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DJI's newest drones are built for filmmakers

The Phantom 4 Pro and Inspire 2 offer big performance upgrades over their predecessors.
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Turns out that DJI's Mavic Pro wasn't the company's only new airframe for the year. On Tuesday, a pair of updated drone models joined the family: the Phantom 4 Pro and the Inspire 2.

DJI Phantom 4 Pro: first look

The Phantom 4 Pro (P4P) is the upgraded version of the Phantom 4 (P4), which debuted earlier this year. The P4, if you recall, integrated a suite of obstacle avoidance systems: a pair of stereoscopic sensors mounted on the front of the drone. The P4P builds on that system, adding a second pair of stereoscopic sensors on the rear of the frame as well as an infrared sensor on either flank. These IR sensors have a 7m range -- shorter than the 30m range of the front and rear stereos but still plenty farsighted to avoid sideswiping trees and fences.

The P4P's battery has also been enlarged, allowing for a full 30 minutes of flight per charge. That's only two minutes longer than the Phantom 4 but still a step up. Additionally, the P4P's camera sensor is bigger. It now uses a 1-inch CMOS that can capture 20 megapixel stills and 4K video at 60 frames per second. All of the other features offered by the Phantom 4 -- like follow mode and Tap to Fly -- are all still available to users through the DJI Go app. Also, it does not appear that the new controller will be backwards compatible with older Phantom models -- not even the Phantom 4 from March.

The new model will also come with an upgraded controller that uses an integrated 5.5-inch Full HD screen rather than your smartphone. The screen is reportedly bright enough to use in full sun without needing to squint, though Engadget was unable to independently verify this before publication.

The Inspire 2 adds even more performance. The Inspire line is geared squarely towards professional filmmakers and now has the chops to capture nearly any shot. The airframe can hit 67 MPH, accelerate to 50MPH in four seconds, climb at a rate of 7m/sec and stay aloft for up to 27 minutes. Its interchangeable Zenmuse X5S and X4S cameras can capture 5.2K video using their 20.8MP Micro Four Thirds or smaller 20MP 1-inch sensor, respectively. At that resolution, the camera generates data at a rate of 4.2Gps and, rather than try to somehow cram all that info onto a SD card, the Inspire 2 instead pours it into an onboard SSD using a PCIe interface.

It's smarter too. The Inspire 2 now employs all of the same side-sensing technology as the P4P but also integrates a third IR sensor on the roof of the drone so that it doesn't inadvertently fly into power lines, bridge trusses, tree branches or other overhead obstacles.

But the coolest part: the Inspire 2 now offers a dedicated first person view camera for the pilot. Its predecessor only had the main camera which means that if the camera wasn't pointed the direction that the pilot was moving, he was flying blind. With this setup, the pilot always knows what's ahead regardless of where the cameraman is aiming.

The Zenmuse X5S camera (20.8MP Micro Four Thirds)

The P4P and the Inspire 2 are now available for purchase from the DJI website. The P4P retails for $1500/£1,589 with a standard controller, or $1800/£1,819 with the fancy new remote, and begins shipping next week. The Inspire 2 airframe will set you back $3,000/£3,059. DJI is offering a "combo" that includes the airframe, an X5S camera as well as CinemaDNG and Apple ProRes License Key for $6,200/£6,398 (though you can get $200/£129 off if you order before January 1st). If you order the combo, it will begin shipping in December. If you order the airframe and camera separately, it'll ship in "early" January.

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