DJI’s Newest Drone Practically Flies Itself

Look for the skies to quickly get more crowded.

Drone manufacturer DJI has announced its Phantom 4 drone. DJI's Phantom line is one of the go-tos for any consumer wanting to play with airborne camera-wielding robots, and now "the iPhone of drones" has something new to offer: the DJI Phantom 4 features built-in obstacle-avoidance features.

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Go ahead, try to fly it into a tree — when you fly your drone into something that will harm it, the drone will now freeze in mid-air and hover in place until you give it friendlier commands. Your nightmares of downed drones are way less likely to come true with DJI's new developments. The Phantom 4's crash-resistant system works with help from a new cameras-and-sensor arrangement; forward-looking cameras monitor for oncoming obstacles to the front, while sonar aimed at the ground helps the craft monitor its altitude for safety's sake.

The degree of human skill required to pilot a drone without crashing it is beginning to decrease. What is usually a carefully coordinated mashing of buttons in order to keep one's drone aloft is increasingly looking like the casual button-pushing associated with playing a video game. Furthermore, the manufacturer claims to have added an extra five minutes to the device's flight time, making for a total of 28 minutes for the Phantom 4, 23 minutes for the Phantom 3.

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In the press release formalizing the announcement, DJI CEO Frank Wang drops this bombastic line: "People have dreamed about one day having a drone collaborate creatively with them. That day has arrived." We don't know about a drone "creatively collaborating" with the pilot, but if nothing else, the machines are becoming a little more self-aware. And sure this is really a piece of gear aimed at professionals, but it's still pretty cool.

This flying marvel is available for purchase right now from for $1,400.

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