Easy-to-fly drones that shoot 4K video are old news now. So, following electronics best practice, the next thing to happen is making them smaller. Much smaller.
That seems to have been the guiding principle behind the design of the DJI Mavic Pro, a brand-new drone from the best-known consumer drone maker. It shoots 4K video, streams live images back to the controller, and has nearly half an hour of battery life. Those are all specs on par with much bigger drones, but thanks to foldable rotors, the Mavic Pro will fit into a small backpack.
The Mavic Pro will cost $1000 at launch, a little less than the flagship Phantom 4, but still well above cheap beginner drones from Parrot. The price tag comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect, though. There’s sensors for obstacle avoidance and to help you fly, gesture control so you can take lots of #selfies, a 4K camera, livestreaming support, and nearly 30 minutes of flight time.
Let’s talk about that camera first. It’s the same sensor as the Phantom 4, which means 4K video at 30fps, 1080p at 96fps, and 12 megapixel stills captured in RAW. It can also livestream video at 1080p resolution from a max range of 4.3 miles away, which is pretty crazy (and probably quite illegal, given current laws in the US that require keeping the drone within line-of-sight when flying).
To help more novice pilots, the drone features DJI’s usual suite of pilot assists. There’s automatic takeoff and landing, auto return to home, and sensors on the front that should help you avoid obstacles. (They’re not foolproof, though.)
For the first time, DJI has also introduced gesture control. According to the company, you’ll be able to give basic commands like “take a selfie” by waving your arms in front of it.
The controller has also been redesigned to be much smaller. There’s still two joysticks for flying, but the bulk of the controls has been reduced, and there’s now a more streamlined place to snap your smartphone in to act as a viewfinder.
All in all, DJI is selling all the capabilities of a prosumer drone in a tiny package costing less than $1000. The comparisons to GoPro’s new Karma drone — which also costs $1000, when bundled with a camera — are obvious. We’ll have to wait for October, when both drones launch to the public, to see which one is the winner.