DJI Phantom 4 is the human-tracking, obstacle-avoiding drone you shouldn't fear...yet

Remember the City Scanners in Half-Life 2? Yeah, they're real

DJI has announced the Phantom 4 – the latest in its line of camera-equipped drones that will not only let you snag that difficult tracking shot, but do it without your help.

Advanced tech takes control of the majority of the craft's flight without the operator realising and includes GPS to help maintain the position of the craft while cameras and sensors stabilize the flight. Switch off those auto flight features and few people would still be able to keep a drone airborne.

DJI's Phantom 4 takes auto and intelligent flight features to another level. You don't have to understand how it flies, you just need to know what you want to capture.

With the Phantom 4, DJI aims to make it possible for you to completely hand over control to the drone itself – you can get on with whatever activity you like while it follows you and films.

This is made possible by its headline feature, anti-collision technology. Two new front mounted sensors are able to detect anything in the Phantom's flight path and it will briefly change course to avoid crashing. Couple this avoidance ability with Visual Tracking and you have a drone that can automatically track its subject while avoiding obstacles, and will enable you to shoot action selfies in a way that hasn't been possible before. In essence, the Phantom 4 is less a remote-controlled and more a self-piloting eye in the sky.

As with the previous Phantom Professional 3, the Phantom 4's camera will offer 4k video at up to 30fps and full HD at up to 120fps.

The drone also sports a 28-minute sustained flight time, alongside a maximum control range of just over three miles, in case you ever need to outrun one of these bad boys in the eventual robot uprising - not that we're paranoid or anything.

Intelligent flight features aside the Phantom 4 might look similar to previous versions, but almost every aspect of the new drone has been updated. All-new motors, rotors, body and the added sensors and details that instantly show that this is the most advanced and robust drone yet from DJI.

The Phantom 4, like the Phantom 3, features a camera and gimbal combo that is fully integrated with the craft and controller and uses Lightbridge technology to broadcast a live view stream from the air to ground at 720p quality. It also features the superb Go app available for iOS and Android devices. This enables the control of the camera settings as well as direct control over advanced flight features such as pre-defined routes, orbit and follow me options.

Intelligent flight is the main focus of this upgrade DJI has upgraded the propellor design with a wider base and a new quick release mechanism that will speed up setup times when on location.

Other changes in design include a the body that's now better sealed and no visible sign of air vents, so the craft is both more aerodynamic and will cope better with light rain and moisture. The MicroSD card and USB card slots have also moved from the camera to the base of the body.

Drone enthusiasts and budding cinematographers will have to save up a bit if they want to get their hands on the Phantom 4, as DJI announced that each camera drone will retail for $1,399, and estimated to ship sometime around March 15.

Consider that price an investment, should thee obstacle-avoidance feature of the Phantom 4 result in fewer crashes due to amateur piloting, and thus less money spent at DJI's costly repair service.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Imaging Lab Manager

Ali Jennings is the imaging lab manager for Future Publishing's Photography portfolio. Using Imatest Master and DxO Analyser he produces the image quality tests for all new cameras and lenses review in TechRadar's cameras channel. Ali has been shooting digital since the early nineties and joined Future's Photography portfolio back in 2003.