November 7, 2015

This Is the Exciting Future of Drone Technology, According to DJI

In a new video released this week by DJI, the prolific drone and camera manufacturer showed off a concept for a new UAV called the Phantom X.

Strangely enough, some of the technology showed off in the Phantom X concept already exists (or is on the verge of existing) in the consumer space. I'm talking, of course, about the Lily drone, which made a splash earlier this year, as it's promo video went viral. Like the fictional Phantom X in the DJI video, the Lily can be activated simply by tossing it (her?) in the air, and then you can have it follow you around and capture your every move without having to touch a flight remote or anything.

Here again is that awesome promo video:

And here's how the Lily Drone was actually working while that video was going viral. Sadly, it doesn't appear to be quite as effective as the promo made it look. Then again, this is from six months ago, and the Lily isn't set to start shipping for a few more months, so hopefully these issues will have been straightened out in that span. Still, it's funny to watch Lily almost shave the beard off the reviewer's face and almost go careening into a group of sunbathers in Central Park.

The biggest thing that the Phantom X could bring to the table is obstacle avoidance, a feature which Lily does not have. If we're going to use GPS and allow drones to follow us around, we need to make damn sure that they're not going to run into anything. It's a massive safety issue, and it really should be a prerequisite with technology like this.

The Phantom X concept video also showed off some other interesting potential features, including a multi-cam mode, which would allow users to tether the video streams from multiple drones together, and then switch between them live. This could be useful in live event and sports broadcast (provided the drones aren't flying over crowds or athletes), although I'm not entirely sure why it would be useful in a traditional filmmaking context considering that multi-cam is usually accomplished in post.

And then there's the whole sky painting thing. Not sure what to say about that. Like, do you load up the drone with sky paint before sending it off to paint in the sky using your magical sky-painting gloves? The mind boggles.

What features and technologies would you guys be interested in seeing in next generation of Phantom drones? Let us know down in the comments!     

Your Comment

20 Comments

Ha ha...I'm sorry but that promo played like a spoof to me.

November 7, 2015 at 7:57PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2875

Yeah, it was pretty ridiculous, but it's interesting to see what DJI is supposedly working on. Except for sky painting. That's just absurd.

November 7, 2015 at 8:05PM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
5482

"What bigger way, is there to express yourself and be creative".

With that music and the shot of her waving her hands around with CGI drones and sky paint...ha ha. Oh, I'm sure it looked better on paper.

Also, Colonel Sanders guy.

DJI is fascinating. The X5 video is mush but the quality of the RAW stills really have me stoked for the X5R.

They really need to give people the option to use it on the ground and put other lenses on it though. Separate the gimbal and camera.

November 7, 2015 at 8:34PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2875

I too was sadden by the heavy compression(4K at 60mbps 4:2:0) in the X5 camera. The "mushy" look combined with the sharp highlight roll off, have kept me waiting for the X5R.

November 7, 2015 at 10:03PM

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Same here.

November 8, 2015 at 2:50AM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2875

Right?! Agents of SHIELD... amazing.

November 9, 2015 at 2:50AM

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Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor
605

Did they use CGI? At moments it looks a bit odd.

November 8, 2015 at 2:36AM

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Jupiter de la Bâtardise
writer/filmmaker
226

Its animation and they got the prop rotation directions wrong. They have them rotating two on one side one direction and the two on the other side the opposite direction, but it has to be alternating. Opposite facing motors need to go the same direction ( X ).

November 8, 2015 at 6:58AM, Edited November 8, 6:59AM

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Selfish generation of eternal selfies.

November 8, 2015 at 9:26AM, Edited November 8, 9:25AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1730

I wonder what features it has to fly in a bathroom. Thats where 90% of all selfies seem to happen. There should be a bathroom setting on the drone.

November 9, 2015 at 2:51AM

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Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor
605

The whole idea of object avoidance seems like the most critical and practical here. I don't see how Amazon starts delivering packages from afar without drones being able to avoid unanticipated obstacles on its own.

Sky painting? Whose idea was that? And how did it make it into this promo?

November 8, 2015 at 11:06AM

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Nothing says the future like spraying shit into the air!

November 8, 2015 at 10:19PM

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Benton Collins
Camera aimer
381

Nope. Swing and a miss.

They're dumbing it down for the consumer. I've been using drones for about 4 years now, and none of these future features seem remotely like a good idea. "Great! we're going to have thousands of more videos of people ... riding bikes. or Snowboarding. Oh, cool. I can sync up three drones to have multi cam footage... that is going to be useless because there are going to be two drones buzzing the frame of every shot."

The bottom line is that if you are a filmmaker, you look for control, not the opposite. I want to be able to control my frame, not automate the process. How about longer battery options. Or silent props so we can record sound. Or maybe some Teradek setup to record 4k video wirelessly.

One positive is that my dad is gonna think this is great. (People always wonder who watches Agents of SHIELD. It's him. My dad is the guy watching it.)

www.nycdroner.com if you want to see what I do with a little Phantom 2 and a GoPro.

November 9, 2015 at 2:50AM

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Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor
605

How about props with leading and trailing edges like owl wings. Owls have silent flight because of an almost cerated leading and trailing edge that breaks the airflow.

I suggest we glue own feathers to props and see what happens :)

November 9, 2015 at 4:31AM, Edited November 9, 4:31AM

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See, THATS innovation I can get behind. Brilliant idea about the owl wings... we should be looking to nature, not to bad television series for inspiration.

GO TEAM S.H.I.E.L.D.!

November 9, 2015 at 2:37PM

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Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor
605

As cool as Lily appears on paper (er, video), I can't help but think that with a release date of August 2016, that at least two competitors will beat them to market before then. (Whether they're as good is another topic for speculation/debate.)

November 9, 2015 at 2:15PM, Edited November 9, 2:15PM

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"Today I was biking through the woods really fast, and the Phantom was following me..." Would anyone really find someone sitting down on a bike pedaling on a paved path interesting?
The video reminded me of the Artisanal Firewood video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBb9O-aW4zI

November 9, 2015 at 2:47PM

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I can see "follow me" drones being banned as soon as they come out.

People already complain about drones in general being unsafe. There is nothing safer than leaving a drone in the air unattended and possibly forgetting about it.

November 9, 2015 at 3:12PM

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Before Lily, and safer.

https://www.airdog.com/

November 12, 2015 at 10:37PM

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Stewart Fairweather
Cinematographer
482

So instead of getting the mic in the shot it will be ruined by one of the drones buzzing past.

November 15, 2015 at 5:36AM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
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