2014 was the year thatdrones went from creepy military gear to consumer-friendly video tool, and it’s almost entirely due to DJI, one of the world’s fastest-growing drone manufacturers. The Shenzhen, China–based company makes the ubiquitous Phantom line, a relatively inexpensive ($1,300 for its best) remote-control camera quadcopter. In the past three years, sales grew by a factor of 125.
The small and light drones—which dominate YouTube and made cameos on South Park and The Big Bang Theory—can fly up to 35 mph and soar more than 900 feet in the air. They have GPS and stabilizing sensors, can hold their position in the air, and return to where they launched if they lose contact with the remote. All that, says DJI director of aerial imaging Eric Cheng, has made drones appealing for “everything from archaeology to roof inspections, sports training to firefighting.”
This video from DJI shows off its latest video drone, the Inspire 1, which shoots stabilized 4K video, has landing gear that automatically retracts and deploys, and has a top speed of 50 mph.
[Illustration: Matteo Berton]