What is the Deal With the DJI Phantom Line?

DJI phantom 5 not canceled

It’s been a wild few days for DJI after a series of articles from DroneDJ with news the DJI Phantom 5 had been canceled, and product leads had been moved to other projects. Needless to say, fans of the iconic camera drone were none too happy with the news. Two camps quickly formed with those questioning the validity of the series, and those frankly, questioning the sanity of DJI if the company moved to cancel the series.

DJI’s Inadvertent Comment?

Let’s back up a bit and look at how we got here. Recently, DJI’s Director of Public Safety Integration, Romeo Durscher, appeared on a podcast last month and had one whopper of a comment about the DJI Phantom. “Yes, the Phantom line with the exception of the Phantom 4 Pro RTK has come to an end.”

Yeah, that’s what you call a textbook gaffe. We already knew the original Phantom 4 had reached its end-of-life cycle. That’s not news. What is news is Romeo saying the entire Phantom line was done outside of the RTK model.

Adam Lisberg, DJI’s communications director, was left to play cleanup, basically saying Romeo misspoke and that the Phantom line has not been axed.

Phantom 4 Pro Stock Issues

However, the line out of DJI does not address the ongoing stock issues with the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, which has been plagued with out of stock notices for nearly six months. If you’re asking what gives, join the club. Here’s where you have to connect a PR comment with a company scandal.

The official line from DJI has been the same one going on months.

“Due to a shortage of parts from a supplier, DJI is unable to manufacture more Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 drones until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause and recommend our customers explore DJI’s Mavic series drones as an alternative solution to serve their needs.”

That’s a hell of a stock issue. Unless they are making each component by hand and putting them on rafts across the Pacific, the statement doesn’t hold much water six months into the sudden ‘parts shortage.’ Remember, the Phantom 4 Pro was shipping on its announcement.

Corruption at DJI & Suppliers

And the ‘shortage’ comment leads to another story impacting DJI around the same time the Phantoms started displaying out of stock notices. The company was hit by a $150 million corruption scandal involving both suppliers and employees.

During a recent investigation, DJI itself found some employees inflated the cost of parts and materials for certain products for personal financial gain. We took swift action to address this issue, fired the bad actors, and contacted law enforcement officials. We continue to investigate the situation and are cooperating fully with law enforcement’s investigation.

We are taking steps to strengthen internal controls and have established new channels for employees to submit confidential and anonymous reports relating to any violations of the company’s ethical and workplace conduct policies.

The scandal pushed DJI to set up an anti-corruption taskforce raising the possibility there could be more to come. The company released a statement backing its 14,000 employees and outlining steps to prevent any issues in the future.

DJI Phantom 5?

So, where does that leave us with the Phantom 5? Rumors have ebbed and flowed over the past year including the leaked of images showing a Phantom drone with interchangeable lenses. DJI’s explanation was the drone was a one-off for an enterprise customer. Sorry, DJI, but you have an enterprise division. Wouldn’t those customers be interested in a similar platform?

And it just so happens to address the number one wishlist item of every Phantom owner. Interchangeable lenses. Right, a one-off with images which scream leak. Anyone who has ever looked on an iPhone leak website can tell these are the exact kind of images you expect with prototype leaks. Sorta blurry. Unnecessarily cropped. Just enough detail to suggest features, but not enough to make concrete assumptions.

Then there’s the bragging factor. If you managed to get the dominant drone company to build me the exact Phantom everyone else has been clamoring for, what would you do? Brag like hell. Crappy leaked photos? Nah, it’s time to show off the goods.  

In the same statement addressing Romeo’s Phantom comments, Adam Lisberg also addressed the DroneDJ’s piece on the Phantom 5 cancellation. “As for the Phantom 5 rumors, we’ve never said we considered making a Phantom 5 in the first place, so there’s nothing to cancel.”

That’s a bit glib but expected. Technically, Adam is correct. They haven’t said a damn thing. Of course, we can apply that logic to a variety of topics. Apple hasn’t said anything about considering the next iPhone. Yet, we know it’s going to be announced in September.

Will the DJI Phantom Live on?

A technical yes and an aspirational yes. Technically, the Phantom 4 RTK is available for sale, so yes, the Phantom lives. Now, I’m glib. The answer is a qualified yes. DJI’s dominance in the camera drone industry can be traced to one product line. The Phantom.

Yes, the new Mavics are great, but they do not match the features of the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. Image quality isn’t as crisp on the Mavic 2 Pro, though it has the same sensor. No 4K60p on the Mavic 2 line either, and I’m doubting we are regressing in features for flagship drones.

Could the Phantom be killed off? It’s possible, but from a brandability and sheer quality perspective, the answer is almost certainly no.

DJI has issues to work out with the corruption scandal. When they do, expect announcements. And lucky for us, DJI announces like Apple. The company holds an event, and the product quickly goes on sale.

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