It's that time of year. Spring is almost here, even in the North East of England, and the air is filled with countless DJI rumours.
Speculation is rife about a consumer hexacopter, an Inspire 2 and ... a Phantom 4. Hang on a minute, the Phantom 3 was only announced on April 9th 2015. DJI are almost in danger of out-Appleing Apple if that's the case.
Before we add more fuel to the rumour engine, let's talk about what we do know. DJI has dropped the price of its extremely popular Phantom 3 Professional with 4K camera from £1159 to £949 (a £210 or 18% saving).
There have also been lots of rumours about a launch date in March, with the 1st and the 4th being mentioned as possibilities.
Back in November 2015 DJI floated a video about the concept drone - the Phantom X. It had detect and avoid technology, retractable legs, and a sophisticated follow me function.
So, rather than a new Inspire, which was launched in November 2014, or a medium sized, prosumer hexacopter like the Yuneec Typhoon H, is it safe to assume that the new product will be a quadcopter? Yet another addition to the Phantom 3 range? A brand new Phantom 4?
Rumour sites in the USA, or rumor sites as they call them, are talking about a stronger, shinier shell which incorporates the vision positioning system and some of the gimbal mechanism rather than having them attached to the outside.
There've also been pictures on the web of sturdier gimbals with attachments on both sides of the camera. It makes you wonder if the camera will be capable of doing a full 360 but then you notice that the leg in the pictures are like chunky versions of the P3's undercarriage and they don't fold.
[caption id="attachment_4442" align="aligncenter" width="539"] Could these shots be of a DJI Phantom 4?[/caption]
The Phantom X, on the other hand, has four short and stubby legs that fold up into the arms and out of the camera's way. Perhaps they're destined for the Phantom 5.
What about detect and avoid technology? Well DJI brought out the Guidance system with the Matrice 100 last year but that costs £899 on its own. Yuneec's new hex will have some Intel technology on board so a similar DJI system is highly likely.
The follow me technology on the Phantom and Inspire range relies on the drone following the controller - quite tricky if you're mountain biking or skiing. There's even conjecture that some form of wristband could be added or the aircraft could be made to follow your mobile phone or tablet. That's something else from the Phantom X concept video.
There's even been speculation about a 6K camera but that's a bit far fetched when just a 4k camera is far more than most people need. More likely is a 4K camera with a larger sensor and that's something DJI have already achieved with the Inspire 1 Pro, which has a micro four thirds sensor. Their RAW version of the X5 camera with a 500GB SSD is something else that is due to hit the market during this quarter.
One school of thought is that DJI will be striving to please the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by making drones safer. DJI has a huge chunk of the American market and anything it can do to allay people's fears about the perceived danger from drones (the Phantom Menace) will be good for the FAA and DJI.
We've already mentioned detect and avoid systems but an improved geofencing system which stops drones straying into dangerous places would help to calm public hysteria. Someone has suggested that built in parachutes would help too.
From the pilot's point of view, stronger materials than those used on the Phantom 3 would be welcome, if you go by the comments on flyers' forums. Plastics used in the shells, particularly the early ones, came in for a lot of stick.
And then there's the never ending quest for longer flight times. Some are suggesting that more efficient motors and ESCs on the next models will achieve that without any major upgrades of the batteries.
It's probably best if all the Phantom fans out there don 't hold their breath though. I've just seen a rumour that an Osmo 2 camera is just around the corner and the Osmo 1 was only launched in October 2015.
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You need a drone license when you are flying as a commercial drone pilot, ie when you are using your drone for work and money-making purposes. This means, in most cases, you will need to sit the FAA Part 107 test.
You do not need a drone license when you are flying as a hobby and for purely recreational purposes. However, you will need to operate by strict rules. There are plans to introduce the requirement for hobbyists to pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test.