TEST 2018: Xiaomi Mi 4K Drone

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INTRODUCTION

Close to one year ago was announced the Xiaomi Mi drone. At this time it was a direct competitor of the DJI Phantom 3. If the 1080p version was effectively quickly available in the market, at least for the chinese market, finally only close to 1 year later, the 4k version is introduced. From this date, the DJI phantom 4/Mavic with astonished performances and advanced features (such as obstacle avoidance) have been introduced. With the Xiaomi Mi 4K version, it’s not only the camera module who have been upgraded but also the FPV rig. No more 2.4G WiFi in the menu but now more a specialized MIMO link working on the 5 GHz band. The main brain is also upgraded with a double IMU for a better stablization. Anyway despite these new improvements, let’s check if it’s not already too late for Xiaomi vs DJI.

BOX CONTENT

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+ 1 x Xiaomi Mi 4K (with a 4S 51000mAh LiHv battery)
+ 1 x Transmitter (using a 2600mAh builtin battery)
+ 1 x Charger
+ 4 x Spare props (2 CW, 2 CCW)
+ 1 x 2.4G USB dongle
+ 1 x Instruction manual (Chinese)

Surprizingly, no more prop guard included like for the 1080p version… just an extra 2.4G USB dongle to connect your smartphone/tablet without USB tethering.

Good news, now the Gimbal is directly boxed into the main one. No extra second box like for the 1K version.

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OVERVIEW

Let’s start immediatly to speak truly, the Xiaomi Mi 4K drone is not a direct competitor of the DJI P4 but more for a P3. Let’s compare side by side technical parameters.

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From a first glance comparaison, we can understand why DJI delivered lately the P3 SE…. for sure the real target of the Xiaomi. The Xiaomi offers a double IMU and compass electronic but most other caracteristics are really close with for example up to 2Km of control and FPV range (in practice, it’s even more to 4km !!!).

So now let’s compare with the first 1080p (1K) version…… no big visual difference except that the golden color replaced the red one. We have the same 450mm quadcopter flat chassis with 1.2mm strong nylon material and same 3-axis gimbal/camera PTZ design. The same manually retractable landing gear to make transportation more easy.

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Now a 2.4G USB dongle is included avoiding USB connexion between the radio and your smartphone/tablet.

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-FRONT VIEW

Versus the former model, a new prop lock system is introduced. The gold color indicates CW motors while silver CCW ones.

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Retractable landing gear offers a ground clearance of 12cm. As for the former model, the gimbal clipsing take a couple of seconds. A very cool solution but be sure to hear a clip if you don’t want to loose your gimbal mid-flight.

-SIDE VIEW

Naturally, the 4K gimbal combo tends to turn to the right so less balanced versus the 1K version.

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The latteral button to retract/block the landing skid system

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-REAR VIEW

Same battery inserted with this time a golden power button. As usual, to power the machine, short press then immediatly long press more than 2s.

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The current level of battery is indicated via the four white led light. 4 lights means 100% of charge.

-UPPER VIEW

Despite being flat, the upper canopy hides a GPS/GLONASS chip. For a cold fix, wait around 3min to retrieve first satellites. You will need at least 10 satellites to take off. The main interface on right bottom indicates a progressive bar proportional the satellite’s reception quality level.

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Some vant can found on top of each arms to cool ESC.

-BOTTOM VIEW

The bottom side welcomes two utrasonic sensors and a tiny camera actually to mainly stabilize the machine indoors where GPS is not available. We can regret for example that for outdoors applications, the ground detection is not yet integrated AFAIK. Probably it will be a future app/firmware update since the electronic is already here.

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The main gimbal port with the easy clip solution.
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The microUSB is used mainly to rescue the machine in case of crash during a firmware’s update procedure. Connect the microUSB port to a USB +5V/1A power unit. Automatically after a couple of second, a rescue firmware is installed. Notice also, by connecting the remote via USB to this microUSB port while pressing both power button and the right next one, another rescue/binding procedure is lunched.

-WEIGHT

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compared to the 1080p version, 38.5g are added.

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Motors and props

Like the 1080p, 2212 motors are installed but no more mentioned of the KV, probably around 800Kv.

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A novelty is the prop lock system: push the props when aligned with this metal bar then lock it with 1/4th of tour on right and voilà :). This system is much more efficient than the former one. I like it.

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Still some 1046 fiber based.

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With this new system, you won’t be able to use the former props of the 1K model.

LiPo

The same 5100mAh LiHv model, just slightly more heavy. Maybe there is an extra security system… or the discharge rate have been improved.

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Important remark: If you have already some batteries from your 1K model, actually if the associated firmware is the 1010, they won’t work on the 4K. An error message will be displayed on the GUI

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No problem is the firmware installed or updated to the 1340 version and above. It’s still under investigation if first batteries with 1010 firmware can be flashed with the compatible firmware… actually I don’t find yet a way.

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Gimbal camera module

In a first glance, no real visible difference but there are some minors. At least, all brushless motors seems identical. Now the silver/grey color is replaced for the golden for each axis. The associated sensor is an 12mpx Sony’s CMOS one with 94 of FOV. One nice option is to be able to shoot at 1080@100fps!!!! really not bad at all. No possibility to record 720p videos at 200fps for example :(. Iso sensitivity reach 3200, the same as for DJI competitors.

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I regret the lack of parameters to tune/tweak the camera output. Basically only EV and the resolution. You will see that the blue color is little bit dominating the other ones. Notice the absence of the small hole bottom associated with the microphone for the 1K version.

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Close to 5g more heavier than the 1K combo. The emitted power in the 5G band is announced to be 23-24dBm so close to 200mW.

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Compared to the 1K model, we have now this black rubbon cable instead of individual white wires. I am afraid in case of hard crash that the ribbon will be damaged even more.

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The “4K” letters are here ?

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From left to right: the microSD port where you will need a good class 10 (>=20Mbits as writing speed is recommanded for 4K recording), the fan and a microUSB port.

Transmitter

Exactly the same radio design with a buitin 2600mAh LiPo strong enough for 2-3h of gameplay. It’s relatively long the first time to recharge it, more than 2h.

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To turn on the radio, like the quadcopter, you have to short press the left button then immediatly press it again more than 2s. This powerbutton should stay red at least 6-7s until the pairing is done. The pairing is a little bit more longer than for the 1K model. The left wheel control the gimbal’s tilt axis. The right wheel by default control the front white light with the possibility to turn off them completly to shoot videos without interferences in low light conditions. The left rear button trigger video recording while the right one the photo’s shooting. A slider button can engage the RTH. The RTH can be also activated via the Appz too.

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The bottom hides a microUSB port used to recharge the builtin 2600mAH battery, an unknown port (probably a power port) and USB port connecting the radio to your favorite smartphone/tablet.

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The 5Ghz is indicated on the back sticker. So this radio can’t be used with the 1K model and vise and versa.

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Another novelty, the possibility to connect the radio via WiFi with the 2.4G USB dungle.

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UNBOXING, ANALYSIS, CONFIGURATION AND DEMO FLIGHT

First good news, at least versus the first 1080p model, the appz can be found officially in google play for android. The appz works from 5.x but presents in another hand some artefacts for the 7.x in the live streaming. It should be solved rather quick. For iOS, no problem reported. Actually only two firmwares can be updated, one for the no-fly-zone, the second for the FC.

In the field, first immediate result is the extreme stability of the machine in hovering mode. Max reported deviations are about few cm…. impressive. The gimbal work is also really efficient even at full speed, no jello/vibrations….that’s great but it’s not 100% perfect. For example, after some turns to right or left, the camera can’t be perfectly leveled horizontally. The camera rendition in 4K@30 is generally good, maybe the blue color a bit too much dominant. Sound is actually not recorded and generally the camera lacks of ajustable settings from the GUI. At least no lens glares front the sun. A class 10 with a writing speed >= 20mbits is required if you don’t want your recordings to stop randomly mid-flight. The machine is relatively fast even in GPS mode but as soon as you release sticks, stabilization is far to be optimal with oscillations luckely without impacts in video recordings. Some minor PID ajustements should be done in a future FC firmware. by the way, no possibility to tune them via the appz. Surprisingly even in descent, no vibrations/instabilities can be noticed in recordings, that’s pretty good. The FPV range is super solid and the frame rate not dropping below 15fps. The advertized 2km of range is true and even some users managed to go around 4km!!! But be aware to have enough battery to way back. One minor bad point, the FPV link can freeze time to time. Just need to go in map menu then return in video mode to retrieve the live signal. Maybe it’s linked with my screen recorder. I really appreciate the 720p video feedback associated with the 4K version. It brings a lot of details. In term of regrets, any ground detection is actually included to outdoors flight modes. It could be very usefull for mission planning or high speed cruizing. Such addings can be done technically by the Xiaomi Mi so we can be expect to be included in a future app release relatively soon. The flight duration is more in practice around 21-22min… at 30% a first red warning msg is displayed in the app. At 25%, a speed limitation is turned on. It could be a real problem is your machine is far from the take-off location. No possbility to return home in time. More at 15%, the machine engages an emergency landing. By consequence, I regret the absence of a dynamic timeline showing for example when the machine will enter into low voltage conditions. This timeline must be updated according the distance between the take off location and the current position of the machine (and ideally by integrating also current wind conditions). For advanced flight modes, a lot of associated parameters must be ajusted via slider buttons. I found them hard to move/manipulate … sometime no action at all can be done despite billions of finger’s taping… It’s a little bit annoying… The same situation with waypoints definition. in theory a double tap is asked to add a new point…. You need in practice to repeat often this operation to see a new point finally on the screen. What’s a pity to not have yet the possibility the handraw a trajectory for example like in the recent Hubsan Appz. The dronie mode allows the machine to move backward while climbing a bit, ideal to take perspective/to shot globally a scene. Working fine. Finally the “tap-fly” will send the machine to a given designed point in the map. Surpringly, no follow-me flight mode yet implemented. When you engaged one of the advanced flight modes (RTH, orbit, mission planning, tap-fly), the rudder and gimbal commands can be used to ajust the scene.

EDIT 05/10/18

Good news with the last FC firmware and as expected, the old 1090p battery with 1010 firmware now are working fine with the 4K version ?

CONCLUSIONS

The fundamentals of the Xiaomi Mi 4K are impressive. Good flight duration, long control and FPV range in 720p resolution, stable jello free 4K shootings, 1080p@100fps and ultra precize GPS stabilization. The gimbal works is not yet 100% perfect especially during left or right turns, a slight non-perfect horizontal situation can be encountered but it will probably be improved in future firmware updates. While being no more crashing, I found the app not super easy to use. For example to define a trajectory/orbit parameters. More some important flight modes are missing such as the follow-me flight mode. No ground detection for outdoors application is actually used. Well to make short, in term of functionalities, the Xiaomi Mi drone is not yet a DJI killer, it’s more a downgrade especially versus a P4. But there is a hope than little by little, all missing features will be added since and it’s the more important, the electronic is already here.

PROS

+ Ultra precize stationnary hovering (deviation of a couple of cm only)
+ Long 720p FPV range (up to 4km)
+ Long control range (up to 4km)
+ 4K@30fps resolution
+ 1080p@100fps
+ No vibrations/jello in video recordings
+ Improved prop lock system
+ 22min of flight time
+ Appz much more stable versus first edition
+ Dronie mode
+ Orbit mode efficient
+ Rudder command can be ajusted during RTH, mission planning and orbit mode

CONS

– Gimbal not perfectly horizontal after a left or right moves
– Camera’s color not faithfull (blue is dominant)
– Appz far to be perfect yet
– Waypoints definition/edition can be problematic for some tablets/smartphone
– No target tracking flight mode
– No ground detection during landing/descent
– Not perfectly stable machine during fast flying, PIDs can be improved
– 1080p’s battery with firmware 1010 not compatible (yet) solved with 04/02/17 FC firmware
– No more propguards included
– No obstacle detection
– Actually no sound recording
– Lack of camera settings
– 50g more heavier than the Xiaomi Mi 1K

This quadcopter have been courtesy provided by Banggood in order to make a fair and not biased review. I would like to thank them for this attitude.

Discount : 23% OFF

Banggood has price guarantee! They has much lower price than AliExpress, DealExtreme, DHgate, DJI, Ebay, Gearbest, Geekbuying, Hobbyking and LightInTheBox

Bonus

A first raw video, where I met some problem of connexion to update maps for my tablet.

With last december’s 17 firmware updates, the machine is rock solid !!!!

BEST PRICE FOR XIAOMI MI DRONE 4K

XIAOMI Mi Drone 4K WiFi FPV RC Quadcopter
330,- Euro / 399 US$
Buy from Banggood – https://www.banggood.com/Xiaomi-Mi-Drone-WIFI-FPV-With-4K-30fps-1080P-Camera-3-Axis-Gimbal-RC-Quadcopter-p-1057057.html?p=SW261510355666201704

Mi Drone 4K Quadcopter Spare 17.4V 5100mAh Battery 
Buy from Banggood – https://www.banggood.com/Xiaomi-Mi-Drone-RC-Quadcopter-Spare-parts-17_4V-5100mAh-Battery-p-1082607.html?p=SW261510355666201704

XIAOMI Mi Drone 3-in-1 + 2x USB – Battery Fast Charger 
Buy from Banggood – https://www.banggood.com/Xiaomi-Mi-Drone-RC-Quadcopter-Spare-Parts-3-in-1-Battery-And-Transmitter-Charger-p-1145587.html?p=SW261510355666201704

XIAOMI Mi Drone Gimbal Lens Cover – 
Buy from Banggood – https://www.banggood.com/Xiaomi-Mi-Drone-RC-Quadcopter-Spare-Parts-Gimbal-Lens-Cover-p-1148040.html?p=SW261510355666201704

Foldable Leather Mobile Phone / tablet Sunshade – WHITE (multiple sizes: for phone and tablets)
Buy from Banggood – https://www.banggood.com/Upgrade-Tablet-Remote-Control-Hood-Sunvisor-for-DJI-Inspire-1-Phantom-3-p-980320.html?p=SW261510355666201704

FIMI X1BH – 3-axis Brushless Gimbal Camera Handle
Buy from Banggood – https://www.banggood.com/FEIMI-X1BH-Xiaomi-Mi-4K-Drone-RC-Quadcopter-Brushless-Handheld-Gimbal-p-1203889.html?p=SW261510355666201704

PGYTECH Transmitter Rocker Protector – needs some thick foam tape on back to fit!
Buy from Banggood – https://www.banggood.com/PGYTECH-Transmitter-Rocker-Protector-Anti-Scratch-Screen-Protector-For-DJI-Spark-p-1206421.html?p=SW261510355666201704

Original Xiaomi 17L Classic Business Style Men Laptop Backpack – BLACK
Low profile – Fits everything including up to 4 batterys!
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Review: Xiaomi classic backpack, urban professional (4 min 25 sec)

 

Quick demo Xiaomi bag (2 min 0 sec)

Alternative backpacks:

Nylon backpack

Buy from Gearbest – https://www.gearbest.com/rc-quadcopter-parts/pp_668324.html?lkid=13569697

Linen Backpack GRAY
Buy from Gearbest – https://www.gearbest.com/rc-quadcopter-parts/pp_635178.html?lkid=13569702

CADeN W8 Travel Backpack
Buy from Gearbest – https://www.gearbest.com/rc-quadcopter-parts/pp_543278.html?lkid=13569709