DJI Phantom 2 Experience

Heron

Yes, I own a quadcopter! Is it not a drone and will not be referred as a drone within this blog.

My quadcopter of choice is the Phantom 2 and Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal and attached a GoPro Hero 3+ Black. This is not a toy and I approach the use of the Phantom with many safety checks in mind. At the moment my skills are still raw and I will only fly the Phantom in areas were people are sparse. Because it is a complex machine to fly, I created a Pre-Flight Checklist to make sure critical steps are followed and to have documentation of each flight. I use this tool to key in on improvements that will be addressed on subsequent flights of the Phantom.

However, I have to say it so freaking cool to fly a quadcopter. The video footage and still images I’ve created are absolutely stunning. This technology opens up a whole new dimension of photography for me to explore and hopefully create compelling images.

I created this post to share my first thoughts on aerial photography using a DJI Phantom 2. In addition, I’d like to share the images and videos I’ve created using quadcopter technology. Beginning with the first, well, actually second flight of my pretty flying machine at Pennypack Park near Fox Chase Farm.

Third flight, early morning in Pennypack Park near Fox Chase Farm where a blue heron flew underneath the quadcopter. I made sure the video setting were locked in before turning on the ignition. GoPro Video settings: 2.7K, 30FPS,Wide,12MP,Cam Raw WB, Protune On.

No technology is perfect and I’ve had a series of challenges in the quest to get the quadcopter up and running. My initial impression is that DJI needs to review its product instruction inserts. More quality testing needs to be done before the inserts are included with the quadcopter. I’m not sure the engineers ever tried to assemble the ZenMuse gimbal to the quadcopter using only the directions supplied.

With that in mind, here is an issue that I’ve yet to work out regarding the orientation of the GoPro in the ZenMuse gimbal during flight. I noticed after installation the gimbal the GoPro does not fully raise upright during initialization. Anyone else notice this issue with the ZenMuse H3-3D gimbal?

Third flight of the Phantom. You can see how the limited upward movement of the GoPro impacts the views. At the beginning of this flight I purposefully turned the quadcopter camera to face me to see how far upright the GoPro would move when commanded by the controller. At the beginning of the video you can see a lovely half body image of me which I believe this is due to something wonky with the gimbal.

I’ve had no luck so far contacting a hobby store that is willing to aid me in selecting a First Person View (FPV) monitor for the quadcopter. It seems DJI tech support does not have a good reputation with brick and mortar dealers. I hope this gets resolved very soon.

With a bit of tenaciousness, I’ve been able to get a few good flights and the resulting video and still images show a huge potential for outstanding photographs. I will continue to explore ways to get the above issues resolved because the potential of this new type of photography trumps the issues I have with the quadcopter. Stay tuned to this blog as I will post more of my thoughts, experiences and images taken with the quadcopter.

 

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  • Trevor Hilton

    Here’re some cool videos of Route 66 using one of those. Hope you enjoy them. I sure do.
    http://route66news.com/?s=route+66+like+you%27ve+never+seen+before&searchbutton=go%21

  • Lonnie Montgomery

    “DJI Phantom 2 Experience”, an exciting new way of looking at photography. Really liked your last flight except a commentary and or music along with footage is a must. How high will it go? Are there any warnings if you are approaching the edge of the receivers range or running low on battery? What are you looking for with the FPV option? Lastly on this one, what kind of resolution can you get when you pick a single frame for printing?

    – Lonnie

    • Tania

      Lonnie,

      I’m looking into music to accompany the video, and will include voice over narration in future videos. The current set up I have is pure line of sight. The only way I know the battery is getting low is to view the battery level bars on the quadcopter while it is airborne.

      This quadcopter has a height range of 1000 feet and the receivers range is about a mile. You can set maximum height range in the software. FAA guidelines state 400ft – over that height would put the quadcopter in the flight path of private aircraft.

      I’m looking at a Black Pearl FPV but have not been successful in finding a hobby store in my area to install it. Having this device will give you more data about the flight and allow the user to see what the camera sees when airborne. It is far more safer to have one of these installed than to fly using line of sight.

      I set the image size in the GoPro to 12 megapixels.