DJI'scamera drones are remarkably simple to operate, which makes them great for people entering the hobby. What's not so great: their prices.
To help out your poor credit card, DJI has introduced the Phantom 3 Standard, which combines the build and most of the features of the other Phantom 3 models, but with a slightly stripped-down controller to bring the cost down to $800 in the US, £649 in the UK and AU$1,299 in Australia. That's not inexpensive, obviously, but it shaves $200, £150 or AU$250 off the price of the Advanced.
The controller that comes with the Advanced and Professional models features DJI's Lightbridge technology for better image transmission between the sky and ground, and it has built-in camera controls. The Standard, however, comes with the updated controller from the older.
In place of Lightbridge, the Standard's controller uses a wireless range extender for transmitting the live view from the Standard to a mobile device, so the potential for a delay in the feed is greater. (It does support DJI's external Lightbridge ground system, though.) Camera controls are also limited to an adjustment wheel for the camera angle with all other camera settings and controls handled via DJI's new Go app for iPhone and iPad, with an Android version coming soon. There's also no discrete Return-to-Home button.
Missing, too, is the bottom-mounted Visual Positioning System. This set of sensors scans the ground to help the Advanced and Professional versions hover in place indoors. The Standard relies on GPS alone for stability.
As for the Standard's camera, it uses the same distortion-free, 94-degree, wide-angle f2.8 lens as the other two, but it has a maximum recording resolution of 2.7K HD video at 30 frames per second. That's higher than the Advanced's 1080p, but lower than the Professional's 4K resolution. You'll also be able to grab 12-megapixel photos in both Adobe DNG raw and JPEG formats.
The Standard uses the new Phantom 3 Intelligent Flight batteries and DJI claims flight times top out at 25 minutes. To help you make the most of that time, the Standard will have intelligent flight features including waypoint navigation, point of interest (POI) flight planning and a Follow Me function.
Waypoint navigation lets you set up a multipoint path for the drone to follow while you control the camera, while POI flight planning allows you to autonomously fly a circle around a subject, keeping it centered. Follow Me sets the drone to track your movement based on your orientation.
These features will be available out of the box when the Phantom 3 Standard begins shipping this week. The other Phantom 3 models will get a firmware upgrade for these piloting options in coming weeks. These features are still a bit further out for the higher-end Inspire 1, however. They will also be available through SDK apps already developed by third-party DJI developers.
Editors' note: Corrected timing for the release of intelligent features for Inspire 1.