Last year, I got a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0. It was fun but limited in many ways. While controlling the helicopter via iPhone or iPad was fun at first, it just wasn’t as reliable and precise as one would want. The helicopter was a fun toy but limited in many ways, hard to repair (you’ll crash it) and quite fragile. So a few weeks ago, I purchased a DJI Phantom, a ready to fly, remote controlled quacopter. The Phantom is a completely different bird, and it should be at more than twice the price. Here is my product review.
Ready-to-Fly (no soldering), very little assembly required.
Most multi rotors – quadcopters are diy builds
Flying those is a lot of fun. It’s easy but not too much so, it’s still challenging especially as you start flying high and far, above and around obstacles and start taking videos
Integrated remote control unit designed for the phantom
much more precise and easy to use than a smartphone or tablet touch screen
Easy to fly, Stable, yet agile performance, GPS integration
Learning curve isn’t steep. Start in GPS mode and Home Lock, then take the training wheels off.
When the controller is turned off, loses connection or when triggered manually (an optional configuration on the controller), the Quadcopter will hover for a short while, rise (or lower) to 60ft (20m), come back to the take off location, hover a short while then land.
GPS, Attitude or Manual mode
GPS mode will maintain a hover stationary position when no input is given, Altitude will keep the quadcopter at a given attitude but the copter can drift. Manual mode is…manual.
Intelligent Orientation Control (IOC) – Home Lock & Course Lock
Often, when you fly a quadcopter far away from you you cannot tell what direction the nose is pointing.
When in home lock mode forward and back control movements are relative to you the pilot. Left stick movement will make the phantom to fly in a radius around you. Think of it as telling to phantom to draw a circle like a compass since you are telling it to go left or right relative to you as the center point.
At $679, it is quite a bit more expensive than the AR.Drone 2.0 – but it’s a very serious piece of equipment
With no payload, you’ll be able to fly for 12 minutes or so (which is actually longer than it seems), with a GoPro 3, it’ll be reduced to 9-10 minutes so you might want to grab a couple of additional OEM DJI batteries or slightly longer lasting batteries for longer play time
The QuadCopter doesn’t include a video recording device and is designed to work well with the GoPro 3 (mount included). So you’ll need to buy a GoPro 3 (White, Silver or Black) if you want to record your flights (and you want to)
DJI Phantom mini-FAQ
I can’t find any manual in the box?
There is no manual in the DJI Phanthom box (there wasn’t in mine). One should refer to the Quick Start, Advanced, Naza-M, Battery & Charger manuals available on the DJI web site.
The battery has two connectors, should they both be connected to the charger?
The battery is a 3 cell, or “3s” 3.7 volts each for a total of 11.1 volts. The little adapter, is called the “balance lead”,
and is used when charging the battery, to make sure all cells have the same amount of charge. Yes, you do have to plug
it into the charger when charging the battery.
What’s essential to know for my first flight?
Charge your battery
Attach your blades (being careful of the rotation direction for each
Attach the landing pads, connecting the compass, using tape to secure compass & antenna
Insert 4 AA in the controller
Turn on the controller, make sure the throttle, left controller, is pulled all the way back, towards you
Put the battery into the Quadcopter to turn it on
Wait for GPS acquisition
Calibrate the compass
Start the motors by pulling the left & right joystick towards you then giving it a little throttle (left controller) by pulling it slowly away from you.
FLY your Quadcopter
After landing, remove the battery
Turn off the controller
GoPro 3 (Black) moves around a lot in the DJI mount, am I doing it wrong?
Strangely, the GoPro mount that’s included works best for older GoPros. Use a bit of foam to fit a GoPro Hero 3, use the waterproof casing or use the GoPro Frame Mount which is the lightest and most secure way to hold a Hero 3 for the Phantom.
This was my first flight with a camera, it shows how high and how far the Phantom can go
When you insert your phone into the iOttie HLCRIO102 One Touch Windshield Dashboard Universal Car Mount Holder, a push button gets depressed which will cause small plastic jaws to secure the phone in place. It works well most phone cases. A couple of side buttons will release the phone. The mount rotates easily from portrait to landscape and the foot sticks very well thanks to a vacuum lever.
Beyond the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5, it seems it’ll work with iPhone, Android & Blackberry phones:
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Like many, we gather a lot of our system information (business and technology) into Graphite. One thing we were missing was some of the AWS services metrics that you’d typically use Cloudwatch for. So I wrote a little utility in node.js that does exactly that. You’d typically run this in a cron and throw the output into Graphite every 10 minutes or whatever.
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