Phantom 4 Review: DJI’s New Drone Outsmarts Bad Pilots
The new Phantom 4 drone from DJI keeps pilots from getting into crashes with computer vision that can sense and avoid obstacles including trees, buildings and people. WSJ Personal Tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler takes it for a test flight, including a head-on game of chicken.
Updated March 1, 2016 11:30 a.m. ET
The first thing I did with DJI’s new Phantom 4 drone was fly straight toward a tree.
Not the best way to treat a $1,400 flying camera, sure. But this quadcopter can do something other drones can’t: keep you and me from being idiot pilots.
My Phantom 4 made a beeline toward a cypress, then screeched to a halt a few feet before it. A spider-like array of cameras built into its body can see obstacles in 3-D and make split-second decisions to pause or veer to a new flight path.
After a rash of drone crashes and injuries, these flying lawn mowers needed a breakthrough. It’s computer vision. The Phantom 4, arriving in Apple stores March 15, is the first consumer drone that can sense and avoid trees, buildings and moving objects. A novice can tap on an app and have it trail someone like a flying paparazzo. To put it to the test, I even challenged it to a game of chicken.
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