DJI Mini 4 Pro Review - Is it Worth The Price?

DJI Mini 4 Pro

The DJI Mini 4 Pro just came and as you'd probably guess, fans are going crazy over it.

That being said… should you replace your Mini 3 Pro and upgrade to this new (and allegedly) improved drone?

To answer that exact question, I spent the last few weeks playing around with it and I have to say, I was quite surprised.

By the end of this article, you'll know for sure whether it's time to get the DJI Mini 4 Pro, or stick to something less pricier but just as good.

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Freelance vs Full-Time UAV Pilot Salary

I've had the opportunity to explore both freelance and full-time roles in the industry. This experience has given me a clear understanding of how salaries and job structures differ in each path.

When working freelance, you can charge your clients either per project or on an hourly basis. This setup allows for a lot of flexibility in choosing projects and managing work hours. The potential to earn more per project is there, especially in specialized areas like aerial photography. 

However, the income isn't always consistent. There are times when you earn a lot, but there are also quieter periods. Plus, you have to handle your own expenses, such as equipment and insurance.

In a full-time drone pilot role, the situation is quite different. The salary is regular, which means steady income and less financial uncertainty. Full-time jobs often come with extra benefits like health insurance and paid holidays. 

The trade-off is less flexibility in work hours and the types of projects you get to work on. But, there's usually more chance for career growth and learning new skills in a full-time position.

AspectFreelance Drone PilotFull-Time Drone Pilot
IncomeVariable; based on projects and hourly ratesSteady; regular salary
Earning PotentialPotentially higher per project; fluctuates annuallyConsistent but may be lower per project
FlexibilityHigh; choose projects and work hoursLower; set hours and assigned projects
Job SecurityLess stable; dependent on finding projectsMore stable; regular employment
BenefitsSelf-provided (insurance, retirement plans)Often provided (health insurance, paid vacation)
ExpensesSelf-covered (equipment, marketing)Covered by employer
Career GrowthSelf-directed; more independenceStructured opportunities for advancement

DJI Mini 4 Pro Quick Overview Table 

SpecificationDetails
Weight< 249 g (With Intelligent Flight Battery Plus, weight exceeds 249 g)
DimensionsFolded (without propellers): 148×94×64 mm; Unfolded (with propellers): 298×373×101 mm
Maximum Speed35.7 mph
Ascent/Descent Speed11 mph / 6.7 mph
Wind Resistance23.9 mph
Battery CapacityIntelligent Flight Battery: 2590 mAh; Intelligent Flight Battery Plus: 3850 mAh
Maximum Flight Time34 minutes (with Intelligent Flight Battery); 45 minutes (with Intelligent Flight Battery Plus)
Sensing TypeOmnidirectional binocular vision system, supplemented with a 3D infrared sensor at the bottom
Remote Controllers CompatibilityDJI RC 2, RC-N2
Transmission Distance20 km / 12.4 miles
Maximum Flight Distance11 miles (with Intelligent Flight Battery); 15.53 miles (with Intelligent Flight Battery Plus)
CameraWide-Angle: 1/1.3-inch CMOS, 48 MP; Aperture: f/1.7; Format Equivalent: 24mm
Still Photography ModesSingle Shot: 12 MP and 48 MP; Burst Shooting: 12 MP, 3/5/7 frames; 48 MP, 3 frames; Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 12 MP, 3/5/7 frames at 0.7 EV step; 48 MP, 3 frames at 0.7 EV step; Timed: 12 MP, 2/3/5/7/10/15/20/30/60 s; 48 MP, 5/7/10/15/20/30/60 s
Video ResolutionH.264/H.265; 4K: 3840×2160@24/25/30/48/50/60/100fps; FHD: 1920×1080@24/25/30/48/50/60/100/200*fps

Pros and Cons of DJI Mini 4 Pro

Pros

  • Super Portable: Tiny and light, ideal for travel.
  • No FAA Hassles: Weighs under 249 grams, avoiding registration in many places.
  • Awesome Video Quality: Offers 4K60 in various formats.
  • Vertical Video: Great for content on TikTok and YouTube.
  • Choose Your Controller: Two options available for different styles.

Cons

  • Missing AirSense: No alerts for nearby planes.
  • Heavier Battery, More Paperwork: Extended battery requires registration.
  • Limited Low-Light Performance: Struggles slightly in very low-light conditions.

The DJI Mini 4 Pro is a compact and versatile drone, excellent for travel and creating high-quality video content. While it's mostly hassle-free due to its weight, the lack of an AirSense transponder, the need for registration with the heavier battery, and some limitations in low-light performance are points to consider. Overall, it stands out as a strong option for both amateur and professional drone users.

drone camera specs section

DJI Mini 4 Specs

Alright, now let's dive into a more exciting part: the features and improvements in the DJI Mini 4 Pro.

Design and Build Quality

The DJI Mini 4 Pro really stands out for how it's made and how easy it is to carry around. It's super light, weighing only 249 grams. It means in many places, including the US, you don't need to register it according to US drone laws. It's so small and handy, it can fit in a backpack or a big pocket, perfect for trips or quick outings.

DJI Mini 4 Pro

Even though it's light, the Mini 4 Pro is strong and well-made. It's great for you if you wants a drone that's easy to take with them but can still handle regular use..

Camera Performance

If you're a drone enthusiast keen on color grading, the DJI Mini 4 Pro offers some neat features like D-Log M and HLG. These options are great for adding a professional flair to your videos, though they can be a bit tricky for beginners to master.

The camera on this drone really stands out. It's equipped with a 1/1.3-inch sensor and 48 megapixels, ensuring your images are sharp and detailed. You'll love the clarity it brings to everything from natural landscapes to urban scenes.

For video, the Mini 4 Pro shines with its 4K at 60fps capability. Whether you're using H.264 or H.265 formats, the footage is impressively smooth, thanks to the 3-axis gimbal. However, it's worth noting that in very low light conditions, the video quality can suffer a bit, showing some graininess.

While the Mini 4 Pro's camera is mostly top-notch, capturing everything from high-speed action to calm settings with great quality, it does have its limitations, especially in low-light scenarios. So, while it's a fantastic tool for both photography and videography, keep in mind these small challenges when shooting in less-than-ideal lighting conditions.

Obstacle Avoidance

The DJI Mini 4 Pro is notable for its advanced obstacle avoidance capabilities. It is equipped with six fisheye sensors that provide comprehensive coverage around the drone, enabling it to detect and avoid obstacles effectively. 

This feature significantly boosts safety and user-friendliness, especially for complete beginners in areas crowded with obstacles such as trees or buildings. 

The drone's design allows it to stop or autonomously manoeuvre around these obstacles, making it ideal for novices aiming to capture professional-quality footage without the complexity of mastering secure flying techniques. This functionality ensures a safer and more efficient flying experience, even for those new to drone operation.

In addition to its obstacle avoidance technology, the DJI Mini 4 Pro also offers features such as Waypoints, which allow for pre-planning of flight paths. This functionality not only enhances safety but also aids in creative endeavours, facilitating complex aerial shots. 

The drone's ability to smoothly navigate challenging environments is a testament to its sophisticated design. However, it's worth noting that in extremely confined spaces, the drone's cautious approach may lead to more frequent stops.

Overall, the Mini 4 Pro's advanced obstacle detection system positions it as a versatile drone suitable for both novice and experienced users. It provides a layer of safety that minimises concerns during flight and enables a range of creative possibilities.

Flight Performance

The DJI Mini 4 Pro stands out for its long flight time and impressive range. With the standard battery, it consistently delivers about 34 minutes of flight time. If you use the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus, which isn't available in Europe, the flight time extends to around 45 minutes, giving you more time to fly and capture footage.

As for its range, the Mini 4 Pro can fly far. With the standard battery, it can reach up to 18 km, and with the Plus battery, it goes up to 25 km. The Mini 4 Pro drone can fly really far, which is great for filming. With its normal battery, it can go up to 18 km, and with a better battery, it can fly up to 25 km. 

This means you can fly it over big areas, like a whole city. This is perfect for people who make YouTube videos, do drone filming for work, or just enjoy flying drones as a hobby. A better battery means the drone can fly longer, so you have more time to take amazing videos without needing to change batteries all the time.

Stability and Speed

When it comes to stability and speed, the Mini 4 Pro competes well against other drones in its class. It can handle winds up to 10.7 m/s, which means a bit of wind isn't a big deal. I've flown it on breezy days and the footage was still stable.

For speed, it's quite versatile. In S Mode, it zips around at 16 m/s, perfect for fast action shots. In N and C Modes, it's more relaxed at 12 m/s, great for smooth, cinematic looks. It's also quick to ascend and descend – 5 m/s in S and N Modes and 3 m/s in C Mode. This made getting high shots or coming down for close-ups really easy.

However, you might find that in very strong winds, the Mini 4 Pro's stability gets a bit challenged, and the battery tends to drain faster. But overall, in terms of flight time, range, stability, and speed, the Mini 4 Pro is a reliable choice, offering you a lot of flexibility for different shooting scenarios.

Battery Life and Accessories

The mini 4 pro offers two battery options. The standard one gets you about 34 minutes of flight time, which is great for most of my shoots. But, if you opt for the Plus version (not available in Europe), you're looking at an impressive 45 minutes in the air!

Charging is pretty straightforward. The standard battery charges up in about 70 minutes with the DJI charger. The Plus battery takes a bit longer, but the extra flight time is worth it.

DJI also offers some cool accessories. The Two-Way Charging Hub is super handy for charging multiple batteries at once. They recommend good microSD cards like SanDisk Extreme PRO or Kingston Canvas for storage. And the DJI RC-N2 remote? It lasts up to 6 hours, which is great for long shooting days.

In summary, the Mini 4 Pro's battery life and accessories are pretty solid. Whether you're out for a quick flight or a whole day of shooting, this drone has the power and extras to back you up. Just remember, using the Plus battery might require registration due to the extra weight.

Advanced Features

ActiveTrack 360°: You'll love how this feature lets you track subjects with amazing flexibility. It smoothly spirals around the subject, capturing dynamic footage.

360-Degree Camera Rotation: Perfect for your social media content, this function rotates the camera for vertical videos. It enhances shots like skyscrapers and eliminates cropping issues.

Night Shots Feature: The Mini 4 Pro isn't just for daytime adventures. You can capture stunning low-light scenes in 4K/30fps, although you might notice a slight decrease in detail compared to daylight shots.

images 5

Omnidirectional Vision Sensing: This safety feature is a game-changer. It helps the drone dodge obstacles from all directions, giving you extra confidence, especially in complex environments.

10-bit D-Log M and HLG: If you're into editing, these colour profiles offer incredible range and detail, adding a professional quality to your videos and photos.

DJI O4 Video Transmission: This ensures a stable connection, even in urban areas with lots of interference, providing smooth streaming without significant interruptions.

These features make the DJI Mini 4 Pro a powerhouse of creativity and safety. It's an excellent choice for both professional and amateur pilots, offering a range of capabilities that enhance the overall flying and shooting experience.

affordable drone by price

Pricing and Value for Money

It’s now time to address the question on everyone's mind: how much does the DJI Mini 4 Pro cost?

Current Price

The DJI Mini 4 Pro starts at $759 for the basic kit, which is on par with its predecessor, the Mini 3 Pro. If you want an upgraded controller, it's $959. For the full experience, the Fly More Bundle at $1,099 offers extra batteries and a shoulder bag, which is quite a deal considering all the extras.

Is it Value for Money

Considering the dji mini 4 pro specs, I believe it offers good value for money. It's a great choice for those new to DJI or upgrading from an older model. With its advanced video capabilities (like 4K slow-mo) and new safety features, it's a powerful drone in a small package. 

While it's not a huge leap from the Mini 3 Pro, it's a worthwhile investment for newcomers or those seeking an upgrade. Plus, its weight under 250 grams means less hassle with registrations in many places. So, for what it offers, the Mini 4 Pro is a solid deal.

Dji mini 4 pro vs 3 pro 

Let's chat about the DJI Mini 4 Pro and how it stacks up against its predecessor, the Mini 3 Pro. Both are stellar drones, but what's new with the Mini 4 Pro, and is it worth the upgrade? 

To get a comprehensive understanding of the Mini 3 Pro's features and how it compares, check out the DJI Mini 3 Pro complete review

This detailed analysis will help you see the advancements and new features introduced in the Mini 4 Pro, making it easier to decide if the upgrade is right for you.

FeatureDJI Mini 4 ProDJI Mini 3 Pro
Design and BuildLightweight, under 250 grams. Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors for 360-degree coverage.Lightweight, under 250 grams. Limited obstacle detection.
Flight PerformanceSimilar speed and wind resistance to Mini 3 Pro. Larger battery for impressive flight times. O4 FHD video transmission system for up to 20 km flight distance.Similar speed and wind resistance. Standard flight times and transmission system.
Camera CapabilitiesSame sensor and lens as Mini 3 Pro. 4K videos at 100fps, HDR video at 60fps, and D-Log M colour profile.Same sensor and lens. Standard 4K video capabilities without the advanced slow-motion and HDR features.
Advanced FeaturesWaypoint flights for autonomous path repetition. Full-featured ActiveTrack 360 for dynamic subject tracking.Basic ActiveTrack feature without the advanced tracking capabilities of the Mini 4 Pro.
Pricing and ValuePricier, but offers advanced features for enthusiasts and professionals.More budget-friendly, suitable for users who don't need the advanced features of the Mini 4 Pro.

Final Thoughts About The DJI Mini 4 Pro

The DJI Mini 4 Pro is like a tiny powerhouse of a film studio that you can carry around. It's super easy to take with you wherever you go, and it's packed with features that are usually found in bigger, professional drones. The camera is top-notch, perfect for capturing stunning aerial shots, and with its 360-degree obstacle avoidance, it's almost like it can't crash.

Flying this drone is super easy, and the battery life is long enough to let you really get creative. Sure, at $759, it's not cheap, but considering all the high-quality features you're getting, it feels like you're getting a professional drone without spending a ton of money.

So, is it worth it? Absolutely, especially if you love taking amazing photos and videos from the sky or if you're just a big fan of cool tech. The Mini 4 Pro is perfect for stepping up your game in aerial photography. It's a small drone, but its potential is huge.

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faq what should you look for in a drone

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section we'll answer all questions related to the above article:

Is DJI Mini 4 Pro waterproof?

No. Avoid contact with water during use, as it may damage the device. If it rains during the flight, return and land as soon as possible, and wait until the aircraft is fully dry inside and out before using it again.

What app do I need to install before using DJI Mini 4 Pro?

DJI Mini 4 Pro can only be used with the DJI Fly app. You can download the latest version of DJI Fly from the DJI Mini 4 Pro Downloads page on the official DJI website.

What DJI Mini 3 Pro accessories can be used with DJI Mini 4 Pro?

DJI Mini 4 Pro is compatible with the DJI 30W USB-C Charger, DJI 18W USB Charger, DJI Mini 3 Pro Intelligent Flight Battery Plus*, DJI Mini 3 Pro Intelligent Flight Battery, and DJI Mini 3 Pro Two-Way Charging Hub.

Compared with the O3 video transmission system, what are the upgrades of the O4 video transmission system?

The O4 video transmission system features a new hardware design and an additional frequency band. Its upgraded communication algorithm enhances FHD video transmission up to 20 km, improves anti-interference, and ensures stable transmission in complex urban environments. The remote controller supports a 1080p/60fps live feed for a smoother viewing experience.

What remote controllers are compatible with DJI Mini 4 Pro?

DJI Mini 4 Pro currently supports two remote controllers: DJI RC-N2 and DJI RC 2.

Can I use other USB-C chargers to charge DJI Mini 4 Pro?

Yes. To ensure charging speed, it is recommended to use the DJI 30W USB-C Charger or other USB Power Delivery chargers.

The Complete History of Drones (1898-2024) - INFOGRAPHIC

The history of drones has mixed origins and stories from both the world of military development as well as consumer radio controlled quadcopters or planes.

Let’s find out in detail where it all began and how modern drones of all types have evolved with the help of the infographic below.

There are even more details about each year after the infographic ends with specifics about the drone technology of that period.

image 49

1898 - First Radio - Controlled Boat by Nikola Tesla

nikola tesla remote controlled boat picture

Nikola Tesla is testing his radio controlled boat for the first time in a New York pond in Madison Square Garden, to the amazement of the crowd. He was able to even control the lights on his RC boat, making the people think he was either a magician or that a small monkey was inside, controlling the craft.

This is the beginning of every radio-controlled aircraft as we know it today, thanks to the genius of Tesla.

1916 - First UAV developed by Britain - Aerial Target

 Britain’s Aerial Target, a small radio-controlled aircraft, was first tested in March 1917 while the American aerial torpedo known as the Kettering Bug first flew in October 1918. Although both showed promise in flight tests, neither were used operationally during the war.

britain aerial target drone

1920 - First Quadcopter - Omnichen 2

De Bothezat Quadrotor omnichen2.jpg

Etienne Omnichen invented the first working quadcopter, called the Omnichen 2 and it managed to fly for 360m, establishing a new world record. In the same year he flew for 1 km circle in 7 minutes and 40 seconds.

People were looking for an alternative to helicopters,as their tail rotor consumes between 10-15% of the engine power without generating any thrust.

1935 - Inception of the term “drone”

It's thought the term 'drone' started to be used at this time, inspired by the name of one of these models, the DH.82B Queen Bee. Radio-controlled drones were also manufactured in the United States and used for target practice and training.

dh 82b queen bee first drone winston churchill

The Queen Bee is considered by many to be the first modern drone, even though it looked more like a plane.

Here you can see prime minister Winston Churchill attending a flight test of the first drone.

1938 - First successful Model Radio Control Airplane

big Guff

While the first ever Model RC Plane competition was held in 1937, where Elmer Wasman placed third with his RC plane “White Mistery”, the RC planes were facing serious controllability issues. 

In 1938, the first successful RC model plane was seen flying. It’s called “Big Guff” and it was built by the Walt and Bill Good. For trivia purposes, it also appeared in a film by the Academy of Model Aeronautic that I have posted down below.

1943 - Beginnings of FPV Flight (first person view)

Boeing and the US Airforce collaborate to create the first example of a first person view drone called the BQ-7.  This was essentially an older large bomber plane, that still required manned flight to get close to the target, but once the pilot ejected, it could be guided through an FPV system to the target and explode all its contents.

bq7 plane fpv

1956 - Convertawings model A quadcopter

convertawings model A quadcopter

Seen at the time as a potential replacement for helicopters, the Convertawings Model A quadcopter was seen as the first successful model that could mainstream the quadcopter model. Unlike classical helicopter design, the 4 rotor system is much more efficient when it comes to fuel consumption and overall controllability.

Why are we not seeing quadcopters in the sky instead of helicopters? 

Well, the processing power at the time was not enough to be able to control all the four rotors at the same time. These days we have ESC's (Electronic Speed Controllers) that handle the speed at which the motors rotate.

1960 - Boom in model RC Planes

Thanks to miniaturized transistor technology, model RC planes had a dramatic boom in sales during this decade and got popularized by hobbyists. This was perhaps the boost needed to speed the development of today's commercial RC tech.

rc model 1960 cover magazine

1996 - Famous Predator US drone was introduced

us predator drone

Probably the easiest to recognise military drone to this day is the famous Predator, which was used in Afghanistan to launch missles and search for Osama Bin Laden. The drone operated at an altitude of 25,000 ft and had a maximum range of 740km, while being able to fly for 40 hours.

2006- First commercial drone permit by FAA - DJI was founded

First industrial and commercial uses of quadcopters and other UAVs had it’s infancy with the first commercial drone permit released by the FAA. For the following 8 years they issued an average of 2 permits per year.

The same year, Frank Wang, a mainland-born student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has an idea to revolutionize how useful quadcopters are for the mainstream population. The company is called DJI.

dji founder picture

2010 - Parrot Controls a drone with a Smartphone

parrot controlling a drone with a smartphone for the first time AR drone

The french drone manufacturer Parrot unveiled it’s AR Drone, the first of its kind to be controllable directly from a smartphone.It had self stabilizing gyros and an FPV camera.

2013 - DJI phantom 1 is released

The iconic DJI Phantom 1 is released and began the modern drone craze. It could hold a gopro and be controlled from afar, all coming for a great price. The shape of the Phantom drone becomes synonymous to how consumer drones are perceived.

dji phantom 1 release

2013 - Drones are being considered as a delivery method

amazon drones as delivery method

The likes of Jeff Bezos with Amazon and other delivery companies like FedEx and UPS declare their intention to use drones for delivering their products in record times though airborne means. The only issue is that the technology, battery life and regulation hasn’t yet caught up with their ambitions.

2015 - First Smart Consumer Drones - DJI Phantom 3

The Phantom 3 is released and becomes one of the best sold consumer drones in history. It comes with a stabilized 4k camera, the ability to see FPV feed on your phone and fly it for up to 5 km and 23 minutes battery life, which made it the best choice at the time by far. 3DR also released a revolutionary drone that worked with the GoPro Hero and had many Smart flight modes never seen before.

dji phantom 3 launch history

2016 - Autonomous Passenger Drone Car - Ehang

ehang drone car

Another Chinese tech company called Ehang develops the first working Autonomous Passenger Drone Car that looks futuristic and very promising.

A passenger could be transported anywhere for up to 23 minutes and it worked with an electric motor and batteries.

2016 - DJI Mavic Pro - First Foldable consumer drone

The DJI Mavic was a revolutionary drone that introduced the working concept of a foldable consumer quadcopter for the first time. This meant it was one of the most portable quadcopters ever made, while not compromising on any features, including camera gimbal stabilization and a long flight time. All while being easy to fit in any backpack.

dji mavic pro history

2018 - Use of Drones Grows Rapidly

use of drones grows

Drones like The Mavic Air, Mavic 2 and DJI’s competitors, like Autel and Parrot continue to release new models and grow both in the hobby sector as well as the professional drones sectors.

2019 - Under 250 gram limitation (Mavic Mini)

The US and many European countries release new drone regulations that state any drone over 250 grams has to be registered. In response, DJI released the Mavic Mini, a 4k stabilized drone under 250 grams that has unprecedented features for such a small quadcopter and revolutionized the industry once again.

dji mini 2 hold in hand under 250g history

2020-2021 - Drones help in the pandemic

drones help in pandemic

Drones have been a staple during the coronavirus outbreak, helping with medical supply deliveries, police work in social distancing and quarantine.

Police uses them to maintain social distancing and firefighters use drones to find entry spots in buildings without putting themselves in the harms way.

How did the Drone Get Its Name?

The word "drone" originally referred to male bees that do not have a stinger and are known for their low humming sound. The term was later applied to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) due to the similar sound they make when in flight.

dji-mini-2-table-img

When did drones become popular?

dji-mini-2-table-img

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles. It wasn't until the early 2010s that they really started to gain popularity. One major factor in this was the release of consumer drones like the Parrot AR.Drone and DJI Phantom, which made it possible for anyone to fly a drone with relative ease.

As these drones became more affordable and accessible, people began using them for a wide variety of purposes, from aerial photography and videography to surveying land and inspecting infrastructure. Drones also proved to be valuable tools in industries like agriculture, where they could be used to monitor crops and gather data on soil conditions.

Who created the quadcopter?

The first flying quadcopter, as we know it today, is difficult to pinpoint to a specific individual or company. However, the earliest known example of a quadcopter dates back to 1920s France, when Etienne Oehmichen built and flew a helicopter with four rotors that was powered by an internal combustion engine.

dji-mini-2-table-img

What is the future of drones?

dji-mini-2-table-img

Drones have already revolutionized a number of industries, including agriculture, construction, and even search and rescue operations. In agriculture, drones equipped with sensors and cameras can help farmers monitor crop health and identify areas that need attention. This can lead to increased yields and more efficient use of resources like water and fertilizer.

In the construction industry, drones are being used for everything from surveying land to monitoring job sites for safety hazards. They can also be used to create 3D models of buildings and other structures, which can help architects and engineers design more efficiently.

And in search and rescue operations, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras can help locate missing persons or people stranded in remote locations. They can cover large areas quickly and provide rescuers with valuable information that can save lives.

As drone technology continues to advance, we can expect to see even more exciting applications in the future. For example, companies like Amazon are already testing delivery drones that could potentially revolutionize the way goods are transported around the world. And as autonomous flight technology improves, we may eventually see drones used for things like personal transportation or even air taxis!

Know more about what makes up a drone that can withstand the ever-changing progression of technology through this article.

First drone that can carry a human: EHang 184

The idea of a drone that can carry a human is certainly exciting and has the potential to revolutionize transportation. However, there are still many technical and regulatory hurdles that need to be overcome before this becomes a reality.

dji-mini-2-table-img

The first challenge is developing drones that are capable of carrying the weight of a human safely and efficiently. This requires advances in battery technology to provide sufficient power, as well as improved propulsion systems and control mechanisms.

Another challenge is ensuring safety for both the passengers and people on the ground. There would need to be strict regulations around air traffic control, as well as safety features built into the drones themselves, such as redundancy systems and parachutes.

Despite these challenges, there are already companies working on developing manned drones for commercial use. For example, Chinese company EHang has developed an autonomous passenger drone called the EHang 184, which has completed successful test flights with passengers in Dubai.

It's an exciting development for sure, but we're still some way off from seeing manned drones become a common sight in our skies. Nonetheless, it's an area of technology that will continue to be closely watched by industry experts and enthusiasts alike!

Can Drones Fly Without Propellers? (The Whole Truth)

Drone propelllers

Most, if not all consumer drones have propellers. It’s such an iconic piece of drones that it’s hard for any one who spent a long enough period with drones to imagine them without propellers.

However, chances are you’ve probably seen some drones circulating social media that look futuristic and that fly without the use of propellers. The sad truth is that most often than not those pictures and videos are edited and the drones are purely fictional.

That being said, the technology for developing drones that have no need for propellers is being developed and there are actually some drones that are experimenting with “propeller-less” flight. So, do drones without propellers exist?

Drones without propellers do exist. A drone that comes to mind and doesn’t use propellers is called the “impeller drone”, designed by London’s royal college of art student Marcus King. It uses centrifugal fans in place of axial fans and it works exactly like leaf blowers.

How do drone propellers work?

We’ve just confirmed that drones without propellers do in fact exist (there is another type called bladeless drone which I’ll go into). But all of this begs the question, why aren’t there more drones out there that don’t use propellers?

I mean, propellers are noisy and dangerous if you get too close to them. Switching to drones that have no need for them seems the obvious move… It’s not that easy…

Propellers are crucial to a drone’s flight, which is why I think it’s important to go over how they work before getting in detail into drones that don’t require propellers.

Drone propellers work by spinning from the force applied by the motor. The higher air pressure on the bottom of the propellers creates lift for the entire drone. Their rotation also keeps the drone stable and propels it to move forwards. These features are made possible by their unique design.

To date all ways to recreate this process have been inefficient and not that promising. Sure, as you’ll see in this article there are drones that hover just fine without propellers but they can’t properly maneuver in the air.

I’ve made a whole article discussing exactly how drone propellers work, you can check it out here.

Drones that can fly without propellers

There are two types of drones that don’t need propellers that I’ve found during my research. Impeller drones and bladeless drones.

The impeller drone and how it works

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The picture you’re seeing above is an impeller drone. Or at least, it’s how it’s going to look when it’s finally ready for production.

The original idea came from London’s royal art college student Marcus King. The motivation behind this design was to create a safer and quieter drone. As you already know, propellers with their high spinning speeds actually pose a real danger to pilots and passerbys alike. 

Impeller drones work exactly like leaf blowers with a minor difference. Instead of air being pulled from the back and pushed out front, impeller drones pull air from their sides and push it downwards, giving them the necessary force for lift.

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Make no mistake the drone still uses blades. They’re just protected within the plastic casing that you can see above. This prevents the blades from getting ruined in the inevitable drone crashes and also prevents them from injuring anyone in case someone gets too close to the drone.

That being said, it only solves one problem. Instead of being quieter, impeller drones are actually really loud (like leaf blowers) since it pushes the air forcibly downwards through its small duct.

Bladeless drones and how they work

Another type of drones that’s supposed to fly without needing propellers is bladeless drones. Much like the impeller drones, bladeless drones are still only a concept and there is currently no working bladeless drone in the market.

They look extremely futuristic though. Check out how a bladeless drone is supposed to look like in this video I found:

The actual design may different when these come out (if they ever come out).

It was designed by Edgar Herrera and won the red dot design award back in 2017, almost 5 years ago with no production in sight… It’s safe to assume this is a concept that is yet to see the light of day.

It actually looks like Dyson fans so it got the name “Dyson drone” (the drone community can be creative at times).

Since it’s only a concept, any description on how it works or supposed to work is just speculation at this point. 

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These are basically the two concepts for propeller-less drones that I’ve found. As you can see they’re only concepts, I don’t actually expect a drone that doesn’t rely on propellers to hit the market for at least another 5 years. And when it does, I’m almost certain it will come for DJI.

There is an actual working propeller-less that I could find on the internet. The design is crude but it floats just fine:

Can a quadcopter fly with only 3 propellers?

A common question that comes up from time to time in the dorne community. If you’ve ever flown drones for long enough you’ll surely have experienced cases where one propeller flings off the drone, most times it happens because it was loose and not properly fixed in place.

In many cases, a quadcopter drone can fly on only 3 propellers. Saying “fly” is pushing it a little though, as most drones will only be operational enough to do what is called an emergency landing in case one propeller flings off. It depends on the software of the drone and how it’s made. 

That being said, Quadcopters are vulnerable when a propeller fails, because if you lose power on one motor, you can’t correct it. If you have a penta-, hexa-, or octocopter, you can correct it. Also, there’s often less load on each propeller in these cases, so the chances of braking are little in the first place.

So yes, you can still fly your quadcopter if one propeller comes off, depending on your setup. But I wouldn’t rely heavily on it.

Can a drone fly on only one propeller?

So we know that there are drones that can fly on two propellers, although not optimally.

But in the case of one propeller, is it possible? Well, one weird looking drone that was developed at the Institute for Dynamics Systems and Control at ETH Zurich can actually do that.

As you can see in this video, it’s flight it’s shaky and frankly you can’t expect to work with this drone. But it does show the amount of research and innovation being put into the drone field. I’m kind of excited to see how drones will develop over the next 5 years!

Final thoughts

As you can tell, the drone propeller-less drone concepts are… well, just concepts. To date, the drones that fly without propellers do so crudely and they’re usually only good enough for floating and barely holding their balance.

Still, I think we’ll definitely witness drones that fly without propellers in the coming years.

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