DJI Phantom Review

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As some of you may remember, a while back I bought a Parrot AR Drone 2.0 mostly for fun and to fly around and record videos of my production setups. While the AR Drone 2.0 worked perfectly for short distance flights, it’s limited by the range of WiFi. It’s also limited to the built-in 720p video camera. During Photoshop World Vegas I attended Russell Brown’s pre-conference on the DJI Phantom Quadcopter. The entire class was given instruction on flying them and the chance to fly them all day. I was impressed by the control and range of this one over the AR Drone. It was like going from a point and shoot camera to a DSLR. Both can capture great images, but you have much more control and potential quality with a DSLR. The Phantom comes with a mount to mount a GoPro camera. Since I already had a GoPro Hero 3 Black camera and they were offering a show special to pre-con attendees on the Phantom, I figured it was time to upgrade and step up to a better quadcopter. When it arrived the setup was relatively simple. You have to put the landing gear on and the propellers. There’s a compass calibration routine as well. One of my friends told me to upgrade the firmware and I did. However, I was a little ticked that the only way to upgrade the firmware was with a Windows PC. Their Utility only runs in Windows. I use Parallels on my MacBook Pro with Windows 7 and had no problem updating the software as well as running the utility. It would be nice to have a native Mac version. Lastly I mounted my GoPro in the supplied mount.

My first flight

You can see the video here from my first flight. I already knew that to get steady video you’re really going to have to ditch the supplied mount and get a gimbal. This will make your videos a million times steadier. So my video is not steady. I also forgot to put the GoPro in 720p wide mode, but here it is:

I basically flew it straight up, captured some video and brought it back down. It was getting dark and I didn’t want to crash. After I got the hang of it I took it out the next day and went much higher and this time having the GoPro capture stills every 2 seconds.

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I’m amazed at how high this thing can go! My colleague has taken his over 1600 feet. I don’t have an altimeter, so i can’t say how high I’ve flown it, but I’ve flown it so high that I could barely see it and could no longer hear it.

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In the pic above that I captured with my iPhone, you can see a black dot. That’s the phantom so┬áhigh up that it almost disappears. I’m having a blast with this thing.

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Above is a shot I took recently as the sun was setting. I also realized at this point that the GoPro doesn’t do well at all in low light. Most of the shots from this flight were blurry because the Phantom is vibrating and fighting the wind, so the camera is far from still. One of the things I really like is that the Phantom has a GPS built-in. If for whatever reason you fly out of range of the controller or the controller loses contact, the Phantom will fly up about 60 feet and then automatically returns to the point where it took off and lands. While I’ve had some really great flights so far, I did have a crash. I actually lost a propeller during flight. It wasn’t screwed on tight or had shaken loose and it flew right off. The Phantom came straight down spinning out of control. Luckily for me it hit the grass and there was no permanent damage. Thankfully the DJI Phantom comes with an extra set of propellers. It was really windy that day and I was flighting the wind just to keep the Phantom in place. I happened to be capturing video at the time with the GoPro. You can see the crash video below.

You can get the DJI Phantom (ON SALE) here. It comes with a battery that gives you about 12 minutes of flight. You’ll probably want an extra one here.

You can get the GoPro Hero 3 here.

I don’t have a gimbal yet, but here are some to allow you to record more stable video.

 

My Phantom loses a propeller during flight




  • BLFarnsworth

    I’ve been flying radio controlled (RC) helicopters and planes for several years and while these ready to fly kits are great for getting people up & running quickly, there’s much more to it than charging & flying. For example, only discharge your lithium polymer (LiPo) battery down to 20% of its stated capacity. If you keep discharging to below that % your batteries will last a fraction of what it should. If you crash your aircraft or drop that battery on the ground, put it aside on a fireproof surface (if it hasn’t caught fire already) for at least 20 minutes. These points are just the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll eventually learn as you continue flying.

    BTW, I’m not saying you’ve done any of those two examples, but I’d rather mention these things now than read about how your battery set you car’s interior on fire during your drive home. :-) (I’ve seen this happen to one of my flying buddies.)

    Anyone just getting started with RC aircraft should review the “Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code” (just search for that term) and learn as much as possible about these aircraft — and also LiPo battery safety.

    Enjoy!

  • Linda Armstrong

    Cool!

  • Michael Blitch

    1. The $479 price isn’t a sale, the price was permanently lowered to that a couple of weeks ago in anticipation to a new system being announced in Oct.

    2 it is a visiting of FAA regulations to fly above 400 feet. Why would admit to breaking the law and mention that your friend one too ally did so as well. You are suppose to operate them in line of sight, so you admitted to nearly violating another regulation. What is wrong with you and why would you do that?!?

    • J.James

      Tho its not always a good idea to fly over 400 feet. actually its not really against the law to fly over 400 feet and the FAA “suggests” and “recommended” staying under 400 feet in the civilian hobby aircraft space. and suggests that if flying over 400 feet that you notify air traffic control. same as any other hobby aircraft or even home build real air craft. None of which fall under there jurisdiction if not commercial use.

  • anisha

    That was helpful! But putting that in action is quite difficult..Btw I love what you write! You are such an inspiration.

  • Gary

    I love mine and really is a blast to fly, the kids like taking pictures of the neighborhood, its really amazing technology these days…The only bummer with the Phantom 2 is the batteries are $160 a piece, I did find a place that offers the same battery for $72.99, it’s really great to know there is a cheaper alternative because you do need a couple to fly, here is a link to the website that offers the cheaper Batteries for other Phantom lovers like me :) http://nukerc.com/phantom-2-clone-li-po-battery.html

    • J.James

      Cect for some far out of 2 different batches that nuke rc has had not one person can be found any were that can say they ever actually received one after ordering it and waiting and waiting. and all the product reviews are all actually written by the guy trying to sell these things. Id love to find one person that got one yet can only find lots of people that paid and were left hanging.