One might be tempted to argue that we hit “peak drone” last Christmas, when a flood of quadcopters went into consumer hands (then likely ended up gathering dust after a few flights around the neighborhood). Back then, drones were still tricky to fly with a fairly limited number of uses, so despite the popularity in sales, they lacked the thrills of good flight. Then, a few months ago, the DJI Phantom 3 Professional dropped and immediately stood out in the midst of drone saturation. The Phantom 3 is easier to fly, and it inspires use. Thanks to a vastly automatic follow — including a return-to-base command, stabilization functions and autonomous flight capabilities — users can expand the amount of real estate they cover. The device can purposefully fly several miles beyond a user’s line of sight, capture stunning footage, and then return to its starting point.
So, no, peak drone hasn’t arrived yet. You’re now truly limited by only your imagination, and you are rewarded for your creativity with beautiful, crisp 4K footage, stabilized by a smooth gimbal with which you can aim the Phantom 3’s camera. Even when out of eyesight, the drone sends back crystal-clear live footage to a tablet affixed to the controller, thanks to the DJI Lightbridge transmission technology that uses four powerful antennae embedded in each landing strut. Thus, you can control the camera while the Phantom takes care of the flying. It’s another step forward in the drone march, and one that should revitalize the masses’ drone lust, right in time for the holidays.
Features: Beginner mode; visual and ultrasonic sensors for ground detection; auto-takeoff; auto-return; failsafe for immediate return if battery drains; automatic flight logging
Speed: 16 f/s ascent, 9f/s descent, 52 f/s laterally
Range: 3 miles laterally, 400 feet vertically
Camera: Up to 12MP stills, up to 4K video resolution
Battery Life: 23 minutes maximum with average use