Until recently, if you wanted a consumer quadcopter that would fly right out of the box, you would have had to purchase the AR. Drone from the French manufacturer Parrot.
The convenience has earned the AR. Drone the spot as the biggest-selling consumer quadcopter yet. About 500,000 have been sold.
DJI, another contestant in consumer and professional-grade multicopters, unveiled in late 2012 their first entry into that market: a GPS-equipped quadcopter named the Phantom.
Unlike Parrot's product, which relied on a downward-facing camera to maintain its position, the Phantom could loiter effectively thanks to an embedded Naza unit. While the Phantom had a mount for a GoPro HD camera, it did not come with a camera or gimbal, which were reserved for pricier professional-grade models.
That's going to change fairly soon.
DJI announced this month that it will be upgrading its Phantom not just with a tilt-capable gimbal, but the "drone" also will feature a 14 megapixel camera, giving the system high-definition vision.
Furthermore, it looks like the new version of the Phantom, dubbed "Phantom Vision," will have a dedicated iOS application. That means it will be possible to view the on-board video and manipulate the gimbal using an iPad or similar device, and use the feed for First Person View (FPV) flying. DJI's press release also mentions "variable field of view" and "social media sharing."
Some operators have found the DJI Phantom a better overall experience than the less-powerful AR. Drone 2.0, competently filling a niche between toy quadcopters and bona-fide "heavy lifters." Of course, whether this makes sense for many journalists depends on cost and versatility. The feature set seems nice enough, but DJI makes no mention of a dollar figure, except to say that it will be sold at a "compelling price point."