This one sort of flew under the radar (ha, look! A drone pun!), but I stumbled on this video yesterday that shows what DJI is working on for a future product. Though it’s pretty clear much of this video has heavy use of computer graphics to create the drone that flies itself, DJI’s Phantom X concept goes right for the throat of drones like the Lily Flying Camera, and that’s exactly what we should expect from the industry’s largest aerial imagine company. Oh, and they stuffed as many big names into the video as possible.
If the final product works like the video above shows, the X will take flight after being tossed end-over-end into the air, and be controlled via phone or Apple Watch. What’s more, DJI has apparently figured out spacial awareness, a problem that has plagued self-flying drones thus far. Instead of needing to fly out in the open, the X will purportedly be able to duck and weave around and between trees and other obstacles, making it the most versatile and “hands off” design for a drone yet.
Though it doesn’t seem to be waterproof like the Lily, it probably will have just about every other feature that promising camera is touting. It does have this interesting feature called “sky paint” which, well, I’m not entirely certain what that entails or why I would use that. Actually, I’m sort of perplexed by the “celebrities” DJI chose to be in this video at all. I understand Russell Brown from Adobe and Jeff Cable from Lexar, but Chloe Bennet seems thrown in there because she’s in a popular TV show and I’m a bit confused why someone from Pinterest would care about this or be considered an expert on the topic… but ok. At any rate, it’s clear the video is designed to make us excited about a product DJI isn’t finished with yet, and it certainly does that.
What the video does not do is address the safety of the user. In both the case of the Lily and the Phantom X, neither drone has really looked at the “flying lawnmower” problem. Whenever you build a product that can be thrown activated like the X, the possibility of it activating before you’re ready comes into play. Add to that, the blades are still open and are a safety hazard. DJI has made no effort thus far to design a drone that encases the blades in any way, leaving the Snap as the only drone so far that makes me actually feel safe being around.
Nevertheless, it’s clear DJI is ready to take down any and all competitors it sees as a possible threat to its domination of the drone market. The X is just the most recent iteration of that, and knowing how quickly DJI build product, I would not be surprised to see this early next year… at least in a physical prototype phase at either CES or NAB.