Today, aerial platform manufacturer DJI announced its new consumer quadcopter, the PHANTOM. It has several features that set it apart from the popular AR Drone – which may or may not sell you on it. First of all, the PHANTOM comes with its own dedicated hand-held radio-frequency control unit, that has a range of 300 meters (984 feet).
The AR Drone, by contrast, is controlled by an app on a separate iOS or Android mobile device. If you already own such a device, that means you only have to buy the US$300 AR Drone itself, making it a better value. If you do need to buy a new smartphone or tablet, however, the $679 all-in-one PHANTOM starts to look a little better.
The PHANTOM also features a GPS-enabled autopilot mode. Among other things, this allows it to hold a particular position, or to automatically return to the last known location of its user, if it loses contact. Additionally, the PHANTOM features high-intensity red and green LEDs on the undersides of its four arms, designed to help users keep track of its orientation while in flight.
Another nifty feature is its camera mount, designed to hold compact
video cameras such as the GoPro HERO. Unfortunately, however, the
PHANTOM has no onboard camera of its own. This means that users can’t
see things from the UAV’s point of view (which they can, with the AR
Drone), so they’ll have to wait until the thing lands to see exactly
what their GoPro was pointed at.
The aircraft's lithium-polymer battery offers a claimed 10 to 15
minutes of flight time – just about the same as the AR Drone. If that
battery should run too low, the UAV will automatically land itself. The
control unit additionally requires four AA batteries.
The PHANTOM can be seen in use in the rather goofy video below.