DJI has been the standard drone that people visualize when they think of consumer drones for the past several years. It’s a white quadcopter that comes with a white remote control.
This drone is the camera platform I was hoping for when I got into drones three years ago. The flights are very automated, the camera controls are fully integrated, and I can start flying in a new location with very little setup time. The picture below was taken to demonstrate how close the drone came to returning to its launch location and automatically landing after flying over a thousand feet away from where I was standing. The drone had taken off from on top of the ring, and it landed less than 4 feet from the same location.
In early March DJI dropped the prices of their entire line, convincing me to buy the least expensive unit, now on sale for under $500. I ordered it on March 18th, received it on March 23rd, but didn’t successfully fly it until March 29th.
I live in downtown Seattle. I didn’t want my first flight to be anywhere that would draw excess attention. I’ve been flying drones for three years now, and have grown accustomed to things going wrong. I’d planned on flying at the RC field I regularly visit on the evening of March 24th. When I got there, first I was not able to get the drone to power on, then when I figured out how to do that, I was forced to do a firmware update before I could fly. By the time I’d got all that out of the way I was running late for a meeting. I decided that the safe thing was to put everything away until my next opportunity.
The Phantom 3 Standard is delivered with two sets of propellers, the transmitter / remote control, a flight battery, an AC battery charger, and a few small extra parts related to the camera gymbal. It is designed to work with an iPhone or Android phone to both control the unit and see what the camera is doing. I don’t have either of those phones, instead I’m using a Google Nexus 7 tablet. The device connects to the transmitter via WiFi. While my tablet is connected to the transmitter it is not able to connect to the internet.
My first flight with the drone was in a Seattle Park. The battery reports that it can fly up to 25 minutes. None of my previous drones would fly for more than about 13 minutes. The controller app on my tablet has plenty of feedback about the battery condition.
Normal flight mode for me has been that I tell the drone to take off via the app. It takes off and hovers about 4 feet in the air. Then I use the sticks to fly the drone to a location telling it to go up/down or rotate left/right with the left stick, and moving horizontally with the right stick. I usually enable the camera in movie mode before taking off, and only take it out of movie mode if I want to take still photos. When I’m ready to finish, I can either drive it back near myself, or toggle the left switch on the transmitter to cause it to go into return home mode. I’ve got it configured so that it will be at least 100 feet above the ground during return to home mode, which is good enough to clear most trees, but I make sure that’s true early in my flight just in case. If the drone loses contact with the transmitter for more than three seconds it will enter return to home mode.
After owning the drone for one month, I also purchased the DJI backpack specifically designed to carry the drone. It has been what really makes the drone fun for me because I can store the drone in the backpack, knowing it’s fully protected, and easily grab the entire thing and throw it in my car to go somewhere that might have interesting things to photograph.