DJI’s folding drone is smaller and better at tracking than GoPro’s offering – TechCrunch
âIâm sitting in New York City,â Adam Lisberg tweeted last week, as GoPro CEO Nick Woodman, dropped to his knees, unzipped a backpack and unveiled the companyâs long-awaited Karma drone at an event on the other side of the country. âIâm watching a competitor unveil a new product. I ainât worried about a thing.â
Days later, DJIâs head U.S. spokesperson is seated in our New York City office, cradling the companyâs latest creation. Now focused on his own product, Lisbergâs answers are decidedly more measured, never even going so far as to mentionÂ GoPro by name.
âWeâre glad to have a lot of companies try to compete with us in the business we do, and we never take for granted our position as the market leader,â he explains. âWe had to earn it, and we trust our customers to vote with their wallet every single day. We donât intend to let them down. We intend to keep out innovating for them.â
The root of such contention is fairly clear, of course. DJI and GoPro are more than just newfound drone competitors. The companies are former partners, routinely promoting the other and even working toward building a new drone together â a partnership that apparently soured over profit-sharing concerns. The product that would become the Karma was born out of that aborted partnership. Now, less than a fortnight after Karmaâs unveiling comes DJIâs own folding drone, the Mavic Pro.
And itâs a doozy.
While both products sport the same claim of being small enough to âfit in a backpack,â the Mavic is notably smaller, owing in part to the clever folding system DJI has devised. While the front two arms fold into the body, the rear arms actually fold underneath the drone, helping to greatly reduce its footprint, along with foldable propellers.
In all, the Mavic weighs 1.65 pounds to the Karmaâs 2.22, and is easily held in one hand â âbackpack, but not quite back pocket,â as Lisberg puts it.
Both companies clearly see their respective products playing a key role in helping mainstream drones among the public, with photography serving as a principle driver in that adoption. And while size surely wonât be the only driving factor for consumers, at this size, the drone moves from standalone product to yet another tool at a photographerâs disposal, stashed away in a backpack alongside SLR bodies and lenses.
Of course, pricing will certainly be a factor. At $999 (orÂ $749 sans-controller), the drone is almost certainly making the Mavic prohibitively expensive for the casual consumer. âOur intention has never been to make the cheapest product,â says Lisberg when confronted with the pricing question. âItâs been to make the best.â
Along with the pricing comes a good deal of experience. DJI has several years of commercial drone experience under its belt, and the Mavic looks to build upon it, incorporating it into a far more portable form factor. Most compelling among those features is a vision system capable of tracking subjects â a feature notably absent on the Karma, in spite of the product and companyâs adventure-sport focus.
âWe have vision sensors on-board that can detect a number of different profiles, whether itâs a person, person on a bicycle, an animal, a car,â explains Lisberg. âAs you look on the screen on your phone, you can highlight the person you want to follow. Once youâve highlighted that, it enters a mode where it can follow that person or object.â
There are a number of other sensors on board, including a front-facing pair designed for obstacle avoidance and two down-facing cameras that both measure the droneâs distance from the ground and assist in landing, promising an accuracy of around an inch from its initial take off. The droneâs primary camera boasts the same sensor size as its Phantom 4 â though spatial constraints mean its field of view shrinks from 94 to 78 degrees.
The camera is mounted on a three-axis gimbal, all of which is protected by a removable transparent dome. Of course, youâll have to look to GoPro for that compelling removable gimbal feature designed to let users take their camera stabilization with them off the drone.
The Mavicâs controller is foldable, like the drone itself, and rather than including an onboard touchscreen Ã la the Karma, the userâs smartphone does the job, plugging directly in. The controller also features haptic feedback, buzzing a warning when the drone goes too high or moves too fast.
The drone utilizeâs DJIâs new proprietary OcuSync wireless protocol for transmission and is capable of streaming live 1080p video to a number of services, including Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube, via the companyâs app.
The Mavic Pro is capable of speeds up to 40 miles per hour and should get about 27 minutes of flight time on a charge. Batteries are swappable, running $89 a pop. Those who want the works can pic up the Mavic Pro Fly More Combo for $1,299, a bundle that includes the drone, two batteries, extra propellers, a shoulder bag, charging hub and more.
The system is up for pre-order now, with shipping set for October 15thÂ (with Apple Store availability early the following month), beating theÂ Karmaâs stated October 23rd debut by more than a week â in case there was any question about just how seriously these one-time allies are taking their head-to-head match up.
DJI Mavic Pro