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DroneFly DJI Phantom - A Newbies Perspective

Are you an RC pilot that is interested in quad copters but have no idea where to start? Looking for a great FPV platform? In this article we take a look at the DJI Phantom provided by DroneFly.

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A Quadcopter Anyone Can Fly!

An Average Pilot with Quad Aspirations - When it comes to my RC skills I consider myself average. I learned on a .40 glow trainer and then got totally into electric planes. I have had everything from small home-made foamies, small to electric helis and large kit built 60" biplanes. I have to admit I didn't stick with the helis very long. In recent years all the talk seems to be about quad copters but from my perspective these RC platforms seemed to be pretty complicated and since I never fell in love with helis I figured it wasn't for me. Then one day I was talking to Taylor Chien from Dronefly.

Taylor Chien of DroneFly.com - A few weeks ago I was talking to Taylor Chien from Dronefly.com. Taylor is a director, DP (director of photography) and an editor out in California. He won awards in his teens for his short films and ultimately attended Brooks Institute of Photography in Ventura, Ca. He started out working with CBS and now has his own company as well as Dronefly.com. Dronefly specializes in quads and if you need something quad or FPV related they probably have it.

Taylor Chien of Dronefly.com and Collin Guinn of DJI

You Can Do It! - The goal of this article is to find out if someone with little or no heli experience and zero quad experience can fly the DJI Phantom. Will my RC plane skill set transfer to the Phantom? Will flying a quad be stressful or fun? I'm sure there are guys just like me wondering the same thing. This article should answer those questions for you and tell you a little bit about this amazing...that's right amazing, craft.

The DJI Phantom - Taylor insisted that I had to fly a Phantom. A few days later one was at my door. I have to say just unboxing the quad was pretty exciting. The whole unit is pretty close to RTF. Everything from the lipo to the TX was in the box. In a single evening I had the Phantom put together and ready to fly. The interesting thing was how excited people got when they saw the quad. My neighbors and kids were as excited as I was.

Videos For Success - The first thing I did was read the great review done on this bird by CSpaced on RCGroups.com. That answered many of my questions. Then I found Collin Quinn's videos on YouTube. He has multiple videos on the Phantom that take you through every step. I was almost ready to head to the field.

DJI Phantom CH 1 Unboxing & Assembly (9 min 45 sec)

The Cool Stuff - On the one hand this is an extremely simple bird to get in the air. On the other hand there is a lot going on under the hood! The Phantom has an integrated flight dynamics system, the Naza-M + GPS multi-rotor autopilot system. Basic flight parameters and functions have been setup before delivery. There are some things that you can do with the software (the Phantom has a USB port to connect to your comp). When you get ready to fly the Phantom finds satellites in the area to use for orientation. This is the part that was pretty mind blowing to me. Take your hands off the sticks and the Phantom stays where it is!

Failsafe - Auto Landing Feature - The Phantom also has the failsafe function of the Naza-M autopilot system. This means when the communication between the Main Controller and the transmitter is disconnected, the outputs of all command sticks from the controller will go to the center position. If the GPS signal is good enough, the system will automatically trigger Return To Home and will land safely. WHAT? That's just mind blowing.

Flying the Phantom - The first flight of an RC device is usually a little tricky. There are trims to set, CGs to check and more. Not so with the Phantom. I haven't touched a heli in 10 years and I immediately felt confident flying the Phantom. My first flight I just got the feel for it. By the second flight I was doing figure eights, doing full throttle runs down the field and having a blast with zero stress. It really allows you to enjoy your flying.

Here is a video from the first flight. There is a lot of good Phantom information here:

RCG Dronefly Phantom Quad Copter First Flight (18 min 31 sec)

I Don't Have It! IOC Saves the Day - On my last flight I got pretty far out and realized I was closer to the tree line than I needed to be. The Phantom has a toggle switch to activate the IOC (Intelligent Orientation Control). This is a feature that allows you to pull the stick back and the Phantom will come back to you, no matter what orientation the Phantom is in! That means if I have it sideways, backwards, catawampus it will still go right/left/forward/back in relation to me. A great feature when you can't tell which way the Phantom is pointing. When I was too far out I hit the switch. What I didn't realize is that it is not turned on out of the box. You have to plug it into your computer and turn that function on. I turned to Jason Cole and said, "What now?!" Jason calmly told me to turn off the transmitter. Now I knew this was a function of the Phantom but that seemed so counterintuitive, but I did it anyway. The Phantom stabilized, went to 60 feet and then made a beeline for our location. It then came down slowly and landed at our feet. I was sold immediately. How cool is that?

Final Thoughts - The standard DJI Phantom is now being offered at a lower price. You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. This unit has me excited about quads and now I'm looking into all the things I can do with the Phantom. My next article will be about the RC Logger FPV system. It's as simple to use as the Phantom. I'm also looking at lights and all the other cool things you can do with this quad. If you have been wanting to dip your toe in the quad copter world but wasn't sure how, this is it!

Learn more here.

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Old Oct 09, 2013, 09:25 PM
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Jim T, finally got bit by the bug.
WELCOME.
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Old Oct 10, 2013, 12:17 AM
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I'm up late trying to see how hard it will be to change the TX.
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Old Oct 10, 2013, 12:14 PM
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Very simple, there isn't much to setting up the TX when using the assistant software.
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Old Oct 12, 2013, 09:20 AM
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Awesome review thanks for sharing
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Old Oct 12, 2013, 10:11 AM
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We put more flights on it yesterday with our RC Logger FPV system. I'm up this morning attempting to make a better camera mount with foam ear plugs. I'm also planning on flying down our creek this afternoon to shoot some video. Keep an eye out for the RC Logger story later next week.
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Old Oct 12, 2013, 11:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim T. Graham View Post
We put more flights on it yesterday with our RC Logger FPV system. I'm up this morning attempting to make a better camera mount with foam ear plugs. I'm also planning on flying down our creek this afternoon to shoot some video. Keep an eye out for the RC Logger story later next week.
As I'm sitting here having a hell of a time with a camera mount on a different quad I read your post about ear plugs you sir are a genius
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Old Oct 12, 2013, 12:05 PM
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I just finished the mount. The foam ear plug concept isn't new but I did create my own mount for the RC Logger Pro from things on the work bench. I took two plastic pieces I had laying around (from a Radio Shack project box). I cut the ear plugs at 1/2 inch and put them inside with double stick tape. I then put the other plate on top with velcro straps. This will be in my article but just in case you needed an idea today.
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Old Oct 12, 2013, 01:30 PM
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Jim thanks again for the idea I went and got some ear plugs..

My problem I was having is the quad I have I lost one of the grommets that it comes with for the go pro mount no matter whet I did to try to attach it I would get bad jello effect well with the ear plug trick it looks like I got rid of most of the Jello effect Awesome....
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Old Oct 14, 2013, 09:01 PM
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would this be better than the blade 350 qx for someone who is wanting to get into quads?
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Old Oct 14, 2013, 09:16 PM
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I haven't flown the Blade 350 so I can't say.
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Old Oct 14, 2013, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Jim T. Graham View Post
I haven't flown the Blade 350 so I can't say.
Jim,
I see there is another version that is out (1.2.1) is there any big difference between version 1 and this one besides the NAZA M2?
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Old Oct 14, 2013, 10:46 PM
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There are some updates. This version is featured here:
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2013508
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Old Oct 17, 2013, 10:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim T. Graham View Post
We put more flights on it yesterday with our RC Logger FPV system. I'm up this morning attempting to make a better camera mount with foam ear plugs. I'm also planning on flying down our creek this afternoon to shoot some video. Keep an eye out for the RC Logger story later next week.
Hey Jim, Looking forward to your new FPV pilots perspective on the RC Logger 5.8 video transmission system!
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Old Oct 24, 2013, 10:04 AM
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Nice article JTG!
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