DJI Phantom Drone – Today we’ll focus on one choice: the DJI Phantom 4 Pro+. Coming in at a cool $1,800, this marks the top end of what could be considered DJI’s consumer line, with the next level up being the $3,000 pro-level Inspire 2. At a casual glance, the Phantom 4 Pro+ (P4P+, if you will) looks exactly like the regular Phantom 4 (which we loved) or the Phantom 4 Advanced.
Four propellers, white body, fixed legs, and a camera on a gimbal dangling from its undercarriage. But there’s an obvious difference here: the remote control that comes with it. It’s the first DJI remote with a built-in screen a 5.5-inches with a 1080p resolution, and it’s bright. Fantastically bright.
DJI’s Phantoms are often called “the iPhones of drones” and that’s a fair description. They’re one of the most popular drones on the planet, packed with high-end features and functionality, and the latest models are always at the top of their class. On top of that, DJI also releases new models at a steady rate, packing even better features into a nearly identical form factor. Case in point? The stellar new DJI Phantom 4 Pro.
Features & Specs of DJI Phantom Drone
As an evolution of the original Phantom 4, the Pro boasts a number of small but significant improvements. Many of the original Phantom 4’s design attributes, electronic components, and features have been ported over to the pro model, while others have been upgraded, and a few new features have been added. The first and most obvious addition is the Pro’s new 5-direction obstacle avoidance system. Whereas the P4 only featured forward facing sense and avoid, the new and improved version has sensors on its front back, left, right, and underside. These sensors actively scan the environment around the drone and allow it to autonomously avoid things like trees, buildings, and anything else you might encounter during flight.
The Pro looks nearly identical to the original Phantom 4. The other standout improvement is the Pro’s camera. The Pro uses all-new hardware with a 1-inch image sensor which is four times the size as what’s used in the original Phantom 4. On top of that, the camera can shoot 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, and still images at up to 20 megapixels. DJI also tossed in aperture control and a mechanical shutter. No matter how you look at it, the P4’s new camera is bigger, better, and more customizable than ever.
Camera and Accessories of DJI Phantom Drone
If there’s any single reason to buy the P4 Pro instead of the standard P4, it’s the camera. DJI put some serious work into the Pro’s image capture system, and the result is one of the best cameras we’ve ever seen on a quad. The biggest improvement is the size of the camera’s sensor. The Pro boasts a 1-inch CMOS sensor which is roughly four times the size of the more typical 1/2.3-inch class used by most drones (including the Phantom 3 series and the Phantom 4), flagship smartphones, and point-and-shoot cameras. This extra surface area allows it to capture far more detail, and maintain image/video quality at higher ISOs.
In addition to a larger sensor, DJI also equipped the Pro with a mechanical shutter and aperture control. In other words, you’re not stuck shooting in f/2.8 all the time (you can go all the way to f/11), and no longer need to worry about the dreaded “rolling shutter effect’ screwing up your images.
Build Quality & Design of DJI Phantom Drone
The P4 Pro is nearly identical to the original P4 in terms of both design and builds quality. It retains the same hull shape as its predecessor, save for a few minor differences where the new sensors are placed. As such, it’s every bit as strong and sturdy as the P4, which remains among the most attractive and drones available.
It’s impressive that DJI has managed to outfit the drone with so many new features, while still maintaining an identical form factor. The additional sensors have been tucked into the drone’s legs, while infrared and optical sensors are fitted into the drone’s left and right sides. Even the camera, which is drastically better than the one found on the original P4, is just a bit larger than it was before. Unless you familiar with DJI’s drones, the P4 and P4 Pro are as good as identical, despite Phantom’s numerous enhancement.
Flight Performance of DJI Phantom Drone
The flight performance of the Phantom 4 hasn’t changed in this new version. The P4 Pro boasts nearly identical flight specs to the original P4 when it comes to things like speed and agility. Luckily, this isn’t much of a letdown, since the P4 is still among the most nimble quad-blade drones sold. Speed and agility are basically unchanged in the P4 Pro. Both the P4 and P4 Pro top out at 45 miles per hour (72 kph) though you can easily reach higher speeds with a good tailwind behind you. It’s not the fastest drone on the market (some can go 55 or even 60 mph), but it’s quick enough for most uses.
Range of DJI Phantom Drone
The range is also quite a bit better than the original P4. Just like the Mavic Pro, the P4 Pro is equipped with DJI’s new OcuSync video transmission technology, which stretches the drone’s maximum range and provides a live HD video feed from the camera from up to 4.3 miles away. That, however, is only possible in the most optimal conditions. This is arguably the best way to spend $1,500.
We took it out to the one-mile mark on a handful of different occasions without so much as a jitter in the video feed but transmission distance varies widely depending on the environment you’re flying in. If there’s a lot of interference, the feed can cut out at or before the half-mile mark. It all depends on where you’re flying, but even with the occasional feed cutout, the Phantom 4 Pro still boasts some of the best range we’ve ever seen in a drone.
Battery Life & Recharge Time of DJI Phantom Drone
Under optimal conditions, DJI says the Phantom 4 Pro can stay airborne for up to 30 minutes but of course, real-world conditions aren’t always optimal. To put these claims to the test, we ran the P4 Pro through our usual series of endurance tests. First up was a hover test, where we let the drone hover in place until the battery life became “critically low,” and the drone automatically landed. Our hover test lasted for 28 minutes and 8 seconds which isn’t very far off from DJI’s claimed 30-minute flight time.
Next, to get a sense of how long P4 Pro will last under more demanding conditions, we recorded the flight times from every other flight test we conducted and averaged everything out. Over the course of 10 different flights that spanned from 100 percent battery charge to the emergency low-battery automatic landing, the Phantom 4 Pro averaged a flight time of 26 minutes and 50 seconds.
While you shouldn’t expect a full 30 minutes of airtime, the endurance is excellent, the best we’ve seen so far. A DJI Mavic Pro lasted 23 minutes and 19 seconds in our hover test, and the Yuneec Typhoon H lasted 23 minutes, 20 seconds. A smaller, more affordable, simpler drone will last far less than any of these. The Hover Camera Passport, for instance, lasted less than 10 minutes.
Autonomy of DJI Phantom Drone
Some of the biggest improvements in the P4 Pro are related to DJI’s new autopilot features. In addition to porting over most of the “standard” autonomous flight modes from the original P4, DJI also borrowed a few of the Pro’s features from the recently-released Mavic and even added a few extras that we haven’t seen before.
You can set the P4 Pro to orbit a point in space with Point of Interest Mode, repeat flights along a preset path with Waypoints, follow your movements via Follow Me mode, or even adjust the way it responds to joystick control with Course Lock and Home Lock. These modes are included in the Phantom 4, but the Pro version has a couple new tricks up its sleeve: Terrain Follow, Tripod Mode, and a range of new Active Track abilities.