DJI Phantom 3 Professional review–Part II
In Part II of his DJI Phantom 3 Professional review, Mariyan is going to tell about his first flights with the DJI’s quadcopter, the DJI Go mobile application, Live-stream feature and last but not least the camera and gimbal quality. He is going to give you some tips about using the Phantom drone. And finally he will share his pros and cons. If you have missed Part I, make sure you read it first.
First flight, stability and drone control
My first flight with the Phantom 3 Professional was really easy and smooth compared as I remember with my old Phantom. First of all everything is connected and what you have to do is power on your remote, start the DJI Go app on your mobile device and power on your Phantom. Yes that’s all!
You just wait for the drone to warm up, record the home point and then acquire enough satellites. Usually this happens under a minute, depending also on the weather – in cold weather it can be from 1 to 2 minutes. But most of the time in normal conditions you get enough satellites in about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The satellite system is upgraded: you can lock and use GPS and GLONASS satellites, so most of the time you get from 15 up to 19 satellites depending on the visibility.
More satellites, upgraded motors, new propellers and a VPS system is equal to more stability. In flight the Phantom is rock solid. When flying from 0.5 to 3 meters the VPS system also works, so then the Phantom is even more stable. In light or no wind it keeps position with minimal diversion: I haven’t measured it but maybe something like 10 to 15cm. I haven’t tried to fly indoors with no GPS, only with VPS assist, but someday maybe I will have to do it. Many people report that there are no problems, you just need sufficient light and clear pattern on the floor.
In terms of stability I am pretty amazed from this little beast – I have flown in by the sea in winds up to 60km/h in GPS mode with no problems at all and the footage is usable thanks to the great gimbal compensation.
Tip: If you encounter very high winds I suggest to turn in ATTI mode (but first you must learn to fly in it) because only that way you can achieve the fastest speed of 16 m/s stated by DJI and get it back home. In GPS mode the wind can drift away your drone much more easily.
With the Phantom 3, DJI made the max descend speed to 3 m/s. This is done, because the Phantom can easily turn over when descending too fast. With my old Phantom when I was descending I never done it straight down, always made front or back movement while descending to avoid what’s so called “vortex effect” or “toiled bowl effect”.
In terms of control I really enjoy flying my Phantom. It does everything with ease, it’s very responsive to your inputs so you must get used to the sticks fast. Also the braking system helps a lot for newbies and not only. Usually when you let your fingers of the sticks the most of the flight controllers must stop and keep position, what the Phantom does better is if you are flying too fast it’s going to brake to help it stops and keep the position.
DJI Go App, flight modes and Live-stream
As I said, now I use the iPad Mini 2 to control my Phantom 3. You can use your iPhone or Android phone too if you are comfortable with the size. I use only the DJI Go App for my flights, but there are also third party apps based on the official SDK released by DJI.
The app itself is very user friendly. From the main screen you can access your drone, check your library and your profile with detailed flight logs, which are automatically saved after every flight. When connected to the aircraft the app guides you to the startup process with voice notifications. First you will get status notification about all the sensors of your drone and warming up message. After the satellites are sufficient, the app will notify you that the home point has been recorded/updated and that you can take off. You can do it by pressing a button for take-off or do it the old way with the CSC command.
After you engage, the motors will make 2 strong turns which can scary you the first time. It’s done for securing the props, as they are self-tighten. After that you can hover in about 1-2 meters of the ground to check that everything is okay with the sensors and your drone keeps it position.
Tip: It is advisable to calibrate the IMU (gyroscope/accelerometer) after every firmware upgrade and calibrate the compass after you move to a new location. About the second I do it only if the app shows me that the compass needs calibration.
If you try to take off from metal object like your car or ground with metal structure in it, the app won’t let you do this – it will show that there is a lot of interference with the compass and to move on other location free of metal. In flight you can see how high your drone is, what is the distance from the home point, the vertical and horizontal speed, the quality of the remote signal and video downlink. Also on the bottom you can see on Google Maps your route and currently where your aircraft is. The home point can be updated – with the current aircraft position or with the current position of the remote.
I like how the battery power is showed to the user – depending on your flight style you can see how many minutes are left, also when you get away from your home point the intelligent battery shows you how much juice you need to get back home so at certain point when the home point gets to the red bar you must not fly further. You must set your RTH function in the settings. There are 2 ways for RTH – the usual return to home point and the other one is to start landing when triggered. There is also height for the RTH, I change it in every flight depending on the obstructions near me. When the height is set the drone will ascend to it and then will start to return home.
There are 3 flight modes:
- GPS mode
- ATTI mode
- Intelligent flight modes
In GPS mode the drone uses all of its sensors to keep position and maintain user control. In ATTI mode it uses only the barometer to maintain the height so when you let the sticks it will keep drifting away until corrected.
More interesting are the new intelligent flight modes. In the beginning when the Phantom 3 was released DJI announced that it will support autonomous flight modes, but we didn’t get them right away. After 4-5 months of software updates we finally get them in the end of summer 2015. Course lock, home lock, point of interest, follow me and waypoints are all the new flight modes and I am impressed by all of them!
By activating “Course Lock”, the controls will be set to be relative to your aircraft’s current path. This easy navigation allows you to fly in a set direction as you fly alongside moving objects or across scenes. “Home Lock” fixes your controls to be relative to the Home Point. Easily pull back on the control stick to bring the aircraft back home, or push forward to fly farther away, no matter which way it is facing. Point of interest (POI) is perfect for making orbit moves around buildings or objects you can set the speed and radius and control the height while the drone makes the perfect orbit move. “Follow me” does what is says: the aircraft will automatically follow you. In waypoints you can set GPS points and the drone will follow them while you can easily control the camera. Personally I use most of the times only POI and Waypoints, because in that way you can somehow eliminate the need of second operator as when you program your flight you can focus on the camera and take the shot smoothly.
Course lock is also good for moving objects, but you have to get used to it first. Home lock is useful if you lost of sight your aircraft and you want to get it back home and then you just push the stick back, but when you have map on your screen that shows you where are you and where is your aircraft I think that this is useless. Even if your tablet or app crashes you can’t turn the Home lock mode and push your stick backwards to get your aircraft back. In help comes the RTH button which will get the job done. Can’t tell you much about the Follow me mode as I never used it.
One of the good things about having 8 inch tablet is that you can enjoy viewing the 720p downlink by the Lightbridge technology and clearly see how to frame your shot. The quality is very good compared to other 5.8 GHz systems I used. What is great – the latency of 220ms (depending on conditions and mobile device). With the Phantom 3 Professional you get the best downlink video quality of 10mbps bitrate. The bitrate from the Advanced or the other Phantom 3 models is much lower – 2mbps. With my iPad everything is very smooth even at distance of 1000m (in open field). When your signal is weak you will get notification in the app immediately.
Camera and gimbal
The Phantom 3 Professional features 12 megapixel 4K camera (Sony Exmor R BSI 1/2.3″, Effective pixels 12.4M). What I like the most and was one of the things sold me is that the FOV is now straight, so no more fisheye lens (FOV 94° 20 mm, 35 mm format equivalent with f/2.8).
Another great thing is that you can control all the camera modes and settings directly from the app which is not possible with GoPro or another camera. Also now you can shoot photos in RAW mode. As a photographer this is very important feature as you can recover a lot more in your photos and make more adjustments in editing later. What you can adjust – ISO, exposure, white balance, style and color mode. You can even turn on over exposure warning and you will get zebra lines on the overexposed areas and you can easily correct the exposure with the top right circle button on the remote.
When shooting video you can use DJI’s flat style called D-Log or Cinelike for much higher quality throughout your post-production workflow as it keeps the colors neutral and unsharped. If you don’t want to go hard on editing your video you can set the mode to Vivid. With the Phantom 3 you can shoot really smooth videos thanks to the flawless gimbal and the easy control. The button on the remote is very delicate and if you are not pleased with the movement you can adjust the control even more. In the app there are some options which I found very useful – you can adjust the gimbal wheel speed to get more smooth movements.
Tip: You can add inertia – usually when you stop panning the gimbal stops immediately and this can ruin your video, but with that option when you stop the gimbal will keep little inertia before stops.
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional right now is the most advanced drone with this price tag which offers 4K camera with RAW support for photos and option to adjust all the camera settings. That plus the smooth gimbal and the Lightbridge technology makes it winner for me. Don’t forget it’s compact size for easy transport and close shots in tight places.