For anyone who has been considering picking up an aerial drone, DJI just made that choice a little bit easier on the mind and wallet. 

The company's incredibly popular line of Phantom drones — one of which I had the pleasure of playing with earlier this year — received a new addition today in the form of the Phantom 3. While its looks won't be turning heads for those familiar with the iconic white drones, there are some updated features that should interest both hobbyists and professional photographers.

The new models come in two flavors, one called the Professional (featuring gold stripes) and the other called the Advanced (clad in silver). Both feature an upgraded 12 megapixel camera, but the Professional shoots in 4K, while the Advanced captures in high-definition 1080p. Both cams also, thankfully, feature a flatter field of view, doing away with the previous model's wide-angle lens that resulted in a nagging "fish eye" effect.

In terms of battery, DJI was able to squeeze out a few more minutes of flight time — with the P3 able to hit the skies for up to 23 minutes. Previous users will also enjoy the newly redesigned controller, with a refined layout that includes some welcome additions (like a dedicated "come home" button).

Check out the gorgeous 4K video of Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano as shot with the Phantom 3 below.

For a "pick up and fly" point of view, this is DJI's easiest drone yet to safely use in your backyard. The Phantom 3's positioning system, which allows the drone to hover in place wherever your like, has been updated to work with GLONASS, a Russian, satellite-based navigation system that will now work in parallel to GPS. In addition, visual and ultrasonic sensors below the craft will keep it steady even without satellite assistance. For those nervous about flying their drone for the first time, DJI also now includes a handy flight simulator mode to try in advance. 
“In developing the next generation Phantom, DJI remained committed to providing a top tier flight experience in one easy-to-use platform,” said DJI CEO Frank Wang. “We pride ourselves in creating a flying camera that fits in a backpack and can be ready to take professional quality videos from the sky in less than a minute.”

And if you thought there were a dizzying array of drone videos available online, just wait. DJI has made it simpler than ever to upload and share your videos. There's even integrated live streaming through YouTube to enable anyone wanting to share their aerial experience with global audiences immediately. 

“Pilots, whether they are journalists, extreme athletes, or global travellers – will not just be able to share aerial videos of where they were, but will also be able to send a YouTube link to their friends and colleagues to show them the aerial perspectives of where they are right now,” said DJI’s San Francisco General Manager Eric Cheng. “This has tremendous potential for changing the way we share experiences with one another.”

Perhaps the best update for consumers is the cost of DJI's new drones — with the Professional retailing for $1,250 and the Advanced coming in at $999. These price points, while not cheap by any stretch, offer tremendous value for anyone interested in taking these full-featured drones for a spin. 

DJI expects the Phantom 3 to start shipping in a few weeks. 

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

DJI's Phantom 3 pushes aerial photography to new heights
Drone manufacturer's latest model features an improved camera, battery and updated software.