Interview with DJI: Future of the Phantom quadcopters

Quadcopters – or ‘small drones’ as they are also known – are enjoying a meteoritic rise in popularity. One brand in particular appears to have made a name for itself in the market. Just like ‘GoPro’ for many people has become synonymous to action camera, ‘DJI Phantom’ increasingly seems to be the first and indeed only quadcopter that comes to mind.The Phantom is a small aircraft with four propellers, a built-in flight controller with gyroscopes, compass and GPS and a matching white remote control which works at a range of up to one kilometer. DJI is currently offering the second generation of its Phantom, available without camera and in ‘Vision’ and ‘Vision Plus’ models, which respectively add a high definition camera and a high definition camera with gimbal. Prices range from about 550 euros for the regular Phantom 2 to about 1150 euro’s for the Phantom 2 Vision with gyroscopically stabilized gimbal.Hardware.Info caught up with DJI Innovations PR Manager Michael Perry to talk about the success of the current products and to see if we can get a glimpse of what DJI Innovations has in store for the coming generations of Phantom quadcopters.

DJI’s Michael Perry holding a Phantom 2 Vision Plus

By Eric van Ballegoie

HWI: To many consumers, the first quadcopter that comes to mind is the DJI Phantom. How did you manage to become such a household name in only a short period of time?

MP: There are three main factors which contribute to the popularity of the Phantom quadcopters: performance, accessibility and price. We’re the only manufacturer who hits the sweet spot with all three of them. Our Phantoms offer high performance, they can go 300 meters high and 700 meters out and can fly autonomously with GPS. They are also easy to use, with a little bit of practice you can do amazing things with the Phantom 2 series. And we’re able to offer that at a competitive price.

HWI: How do you view your competitor’s products? Walkera for instance now offers the Tali H500 and Scout X4, which also have high-definition cameras with gimbals as well as advanced flight modes and retractable feet at a price point comparable to the Phantom 2 Vision Plus.

MP: It’s really exciting to see new products on the market. But some of the feedback we get from users of those products is that the performance of those products – and I won’t name any names – isn’t always what they expect. The NAZA flight controller that we use in the Phantom 2 is a very advanced controller, and basically the industry standard. And that’s for a reason, it’s a very stable platform that offers consistent performance.

HWI: What do you know about the way consumers use the Phantom quadcopters? Are they used primarily to take photos and videos?

MP: Yes, the Phantom 2 series is used by both consumers and professionals to shoot photos and videos for artistic or fun purposes, but we also know of farmers, firefighters and archeologists using our drones to help them with their work. And there are sports coaches which use them to get a different perspective on their teams to analyze performance. We’ve even heard about people attaching FLIR heat sensing cameras to our drones to do thermal checks.

HWI: The Phantom 2 Vision was followed quite quickly by the Phantom 2 Vision Plus, which added a gimbal to the camera for 3-axis stabilized video. Was it always DJI’s intention to have that successor on the market so quickly, or did you react to customer feedback?

MP: The original Phantom 2 Vision was largely a proof of concept. It was unique to have a high definition, first person view, live streaming camera on a product with the price and performance like the Phantom 2. We didn’t know what the market size for such a product would be, but there was an immediate response and we realized that there were a lot of people interested in videography from the sky. Our next step was to offer a product that used a gimbal for better video stability.

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