Phantom flying drone captures stunning, stable video

DJI's Phantom quadricopter's new two-axis gimbal eliminates shaky footage

A new stabilization system for the Phantom remote-controlled flying drone helps it capture stunning landscapes and maneuver in tight spaces.

The two-axis Zen Muse gimbal from aerial videography company DJI allows a GoPro Hero 3 action camera to be mounted underneath a Phantom quadricopter made by the same company. The result is a camera that can be remotely controlled by the pilot and video that doesn't suffer from the jitters and rockiness usually associated with drone footage.

To see the Phantom and new mount in action, watch a video on YouTube.

"We have all these people who have been buying Phantoms and trying to use them in these professional instances," said Colin Guinn, CEO of DJI. "But because the camera is directly attached to the Phantom you have a lot of shake in your footage."

Guinn, who enjoys piloting the drone himself, navigated the Phantom over the Las Vegas strip at night through signs and landmarks to record professional footage. Typically a production crew, helicopter and thousands of dollars would be needed to do something similar. In one instance Guinn flew it through the intertwining metal that is part of the replica Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel and Casino.

"The people who are putting our two-axis gimbal on the Phantom are probably using it for independent productions, student films or advertising," he said at the NAB Show.

The Phantom alone costs US$679 and has been available since early this year. The Zen Muse stabilization system won't be available for another one to two months and pricing will be less than $1,000, according to Guinn. The GoPro Hero 3 camera is sold separately for $200 to $400 depending on the model.

The battery in the Phantom will last for seven to 15 minutes depending on use and payload on the drone. Additional batteries are sold for $23.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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