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What’s it like to fly the DJI Phantom 4 drone?

Despite having been founded only 10 years ago, Chinese technology company DJI has grown to be comfortably ahead of the game when it comes to the drone market. You may have already read my initial review of the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced drone, but now DJI have taken us by surprise with the introduction of an even better successor – the DJI Phantom 4 – and this week I managed to get my hands on one. DJI Phantom 4 As a traveller, there were a few things that struck me about this latest model straight away. Firstly, it arrived in a compartmentalised case – not just a box, but something much more portable. For those that want something better still, DJI sell a Phantom Backpack, but if you simply want something to transport the drone in the back of your car, then this case will suffice. Secondly, the rotor blades are much easier to take on and off – one quick twist and you’re there. This might seem a minor point but if you want to travel with your drone, these are important improvements that just make life a little easier. But let’s move on to some of the new key differences of the Phantom 4. First off, 4K video comes as standard with the Phantom 4; with the Phantom 3, this only came with the Phantom 3 Professional and not the Phantom 3 Advanced or Phantom 3 Standard. Whilst the Phantom 4 is slightly heavier, its battery offers a slightly longer flight time of 28 minutes. But one of the things that really sets this drone apart from its predecessors is its ability to recognise obstacles – yes, that’s right, the Phantom 4 has an optical sensor that will help it to avoid collisions. I was keen to try out some of the Phantom 4’s features and took a brief window in the weather to shoot two videos, specifically testing the ‘Point of Interest’ and ‘Follow Me’ features. I don’t know if I was doing something wrong with the Phantom 3 Advanced but I found updating the firmware and trying out these advanced modes far more intuitive than with the earlier model. It should be stressed that any imperfections in the videos are no doubt down to my own inexperience – these are my first and only attempts to date, shooting in each of these modes, but hopefully give you some idea of what can be achieved even within hours of unpacking your drone. This first video tests the ‘Point of Interest’ flying mode. You simply hover the drone over the item you’re interested in – in this instance, I chose a small lake – and then take the drone to another point from where you want to circle, choose clockwise or anti-clockwise, select a speed and start recording, and the drone does all the hard work for you! In hindsight, I would have liked to tweak the camera angle slightly to show a little sky but, for a first attempt, I’m not too disappointed.
YouTube video
For the next video, I decided to use the ‘Follow Me’ feature, and have the Phantom 4 drone following me as I ran over a hill close to home. (Regular readers will no doubt have already read about my attempt this year to run at least 10 kilometres every day, throughout 2016, in order to raise money for charity.) I commandeered the help of my wife and younger son for this one – he’s only 10 years old and, as I understand it, was the one behind the controls at the time. There’s a bit of glare from the sun on the left, and the rotor blades come into view briefly (due to me running uphill and then on to flatter ground and the drone having to speed up suddenly, I think), so things I can improve on with a little more practice, but once again I feel it’s not a bad effort for a first attempt.
YouTube video
As I get to explore this drone more, I’m particularly keen to explore TapFly – a feature that is unique to the Phantom 4 and not available on the drone’s earlier models. With TapFly you can simply tap on your screen to control the drone’s movements, as opposed to using the control sticks, whilst using the Phantom 4’s Obstacle Sensing Systems to constantly monitor the surrounding area and navigate around anything in its path. With technology like this, DJI are once again ahead of the game, so it’s little wonder that they remain clear market leaders. If you’re thinking of purchase the DJI Phantom 4 – or indeed any of the earlier models – and have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask them in the comments below. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by DJI.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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One Comment

  1. The compartmentalised suitcase is a great idea and gives it a bit of a ‘Bond’ look for me and I love the Phantom backpack.

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