DJI, one of the leading consumer drone manufacturers, didn’t show off a brand new model at CES this year, but did announce a couple of key upgrades to its current lineup. The Phantom 3, one of the best drones of 2015, now goes 4K in a consumer model, while the Inspire 1 Pro Black Edition changes the colour scheme and gets a new camera.
On the surface, these may not seem like noteworthy announcements, but they do have implications for any drone enthusiast. Previously, the Phantom 3 Professional was the only model in DJI’s consumer lineup that offered 4K resolution. The Advanced model didn’t. This move effectively lowers the latter on the company’s totem pole, while putting 4K within reach for more consumers.
The Phantom 3 4K does have some notable differences from its predecessor. Chief among them is the communication protocol, as the 4K uses Wi-Fi instead of DJI’s own Lightbridge video-transmission system seen in the Professional. Using Wi-Fi to transmit the live video feed from the drone to an iPad or Android device nestled on the controller’s placeholder, the range maxes out at about 1.2 km.
That is lower than what the Professional is capable of, but in cutting that major corner, DJI is offering the Phantom 3 4K at a lower price. The camera and gimbal are the same, so there is no loss in quality that way. The overall body and construction of the drone also doesn’t change, making this very much a Phantom, with some changes to make it more affordable.
The Inspire 1 is a more ‘serious’ and robust drone aimed at more professional use cases. Previously, it only came with a white shell on its hub, but the company will now release a matte black one called the Inspire 1 Pro Black Edition for those clamouring to go darker. The controller, battery and camera are also all black to match the the shell.
This model also includes the Zenmuse X5 Micro Four Thirds camera on the gimbal below, which is capable of taking some stunning aerial 4K video and still images. The camera can be considered an upgrade from that of the Phantom line, which uses a very good Sony EXMOR sensor, but isn’t quite as crisp or flexible as the Inspire 1’s Zenmuse X5.
Both of these drones were on hand at CES, though in the case of the Phantom 3 4K, it wasn’t always clear how different it looked from the previous models.