Xiaomi’s Cheap New Drone Achieves Impulse-Buy Airspace
Xiaomi, a company best-known for producing surprisingly affordable, high quality smartphones you can’t buy in the US, has added to its roster a surprisingly affordable, (probably) high-quality drone—that you can’t buy in the US.
The Mi Drone has plenty of impressive specs, but the one that matters most is $460. That’s roughly how much it will cost when it launches in China this July, and well under half of what you’d pay DJI for its ubiquitous Phantom 4.
At least on paper, it’s not like you’re skimping much either. The Mi Drone quadcopter comes with a 4K camera that shoots at 30fps (you can also get a 1080p version for $380), a three-axis gimbal that corrects itself 2,000 times per second, and a remote control that uses a Xiaomi phone as a viewfinder.
The Mi Drone’s 5,100mAh battery promises nearly a half hour of flight time, and it uses GPS and GLOSNASS to ensure accurate positioning. It’s got location-tracking in case you lose it. That location-tracking will also force it to automatically hover when it hits a no-fly zone. Some smart software on board allows for flight path planning, automatic take-off and landing, and autopilot.
Under the Radar
That all sounds a whole like what you’d get from a high-end $1,400 DJI Phantom 4, to say nothing of the $800 Phantom 3 4K. The hardware also throws some modularity into the mix; you can detach the camera and the rotors, or replace the battery without much fuss. The landing gear folds up as well, meaning you can pretty easily disassemble and collapse the Mi Drone to fit into a backpack. (Xiaomi also sells a Mi Drone backpack for $15).
The catch, of course, is that all of this is great news if you live in China, but not particularly helpful stateside. Xiaomi says it has nothing to announce about U.S. availability. But that’s OK! The numbers and features sound good, but we still don’t know how the Mi Drone actually performs. Xiaomi has a good track record, but a drone isn’t a smartphone, a streamer box, or a set of earbuds. This probably isn’t something you’d want to preorder anyway, no matter how promising it sounds (and the price is).
Besides, Xiaomi’s main competitors, DJI and Yuneec, are also based in China, and should feel the pricing pressure exerted by serious new contender. How good the Mi Drone is doesn’t matter nearly as much as that it proves that it’s possible to make a drone with high-end components and a lengthy feature list for lazy-gift money. It won’t be long before the more established players follow suit.
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