After a series of obvious teases and rumors, Xiaomi, the Chinese manufacturer known for its smartphone business has unveiled an affordable drone, called the “Mi Drone” that is capable of shooting 4K aerial videos. However, it only costs $460 which is even cheaper than DJI’s Phantom 3 that was launched last year. Unlike its fellow competitors, Xiaomi has managed to design a modular body that can be carried anywhere without much hassles. Despite the low price point, the Mi Drone comes packaged with a bunch of interesting features, here are a couple of them.

1. Top Notch Hardware


Although the new Mi Drone costs $460/$380 , Xiaomi hasn’t sacrificed much on the hardware. It comes attached with a 360-degree Sony 12.4-megapixel camera module that has the ability to record either 4K footage at 30fps or Full HD at 60fps. RAW image functionality along with a 3-axis stabilization that interestingly calibrates itself 2,000 times per second is also available. There’s also a removable 5100mAh battery that can last up to 27 minutes. Unfortunately, you can’t attach a large screen tablet on the remote, Xiaomi although mentions it works perfectly with a Mi Max (which has 6.44-inch screen). The two antennas present provide control over the quadcopter at an impressive range of 2km (or 1km in case of the lower end variant) while shooting 720p videos.

2. Intelligent Software Tweaks for Beginners


Customers who pulled back their decisions of getting into aerial videography will definitely become interested in this, however, drones do require an intermediate operator to function properly. Thankfully, Xiaomi’s Mi drone offers some neat features for amateurs. There’s a dedicated button on the controller for taking off that is activated with a short press and landing by a long press. Additionally, there’s a feature for telling the drone to follow a planned route or circle around the center while filming. One thing it misses out is the “Follow-me” functionality which can come in handy if you’re in a situation where controlling the drone isn’t possible, for instance – driving a cycle. There’s another switch on the remote that can directly instruct the drone to return home.

3. Smart Positioning and a Multi-Layered Security Model


The Mi Drone sports both GPS and GLONASS to attain accurate positions and in the case of a satellite unavailability, it can switch to vision positioning and will continue to hover at low altitudes ranging below 2.5 Meters. Moreover, the drone will automatically return to base when commanded or when the battery drains out or when it goes out of range which is quite helpful, something DJI’s Phantom fails to achieve. Another level of security lets the user track location in an event of a crash. Xiaomi has also included an extra PCB antenna array to enhance range. Users can also define a virtual fence beyond which the drone cannot fly.

4. Modular Design


One of the major pain points of DJI’s Phantom series is that they are incredibly difficult to travel with as other than the wings, nothing can be detached. Xiaomi did their research and have opted for a modular design meaning the different components like the camera can be taken off and furthermore, the body itself is foldable. Xiaomi is also selling a 99 Yuan ($15) backpack specifically designed for the drone.

Xiaomi has definitely raised the bar of how affordable a full-sized drone can be by pricing the “Mi Drone” at $460 for the 4K version or $380 for the 1080p crowdfunded variant. This could lead to a considerable downfall in DJI’s sales, however, when it comes to sheer quality, professionals will probably might invest in the Phantom series. Xiaomi’s CEO says that their product is not just for “rich kids” and the company wants to use its profile to help democratize the technology. Xiaomi hasn’t commented as of now on global launch.

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Shubham is based out of Ahmedabad, India and is studying to be a Computer Engineer, while specializing in mobile applications. He loves covering what's new in the smartphone space and aims to make it his primary profession some day.