Aerial Retrospective – DJI Phantom

With the advent of new technology in the remote-control (R/C) world over the past year, new levels of capability are skyrocketing in the photo-video community.  For those of you yet to do so, meet the DJI Phantom.

DJI Innovations has been a major force in the design of stable, satellite-assisted R/C flight systems that are making new levels of possibility available to photographers and enthusiasts around the globe.  The Phantom is as easy to fly as it is affordable and, with new gimbal advances can produce truly stunning results.  It is a learned skill to perfect, yet the Phantom allows for creative freedom virtually right out of the box.

ASSEMBLY

Assembly of the first generation Phantom is very straight forward.  Simply attach the landing gear, compass and props via the hardware (and tools) provided and you’re almost there.  The next step is to load or download the latest software and connect the Phantom to a computer via the provided USB cable.  From here we can calibrate the digital compass at the software level to ensure a more stable flight, as recommended by DJI.  Recalibrating the compass is recommended for each significant change in location, or if the compass comes into contact with any magnetic surface.

That’s really all there is to it.  If you have any questions or doubts concerning your technical prowess or lack thereof, just head over to DJI.com and watch the many videos they have there.  Like myself, I’m sure any assembly fears will sufficiently be laid to rest.  All that awaits now is a test run or two (or three etc.), a GoPro camera and we’re confidently off to new angles and views.

STABILIZERS AND GIMBALS

I do recommend purchasing a decent vibration isolator to combat against the rolling-shutter (jello) effect inherently caused by prop vibration.  I was able to locate the model pictured at left on Amazon for less than $20.  Wood and carbon-fiber prop upgrades are available as well for improved performance.  To gain total command, the Zenmuse H3-2D camera gimbal (right) not only provides the pilot a smooth tilt axis, it holds the camera level at all times via gyroscope.  This means no more useless tilting and banking in your footage, making it a ton more useful.

The newly-released Phantom 2 offers a Zenmuse/GoPro platform as well as the Phantom 2 Vision, which is equipped with DJI’s own proprietary 14mp FPV-ready (first person view) camera system.  Both yield amazing results.

More on processing tips and techniques in regard to working with GoPro files in an upcoming post.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I certainly agree that this a new and controversial field of technology.  To be honest, I’m not sure how far I’ll go with aerial work as the laws are not hard and fast.  This is new territory and the last thing I want is to infringe on any one’s privacy in any way.

From the moment I saw Scott Bourne and Rich Harrington’s Quadcopter post from the 2012 NAB show, I knew I had to try it.  With all the potentially hard-to-reach, rugged beauty in the world, I just couldn’t help myself.  I’m having a truly great time practicing, and seeing the sights of my own home town from an entirely new perspective.

I highly recommend anything from the DJI product line. I’m sure you will find a model that perfectly suits your needs.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

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