DJI has just launched two new drones in time for Christmas. Yes: Two new drones. We love surprises. The Chinese drone industry giant looks set to continue its market domination with a new Phantom 4 Pro and an upgrade on the Inspire series, the Inspire 2. Here’s what we know so far…
Whenever a date is set for an ‘event’ in this industry, it usually means a new product launch. DJI’s event today was expected to be no different. But those in the industry had widely assumed that we’d be looking at the next drone in DJI’s Inspire range, the Inspire 2. Luckily we got all that and more. DJI has also released a revamped Phantom 4, the Phantom 4 Pro. For all of those customers quietly seething at the Mavic Pro delay, perhaps this outlines just how much there is going on behind the scenes at DJI.
Big news from DJI: Two new drones
The Inspire 2, as we mentioned above, isn’t that much of a surprise. The Inspire range was due an update – it’s been almost two years to the day that the original was released. But the Phantom 4 Pro is going to have interesting ramifications for the rest of the market. It will sit between the Mavic Pro and the Inspire 2 in terms of price, specs and capability.
Professional filmmakers and photographers always push to create images that have never been seen before, and DJI never stops trying to give them the tools to achieve their vision. Our newest flight platforms and stabilized aerial cameras are smarter, faster and more powerful than ever before. We can’t wait to see how creators use Inspire 2 and Phantom 4 Pro to capture dazzling images.” – Frank Wang, DJI CEO and Founder.
So let’s get into the details. First up is the Inspire 2.
DJI Inspire 2
The first thing to say about the Inspire 2 is that there was a lot of catching up to do for DJI’s professional-standard drone. The original Inspire was released in November 2014, and there have been plenty of advances in the industry since then. That’s not to say that the Inspire 1 has become worthless – it certainly hasn’t. But the addition of obstacle avoidance, a revamped redundancy system, an incredible new top speed and acceleration, and 5.2K video capture represent a significant upgrade to the original model. Simply put, the Inspire 2 looks like it’s going to be an aerial photography platform like no other. It’s a monster. Here’s the breakdown…
Professional aerial photography on another level
DJI says that the Inspire 2 “offers powerful capabilities and is easy to operate.” – two of our favorite things. The new drone’s body is made with a magnesium-aluminum alloy, so it’s stronger and lighter than the original. Less weight and a new battery system take the Inspire 2’s top speed to a mighty 67 mph. And it only takes 4 seconds to accelerate to 50 mph. 4 Seconds to 50 mph!
Flight time is anywhere up to 27 minutes, and a revolutionary forward-facing camera offers the pilot the best view for flying while operating the master controller. A second camera operator receives a separate feed from the camera mounted on the main gimbal. The Inspire 2 supports the new Zenmuse X4S and X5S cameras, with support for additional cameras expected in the future.
The Inspire 2 comes with a revamped image processing system called CineCore 2.0. This supercomputer processes those monstrous video files faster than ever before, and it needs to. The Inspire 2 captures 5.2K video at 4.2 Gbps for Adobe CinemaDNG RAW videos. Versatility is key in professional shooting, so a variety of video compression formats are supported by CineCore 2.0, including Adobe CinemaDNG, Apple ProRes 422 HQ (5.2K, 4K) and ProRes 4444 XQ (4K), H.264, and H.265. When recording 4K video in H.264 and H.265, the bitrate goes up to 100Mbps.
The engineers at DJI appreciate that Inspire 2 pilots will need professional capability in a number of scenarios. With that in mind, pilots have the choice of adding high-altitude propellers, and the Inspire 2 can reach a maximum height of 16,404 feet. The self-heating dual battery redundancy system maintains performance to -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Better performance and reliability
There’s nothing worse than watching your out-of-battery drone fall from the sky like a stone. The Inspire 2 has a dual-battery system to make sure this never happens. If one battery fails during a flight, the other will be able to provide power for a safe return. On top of that, the Inspire 2 has been kitted out with stereo vision sensors on its front and bottom for obstacle detection. There are also upward facing infrared sensors on top of the aircraft to protect the drone when flying in tight spaces. The Inspire 2 has a redesigned propulsion system that can help pilots take on breathtaking vertical camera moves, climbing at nearly 20 feet/second and descending even faster.
Pilots can also switch between 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz frequencies to cut through any noise for greater signal stability when streaming or recording.
New flight modes
There are a number of new flight modes that will help pilots shoot with more creativity than ever before. First, there’s Spotlight Pro Mode, which locks onto a subject while the aircraft flies freely in another direction. If the gimbal reaches its rotational limit, the Inspire 2 will respond accordingly to keep your subject in the shot. The same forward-facing that helps the pilot see clearer than before is the basis of TapFly, another new mode that directs the drone to any point on the screen while avoiding obstacles along the way. ActiveTrack, as seen in the Mavic Pro, recognizes common subjects such as people and cars, and can track while always flying forward to ensure that the forward-facing obstacle sensing system keeps the Inspire 2 in one piece.
The U.S. retail price of the Inspire 2 is $2,999. The Inspire 2 Combo, which includes one Inspire 2, one Zenmuse X5S, CinemaDNG and an Apple ProRes License Key, is available for $6,198. Customers who order the Inspire 2 Combo before January 1, 2017 get access to a special price of $5,999. The Inspire 2 and its accessories will be immediately available for pre-order at dji.com/inspire-2. The Inspire 2 Combo will start shipping in early December 2016. Customers who purchase the aircraft and camera separately can expect their orders to start shipping in early January 2017.
And what about the Phantom 4 Pro?…
The Phantom 4 Pro
DJI’s most successful drone to date takes some beating, and many had assumed that the Mavic Pro was the only real internal challenger for the Phantom 4. But no, the Phantom 4 Pro is here. And it looks impressive.
Improved aerial photography
— DJI (@DJIGlobal) November 15, 2016
Phantom 4 Pro offers small upgrades in the camera department to its predecessor. The camera now packs a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor, almost 12 stops of dynamic range bring out more levels and better low-light performance than anything in this price bracket. Its mechanical shutter eliminates rolling shutter distortion in fast-moving scenes. Phantom 4 Pro can also capture slow-motion 4K video at up to 60 fps at a maximum bitrate of 100 Mbps. In addition, the Phantom 4 Pro has built-in video compression, which makes a big difference to video quality at the same bitrate.
Obstacle avoidance, refined
— DJI (@DJIGlobal) November 15, 2016
Where it looks like the Phantom 4 Pro will come into its element is with a new and improved obstacle avoidance system. The original Phantom 4 was very much a pace-setter in this department, and the new FlightAutonomy system looks like it’ll take autonomous flight to another level. FlightAutonomy incorporates three separate visual systems that come together to build a 3D map of obstacles in front, behind and below the drone. FlightAutonomy can position, navigate and plan routes for the Phantom 4 Pro, enabling it to avoid obstacles in a sensing range of 98 feet in front and behind, even in complex 3D environments. The same obstacle avoidance features kick in when the drone is returning home or initiating a takeoff or landing. Sensors can detect and help avoid landing on uneven ground or water.
Performance and flight modes
Phantom 4 Pro has a high-performance battery that offers pilots 30 minutes of flight time. It can fly at 31 mph in P mode with obstacle avoidance in effect. Brave pilots can hit 45 mph top speed in sport mode.
As you might expect, it comes with a bunch of new flight modes that, according to DJI, “make Phantom 4 Pro the smartest flying camera of its size”. The idea is to give filmmakers more creative license and greater flexibility. The new modes include Draw Mode, which allows pilots to draw lines on the controller display to easily direct the Phantom 4 Pro to fly the drawn path. The Phantom 4 Pro also comes with the same Active Track technology found on the Mavic Pro and Inspire 2, and can be used in conjunction with Circle, Profile and Spotlight modes.
Another safety feature that will please potential pilots: within 60 seconds of losing GPS signal, the Phantom 4 Pro will automatically return to the last connected position and hover there. There’s also a return to home function that the drone can use while avoiding obstacles en-route.
A new remote controller
The old Phantom 4 controller was a bit clumsy and a lot bigger than it needed to be. The Phantom 4 Pro’s new controller fixes that problem. It’s compact, and comes with an optional high luminance display, providing a clear and vivid live HD view from the main camera alongside telemetry data.
— DJI (@DJIGlobal) November 15, 2016
With a standard controller, Phantom 4 Pro’s U.S. retail price is $1,499. The Phantom 4 Pro+ bundle, which includes a Phantom 4 Pro and a high luminance display remote controller, will be available for $1,799. Both bundles are available for pre-order now at dji.com/phantom-4-pro. Shipping is expected to start next week.