With the Phantom 4 DJI wants to revolutionize the world of mainstream drone with obstacle avoidance, a prerequisite for autonomous flights. We used the drone Chinese manufacturer for several weeks and we deliver our opinion in this comprehensive test. Shots, sprints, autonomous flight and obstacle avoidance, we told you all about the Phantom 4.
At FrAndroid, we like the drones and we’ve already tested the Parrot Bebop 2, but the new DJI Mavic Pro. The online store StudioSport offered to test the 4 Phantom few weeks ago, so we could not miss this opportunity. Program: videos in 4K, a maximum speed of 72 km / h and a range of the radio (and video back) up to 3 km and 5 km in Europe to the United States. A fact sheet that up right away the product in the premium segment of consumer drones, with a sale price of 1400 euros.
Before starting the drone, observe its design. Unlike Parrot, DJI only uses rigid plastic shell for 4 Phantom, dressed all in white. This means that in case of a crash or fall, the Phantom is likely to deteriorate more quickly. This design is also felt on the weight of the craft because at almost 1.4 kilograms on the scales, the 4 Phantom increased the Bebop 2 and 500 grams for a pen.
The drone DJI therefore has a greater inertia and require more skill to pilot a Bebop. However, this higher weight allows the machine to better stabilize more resistant to wind gusts. The Phantom 4 also takes more space than Bebop 2 when traveling, even if the rigid case, polystyrene, delivered with the drone can carry it very easily without fear of damaging it, especially the radio also ranks in this case.
Preferred are erecting propellers on the Phantom 4 which do not require tools to be removed and inserted on the four motors that make up the Quadricopter.
A word on the radio, all white: it exudes quality, with metal sticks that tell you clearly that you are not there to play. The support for a smartphone or tablet is solid and you will not go unnoticed with such a machine. So we revert to the discretion.
A steering the finger and the eye
Now that we have met with the beast, on to the engine ignition. Simply insert a full battery (about 25 minutes of battery life on our various flights) and turning on the machine. The drone then initializes its many sensors and allows you to take off, thanks to the radio control groups – tablet (Android or iOS).
The Phantom has 4 different flight modes. The first allows you to use all assistance sensors (GPS, vertical camera, etc.) to help the driver stabilize the drone, including when loose controls, conducting a hover.
In this mode, avoiding obstacles thanks to the two stereoscopic cameras on the front is available. The speed is reduced to well anticipate obstacles, but the pilot used the drones quickly deactivate this feature that prevents use the full power of the drone and sometimes greatly slows the drone, for example when hovering over a hedge skimming.
We then find the sport mode, which allows to use the power of the 4 Phantom with peaks of over 70 km / h. Speed and maneuverability are impressive in this mode, but we advise against it to make shots because the drone is so bent forward that the propellers are within the camera’s field on most plans.
The last mode disables all sensors except the barometer which allows the drone to maintain altitude. A mode that can be used when the sensors are struggling to find their way (no GPS, indoors when it is dark, for example) or simply to have a greater mastery of the instrument. We may regret the inability to enter hooked fashion that would have allowed more daring to make figures.
In all cases, the Phantom 4 is extremely responsive despite its high weight. Power is more than sufficient for the vast majority of mainstream applications. The steering is itself quite simple thanks to all the audience, as long as the user has some control concepts. Otherwise, it will first fly in large spaces, before trying to sneak inside the drone.
The Phantom 4 allows the use of autonomous driving features. This is the case of Tap Fly allowing the drone to give orders to fly somewhere, spotted the video back of the tablet by the pilot. Then simply touch the place and the drone will go himself. The obstacle avoidance is very useful in this scenario, to avoid the drone to take a full face shaft for example.
Active Track mode, as the stabilizer Osmo Mobile, to follow a moving subject. The drone then manages to always point towards it, while avoiding the obstacles that come from the front. This mode works pretty well, except in places with lots of visual obstacles, since that follow mode uses the camera only. If the subject goes too long behind a barrier (such as a large tree), the UAV can lose, and then remain hovering.
The obstacle avoidance is really stunning as it will ban you rush right over an obstacle, either single sheets or a brick wall. However, it is frustrating not to be able to accurately adjust the distance from which the drone slows or refuses to advance. This function is rather intended only to autonomous flight piloted flights.
It also regrets that obstacle avoidance is not achieved at 360 °, but only on the front side. Good news all the same, since the new DJI Mavic Pro features two new cameras under the drone to avoid obstacles more.
The return to home (RTH) is still in the game and simply pressing the dedicated button on the remote control or signal loss will immediately return the drone takeoff point.
DJI has not done things by half since for the video side is the same camera in the 4 Phantom Professional, that is to say a sensor 1 / 2.3 “12.4 megapixel camera capable of shoot in true 4K (4096 x 2160p) to 25p in UHD (3840 x 2160p) at 30p and Full HD (1920 x 1080p) at 120p to perform slow, all with a maximum throughput of 60 Mbps.
The wide-angle lens (94 °, equivalent to a 20mm) opens to f / 2.8 and to mount an ISO value of 1600 or 3200 photo video. Coupons short the suspense: the video quality is stirring 4 Phantom and much higher than what is found in the competition, starting with Parrot. To get better, it will go to the next level, with the semi-professional drones as the Inspire range with DJI.
We appreciate the presence of S-Log and CINELIKE curves that allow for greater flexibility when calibrating in postproduction. The default mode is however already very good, with colors maybe a little too bright for filmmakers, but flatter the retina on YouTube.
The motorized stabilization on three axes made real miracles, even in case of wind gusts. It is well above the digital stabilization that can have on other types of products. All movements of the drone are perfectly erased by the nacelle and this may be oriented vertically from the radio, up to 90 ° with the ground and + 30 ° forward.
We regret that the car is not drivable horizontally, since the driver is obliged to turn her drone on itself to fit. This is not the case on the Inspire range where it is possible to control the camera 360. This is explained by the fact that the feet of the Phantom 4 are not removable. And that’s one of the reasons that the drone take up much space in his briefcase.
The video back on shelf
The DJI GO app available on Android and iOS is extremely intuitive. It allows both to drive than to review its previous flights since in addition to being stored on the microSD card from the camera, the rushes are also stored on the tablet connected to the radio. Lower quality (720p), but keeps track of its flights in case of problems.
The application interface is fluid and can change all settings drone, whether for video (shutter speed, ISO, resolution, etc.), but also to change the flight parameters ( obstacle avoidance, flight restrictions, etc.) and the radio settings to change the sensitivity.
The DJI Go app also includes a simple tool for editing videos so you can quickly share videos and photos stored on the drone. A word about the photo: drone allows to shoot in RAW (DNG) to perform edits without losses compatible software such as Lightroom.
25 minutes of autonomy
DJI announces 27 minutes remaining. In reality, it will instead rely on 20 to 25 minutes depending on flying style and wind. The battery takes 1:20 to recharge with the default charger. This will require at least 2 or 3 batteries to enjoy as it should the device. The battery is smart and you constantly warns the remaining flight time.
Pricing and Availability
The DJI Phantom 4 is available for 1399 euros in StudioSport our partner, but it is also available at many retailers, including the Apple Store since the Cupertino company has partnered with DJI.