Photo of DJI Phantom 3 aerial drone.

DJI refines their popular Phantom drone.

Today in New York, DJI announced a new model of their popular Phantom line of quadcopters, the Phantom 3. The drone is available for pre-order now starting at $999, and ships later this month.

The design of the new drone is visually similar to the Phantom Vision 2 Plus, with the exception of the telltale red bands around the arms giving way to gold and silver. If you were hoping for a scaled down version of the top-of-the-line, spider-like Inspire quadcopter DJI unveiled late last year, this isn’t it.

That said, the Phantom 3 is blessed with some of the features of the Inspire. The headline feature is the inclusion of 4k video capture, though you’ll only find it in the slightly more expensive DJI Phantom 3 Professional model, offered at $1,250. The $999 version, the Phantom 3 Advanced, tops out at 1080p video resolution. In both cases, the integrated camera system is gimbal-controlled, similar to the Phantom Vision 2 Plus.

Both models of the Phantom 3 include a 94⁰ field of view, distortion-free lens, with a 1/2.3” sensor that is more sensitive to light than previous models.

Both models of the Phantom 3 include a 94⁰ field of view, distortion-free lens, with a 1/2.3” sensor that is more sensitive to light than previous models.

But the feature we’re most excited by is the inclusion of the Lightbridge FPV standard for remotely streaming real-time video from the Vision 3 down to the remote control. From the remote, video can then be fed to a number of different monitor options, including a smartphone or tablet that can be mounted directly above the remote.

Previously offered as a $1,400 upgrade option, the inclusion of Lightbridge gives you the ability to stream down HD quality real-time first-person view video at a range of up to 2 kilometers. Previous models of the Phantom allowed for video streaming over a direct Wi-Fi connection, but broadcast range and quality were limited. By freeing up the wi-fi on your mobile device, you can also take advantage of the Phantom 3’s new direct-to-YouTube live streaming capability and broadcast your flight as it happens.

The Phantom 3's updated remote includes a new jog wheel for camera control and a Lightbridge connection for outputting realtime HD video.

The Phantom 3’s updated remote includes a new jog wheel for camera control (not shown) and a Lightbridge connection for outputting realtime HD video. A mounted smartphone make for an easy FPV monitor and can even be used to livestream video to YouTube.

Another subtle yet significant improvement to the Phantom 3 is an upgraded positioning system with downward-facing sensors that better detect its distance from the ground. Together with an improved GLOSNASS-compatible GPS system, the Phantom 3 can theoretically manage flight paths and hold steady with better precision.

I say “theoretically” because sadly we have yet to test out the Phantom 3 ourselves. We hope to change that soon. As with previous DJI products the price isn’t cheap, but it matches up with the set of features being offered and gives hobbyists an out of the box solution for a top-notch drone experience.