Last Updated on 09/25/2023 by Chris Gampat
DJI’s smallest drones designed to skirt some legal restrictions have a new member—and the entry-level drone finally has all-around obstacle detection. The new DJI Mini 4 Pro equips the under-249g quadcopter with omnidirectional obstacle sensing and an extended transmission range. The quadcopter also gains the ability to save flight positions and create pre-programmed flight paths using Waypoints. However, the new entry-level drone carries the same camera specifications as the Mini 3 Pro.
DJI Mini 4 Pro key features
- A 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor with a Quad Bayer Design that shoots 48 megapixels or 12 megapixels
- An f1.7 lens with a wide view equivalent to with a one meter to infinity focus
- 4k 60 fps HDR and slow motion up to 100 fps in 4k, 10-bit D-Log M available, with an improved noise reduction algorithm for Night Shot video mode
- Vertical shooting for both stills and videos
- SmartPhoto technology mixes HDR and scene recognition, but in 12-megapixel mode only
- Omnidirectional obstacle sensing can detect obstacles on all sides, above and below the drone
- Upgraded to O4 video transmission, which increases the connection range between the drone and controller
- Waypoints allow for saving positions and flying pre-planned routes
- Up to 34 minutes of flight time with included battery
- Weighs under 249g
While reserving the best features for higher-end models is common practice, the DJI Mini line is a series targeted toward new pilots. The lack of obstacle detection in a drone designed for beginners likely pushed some new pilots towards models like the DJI Air 3 instead. But the DJI Mini 4 Pro incorporates more sensors than its predecessor, allowing for detecting obstacles above, below, and on all sides of the drone. The Mini 3 has only downward sensors for landing, while the Mini 3 Pro used forward, backward, and downward detection but did not sense obstacles to the sides or above.
While manual flight doesn’t require obstacle detection, using automated flight paths without the ability to see any potential obstacles in the way is risky. The Mini 4 Pro has more of those, too — with Waypoints adding the option to program your own flight paths in addition to previously existing video flight modes like Dronie. The addition of more obstacle detection sensors will allow pilots to try those shooting modes with confidence.
But automated flight modes aren’t just for video. Imagine the drone losing connection with the controller and DJI’s intelligent Return to Home feature kicking in and sending the drone back to the take-off point. Now imagine that way back home is littered with trees, buildings, or power lines—and the drone can’t see them. The obstacle detection sensors on the DJI Mini 4 are a significant upgrade to the safety of a drone meant for novices.
The drone also has an upgraded transmission system that will help maintain the connection between the drone and the controller over longer distances. Compared to the old 03 system, the updated drone can fly up to 20 km from the controller in scenarios free of interference, compared to 12 on the old system. This feature isn’t nearly as significant as the obstacle detection, however. In most cases, pilots need to maintain a line of sight on the drone to remain legal. Even on my older Mini 2, if I fly the drone far enough away to lose the connection, I’ve also lost line of sight. Where the upgrade will come in handy is in scenarios with interference, such as in urban areas. Previously, pilots in these areas could expect a transmission range between 1.5 and three kilometers. On the Mini 4 Pro, that’s upgraded to 1.5 to four km.
While the DJI Mini 4 Pro is safer than its predecessor, its camera remains largely unchanged. The gimbal cradles a 1.3-inch sensor paired with an f1.7 lens with a view equivalent to a 24mm full-frame lens. Like the previous Pro model, the drone uses a Quad Bayer sensor, which can use all 48 megapixels for a high-resolution shot or combine four neighboring pixels together for a 12-megapixel shot with less noise. The camera isn’t totally unchanged — the HDR mode is now integrated into what DJI is calling SmartPhoto, which also includes scene recognition but is only available in the 12-megapixel mode.
While some may be disappointed that the newest Mini Pro doesn’t update the camera, the drone maintains its price and sub-249g weight class. Keeping the same lens and sensor combo allows the drone to continue to shoot photos that are nearly always in focus with a one-meter to infinity range. Like the earlier Mini drones, the most impressive thing about the photos is the aerial perspective, but the images are still decent enough to print fairly big.
The DJI Mini 4 Pro begins shipping Sept. 25. It starts at $759 for a kit with a basic controller but climbs up to as high as $1,159 with the DJI RC 2 remote and three Intelligent Flight Battery Plus, which increases the battery life of the drone but also pushes it over the 249g weight class.