If you’ve seen the stunning footage from 4K drones, you’re probably curious how it’s done.
Flying drones or quadcopters isn’t even just a fun hobby. Your Amazon Prime delivery by drone isn’t here yet, but drones are already proving their utility in a variety of industrial applications. If you think drones are glorified RC helicopters, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Before you read on, check your knowledge with these facts about drones, also known as Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS):
- Drones are not toys. Unsupervised children have been injured by the fast-moving blades.
- In the US, drones are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) like other aircraft.
- Besides photography, drone footage is also used by construction, oil & gas and building maintenance crews for inspections.
For recreational flights in the US, you simply need to register any drone over 0.55 lb. with the FAA before flying it, but no license is required. If you train yourself to skilfully maneuver a drone, you can even hire your services out to companies who require arial footage, for thousands of dollars per flight. To fly a drone commercially, most pilots apply for a Section 333 exemption from the FAA.
Drones today can cost as little as $50, to over $1000. Higher-end drones are easier for beginners to fly, with sophisticated sensors that stabilize the drone in-flight and even avoid obstacles. In addition to range, speed and flight time, the camera quality is considerably better with more expensive drones. If you plan to learn how to fly a drone professionally, you should budget at least several hundred dollars.
DJI is the largest drone maker in the world, leading the market with two 4K drones: the DJI Phantom 4 and DJI Phantom 3 Professional. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the specifications:
DJI Phantom 4 versus Phantom 3 Professional Drone
|DJI Phantom 3 Professional||DJI Phantom 4|
|Camera Quality||4K Ultra HD Video||4K Ultra HD Video|
|Gimbal||3 Axis||Internal Mount 3 Axis|
|Top Speed||35 MPH||45 MPH|
|Signal Range||1 mile||3 miles|
|Battery Capacity||4,480 mAh||5,350 mAh|
|Flight Time||23 minutes||28 minutes|
|Tap Fly & Active Track||No||Yes|
|Live Stream||720p HD||720p HD|
|Indoor Flight Sensor||6-10 feet||30-50 feet|
||Remote or App||Remote or App|
|Release Date||Apr 2015||Mar 2016|
|Check Price on Amazon||Check Price on Amazon|
A really cool feature of both DJI Phantom 4K drones is the live stream feature. While you fly the DJI Phantom 3 Pro or 4, you can see “through the lens” of the camera mounted on the drone using the DJI GO app for iOS or Android. Due to bandwidth constraints, the live stream is 720p HD, but the footage is always recorded on your microSD card in Ultra HD 4K.
The most evident improvements of the DJI Phantom 4 over the older, Phantom 3 Pro include higher speed, longer range and flight time. You can fly much further with the Phantom 4, up to 3 miles away. Just remember FAA regulations require you to keep drones within your visual line of sight (VLOS). The rated top speed of the Phantom 4 is 45 MPH, but some pilots were able to reach 70 MPH with the help of tail winds. You can also stay in the air longer on a single charge with 28 minutes of flight time, versus 23 minutes.
The Phantom 4 also adds exciting new features like Obstacle Avoidance, Tap Fly and Active Track, which are essentially forms of autopilot.
Obstacle Avoidance – The Phantom 4 is the first consumer drone to harness machine-vision technology to avoid obstacles. There are 3 additional cameras on the Phantom 4 compared to the Phantom 3 Pro. They act as “eyes” that help the Phantom 4 gauge its distance from obstacles such as trees to steer around them automatically.
Tap Fly – Using the Phantom 4’s built-in GPS sensor, you can tap any point on the map in DJI GO and your Phantom 4 drone will fly there by the most direct route, avoiding any obstacles along the way.
Active Track – Active Track uses the drone’s camera to take a photo of the subject you want it to follow, then uses image recognition technology to track its motion. It seems to work best with objects that have a distinct color from the foliage, such as people wearing bright clothing on the ground.
It’s true that more seasoned drone pilots sometimes see Tap Fly and Active Track as unnecessary distractions for beginners who need to learn how to competently fly the drone themselves. They have a point, but Obstacle Detection, which is only available on the Phantom 4, is certainly a helpful feature to help beginners learn without the fear of crashing their drone.
In addition, the internal mount 3 axis gimbal of the Phantom 4 functions like a gyroscope to provide added stability, helping beginners fly more confidently and capture less shaky videos. The indoor flight sensor is also far more sensitive, with an increased range of 30-50 feet, versus a paltry 6-10 feet for the Phantom 3 Pro.
Indeed, flying a drone can be rewarding hobby to pick up. With a 4K drone like the DJI Phantom 4 or Phantom 3 Pro, you’ll soon be able to capture breathtaking arial videos and explore the outdoors with an extra set of eyes.