The top civilian drone maker’s latest model is small enough to slip into purses and controllable with just a smartphone.
The Mavic Pro represents a significant leap for Chinese start-up DJI, whose Phantom and Inspire offerings dominate the camera drone market. The unveiling of the Mavic Pro on Tuesday, a week after action camera maker GoPro released its Karma drone and a month after Chinese rival Yuneec’s launch of its Breeze, sets up a holiday shopping showdown.
The drones still carry price tags likely to intimidate to most consumers — from $500 to $1,200. But with simplified flying controls and slimmer bodies compared with earlier models, the quadcopters are edging away from their enthusiasts-only roots toward a future as mass consumer devices.
The Mavic Pro can hover in the air for 24 minutes, reach a top speed of 40 mph and maintain position in winds of about 24 mph. A built-in 12-megapixel camera shoots 4K video and rests on a three-axis stabilizer. At about 1.6 pounds, it’s a half-pound lighter than the Karma.
A redesigned handheld remote enables users to guide the drone with joysticks and buttons. A smartphone, which can sit in the cradle of the remote, connects to the system via a proprietary cable that transmits a live feed from the camera to an app. The setup provides a 4.3-mile connection range. Flying with only the smartphone app is possible too, though the range is considerably smaller.
Like other DJI options, the Mavic Pro automatically detects and avoids objects in front of it. And the drone comes with several existing and new semi-autonomous flying modes. For example, the camera can recognize and follow a person as he or she moves. A new option snaps a selfie seconds after users gesture as if they were clicking the button on a phantom camera.
Though imperfect during…