DJI, the company behind the much-loved Phantom 3 Advanced flying video camera, has introduced a new standard in drones that you can use to buzz weddings, fly over celebrities’ houses and perve into your neighbour’s windows: the DJI Phantom 3 Standard.
I should say, it’s a new Standard drone with a capital S. Whether it will become the new standard way of videoing from the air is another matter altogether.
The Standard is a cut-down, cheaper version of the Phantom 3 Advanced, and whether it wins people away from the Advanced very much remains to be seen. It may be that the Advanced remains the standard, if you will.
The $1299 Standard version is, like the $1550 Advanced, a quadcopter that shoots videos. It shoots 2.7K video, which is a higher resolution than the 1080p videos that the Advanced shoots, though they both take 12 megapixel photos.
Some of the things you don’t get on the Standard that you do get on the Advanced: GLONASS, the GPS alternative that helps to pinpoint your drone’s location when GPS isn’t doing so well; a downward facing camera, to help keep it stabilised indoors; and the ability to live stream your video in 1080p – the Standard streams in 720p from its camera which, like the camera on Advanced, is mounted on a gimbal on the undercarriage of the copter.
The gimbal, in case you’re wondering, is a motorised platform that moves to counteract the movements of the quadcopter itself, ensuring you get incredibly smooth aerial shots that you once had to hire a helicopter to shoot.
Apart from the obvious cost advantages over hiring helicopters, the Phantom 3 has the advantage that it’s much less intrusive than a helicopter, so you can use it in more situations. A lot of wedding photographers use the Phantom 3 for lovely aerial shots, and though I’ve never been to a wedding with quadcopters buzzing around, people tell me it’s still quite intrusive. Still, a helicopter would be worse.
Anyway, the Standard has a remote controller that looks a little the controller on the Advanced, except with one antenna rather than two, and with a shorter advertised maximum range of 1000 metres, as opposed to the 2000 metres advertised for the Advanced. That may just be a regulatory measure – DJI lists the range of the Standard as its “FCC” range, suggesting its real range may be longer – but in any case, 1km or 2km shouldn’t make too much difference. Given the flying time of 25 minutes (up from 23 minutes on the Advanced), flying a quadcopter even 1 km from you would be a hair-raising experience. I get worried flying quadcopters even 500 metres away. What if someone grabs it? What if the battery runs out and a dog eats it?
Many of my worries aren’t rational.