Xiaomi’s recently unveiled consumer drone has every intention of being a gamechanger. Much like the Chinese company’s wildly successful mid-range smartphones the Xiaomi Mi drone comes with high end specs at a fraction of the price.
The Mi comes in two models – one carrying a 4K camera at 2,999 yuan (£320 or $455) and a cheaper model, running 1080p, for 2,499 yuan (£265 or $380) – and both offering a steep discount on comparable drones.
Both models come with a three-axis gimbal, a companion app as a control and viewfinder, and a range of programmable features. Using these the drone can be set to follow a programmed route, take off and land autonomously, circle a fixed point, return home, and avoid marked areas. The 4K model has a range of 1.2 miles while the 1080p can reach half that; and both come with an impressive 27 minute battery life in which to stretch their range. Meanwhile, a modular design means that parts can be swapped out and upgraded in future.
While the brand’s ‘good enough’ smartphones have come to dominate the Chinese market it remains to be seen whether they can do the same in the drone world. While this price range is more accessible to consumers, they are likely to opt for something considerably cheaper like a Hubsan X4 or a UDI; while professionals are likely to stick with known and trusted brands until Xiaomi are able to prove they can deliver reliability and quality. With a range of competitors, as well as new entrants such as GoPro joining the fray, Xiaomi is setting out to undercut the high end of the market without reaching the cheap-and-cheerful bottom end. Whether high end functionality, offered at a discount, can compete with lower prices is an open question – but whatever happens, you can anticipate hearing a lot more about Xiaomi Mi drones, as well as seeing increasing numbers of versatile, cheaper drones taking flight.
In the meantime here’s Xiaomi’s public face for the world, Hugo Barra, spending 37 minutes unboxing a Mi drone:
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