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DJI's Phantom 4 drone avoids obstacles

02 March 2016

The latest addition to DJI's popular Phatom series of drones, can track humans and dodge obstacles. With the features, the Phantom 4 becomes one of the most advanced consumer drones on the market. However, the technology carries a substantial price tag.

Two optical sensors keep track of what lies ahead in order to avoid obstacles. If it sensed a possible collision, the drone would attempt to fly around the object even as it maintained the general flight direction.

Avoiding objects can be tricky at times, when piloting a drone because it's difficult to judge a collision course from the different perspective on the ground.

However, the new tracking system, allows pilots to tap on an object in the camera's frame for the iOS or Android apps to pick up. The drone will keep the object centred, for instance, a runner or cyclist will remain in the middle of the image as the drone follows them along.

According to DJI, the software is sophisticated enough for tracking the object even when it changed direction or appeared to change shape from the camera's viewpoint.

The Phantom 4 comes outfitted with five cameras: two on the front and two on the bottom, plus the main 4K camera that had always been onboard to capture  video. The images captured by these cameras are processed by the computer vision software which constructs a 3D model of the world around it for the drone to intelligently navigate.

''With the Phantom 4, we are entering an era where even beginners can fly with confidence,'' said DJI CEO Frank Wang, The Verge reported. ''People have dreamed about one day having a drone collaborate creatively with them. That day has arrived.''

However, the computer vision technology does more than allow the drone to avoid collisions. With the new feature called TapFly users need not learn how to operate the two-stick controller. With the push of a button, the drone will take off.

Pilots then set a maximum distance the drone can travel, and they only need to tap on the live video feed that appeared on their screen. The drone will fly towards the horizon in the direction.

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