It’s getting harder and harder for companies to ignore the popularity and rising ubiquity of drones. Case in point: Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, has thrown its hat into the drone ring and released their very first consumer drone. The Xiaomi MI drone is a quadcopter that bears more than a little resemblance to DJI’s Phantom line of drones and is equipped with a 4K camera. While there’s nothing particularly mesmerizing or revolutionary about Xiaomi’s drone, the company definitely came to play with its competition. The thing that separates Xiaomi’s drone from others on the market is a drastically cheaper price tag: $460, compared to $799 for a DJI Phantom 3 4K.
Xiaomi’s drone carries its 4K camera in a ball-shaped attachment that is housed under the quadcopter’s body. The camera uses a Sony 12.4 megapixel sensor to capture 4K and RAW photo and video footage. The drone also comes equipped with a detachable gimbal with 3-axis stabilization, allowing it to correct itself up to 2,000 times per second. This feature is possible thanks to an optical flow sensor situated between the battery bay and the camera itself. With live streaming video capabilities, the Xiaomi drone packs a lot of functionality into an astonishingly cheap price for a consumer drone.
“We want everyone to be able to afford good products,” said Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi. “That was why I set up Xiaomi in the first place.” The drone’s controller resembles a bunny (the company’s mascot) thanks to its two, long antennas that can control the drone up to a distance of 2 kilometers while maintaining a constant 720p video stream. A micro-USB port at the bottom of the controller is stealthily hidden away for recharging purposes, while built-in buttons, dials and a smartphone clamp enable the positioning and operation of the drone’s camera and live streaming capabilities. There’s also a button for a quick take off or landing, designed to simplify the drone flying process for novice users.
Without human control or intervention, the Xiaomi drone can fly itself to certain points, circle that focal point of interest while filming it and even follow a planned route. It will automatically return to home base if it loses contact with the controller or senses the removable battery, which will last for about 27 minutes of flight time, is running low. Xiaomi’s MI drone will enter a beta testing period by the end of July. The company also announced a cheaper version of the drone that is limited to just 1 kilometer in range, for a low price of $380. This model is available on Xiaomi’s very own crowdfunding platform. Xiaomi is proving you don’t have to break the bank to get your hands on a quality, easy to use drone.