand it is the first consumer model you can purchase with a sophisticated obstacle-avoidance system that DJI calls OSS. The stout quadcopter includes a group of optical sensors in the front — eyes that will assist it navigate around or higher obstacles within 0.7 to 15 meters (2.3 to 49 feet) of it or it’ll simply stop and hover until you pilot it away. (In addition, it permits a couple new flight modes, which I’ll reach in a bit.)

Generally it works effectively and it’ll likely prevent many accidental collisions. Yes, you can attempt it by flying it directly at things such as fences or buildings or cars or yourself, and it’ll stop alone. But what I worry about most when flying are trees.

Clip a tree at 100 feet in the air and it could either start an uncontrollable fall to the bottom or, perhaps worse, get stuck like some cruel Christmas tree ornament you can view but never touch. To be able to avoid trees is particularly important with all the return-to-home feature that summons the drone back.

The Phantom 4 fared much better than I expected. I tested just as the Northeast was headed into spring, therefore i was flying around a whole lot of trees which were bare from winter. It had no trouble stopping itself before flying right into a type of pine trees on an autonomous flight back again to me. When navigating around sparse branches stripped clean of leaves, it didn’t immediately recognize them as an obstacle. Had the branches been thick with leaves, it could have stopped in its tracks since it had when I flew near trees completely bloom. Or, maybe it had been operator error.

You see, I was coming at the tree from an angle that could’ve been beyond the OSS’s visual range. It senses what’s before the Phantom, not above, to the sides or behind it. So as the system can stop a head-on collision, you should have no problems crashing it from other directions. My point is, the OSS is fantastic to have, but also for new pilots it might create a false sense of security.

Sport mode is fun, but dangerous for newbies
All it requires is a flip of a activate the controller and you will have the ability to fly at boosts to 45 mph (72 kph) using the Phantom 4’s Sport mode. It’s not simply faster in the years ahead and back, nonetheless it can ascend at 6 meters (20 feet) per second and descend at 4 meters (13 feet) per second. That is an extremely nice addition since it lets you reach a location that considerably faster to have the shot you want. It offers you somewhat of a racing drone experience, too, and with an HDMI module for the controller you can hook up FPV (first-person view) goggles to immerse yourself in the knowledge.

Joshua Goldman/CNET
Just a little movement on the stick literally goes quite a distance, though. And the OSS fails in Sport mode so if you are flying head-on into something, don’t expect these sensors to save lots of you. Plus, when it’s travelling at top speed, it requires much more time for this to avoid. The DJI Go iphone app warns you of the the 1st time you enter the mode, but never again. Regardless, it isn’t a mode I’d advise for first-time pilots.

Alright, you almost certainly get the idea right now: the Obstacle Sensing System could keep you out of trouble, but it’s no excuse to fly recklessly or not discover how to properly pilot the drone. Now, to the good stuff.

Better video through autonomy
So yes, the Phantom 4 may use its optical sensors in order to avoid crashing into things if you are piloting. But it may also utilize them to automatically do your bidding in the air.

DJI’s Go mobile software for iOS and Android devices is employed not only so you can get a view from the drone’s camera, but adjusting settings and seeing your important flight data and battery status. Connect your device to the controller with a USB cable, open the iphone app and voila, it’s all close at hand.

The application can be how you set the Phantom 4 up to fly autonomously using DJI’s Intelligent Flight modes. Included in these are the opportunity to have the drone follow you by using a GPS signal from the controller and perform movements like orbiting around you or another point of interest and getting a group of waypoints on a map for this to follow.

You can do all those things with the Phantom 3 models, but new for the Phantom 4 is ActiveTrack, which uses the OSS to check out a subject. You merely draw a box on screen around what you need to track, tap the Go button that appears and the drone starts following, keeping the camera devoted to whoever or whatever you selected.

I tested it from my daughter as she rode her bike and so long as she didn’t move too fast, the drone could keep up. The topic must be close or large to work well. When she did travel out of its range, the drone started tracking her when she got near again. Though it isn’t perfect, it worked much better than GPS for keeping her in the heart of the shot.

Screenshot by Josh Goldman/CNET
Another new mode called TapFly virtually does what the name implies: Tap on a spot on screen and the Phantom 4 will fly there, avoiding obstacles on the way. Tap another point and it’ll transition and pilot its way there. An on-screen horizon line offers you control over changing the drone’s altitude by tapping above or below it. And you could still use your sticks to steer the drone for your shot, too.

Basically, it lets you create a single-point flight path on the fly, let’s assume that point is before the drone. Combine this with the drone’s programmed takeoff with a swipe and a tap in the iphone app and, well, yes, anyone could put the Phantom 4 in the air and “fly” it.

If at any point you need to stop and consider your next move, a Pause button has been added on the controller which will set the drone to avoid and hover set up. (The Pause button works whatever the mode you’re in, too.)

A fresh design for a fresh era of flight
Making almost all of these new features possible required a redesign. DJI streamlined your body and gimbal design, putting more of it inside body. It has better motors and propellers that lock on with a straightforward push and twist rather than the endless spinning necessary to get the old props on / off.