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    Respected Pilot Shrimpfarmer's Avatar
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    Basic Info for Newbies about Phantom Quad's

    So you want a quadcopter?

    If you are a complete newcomer to quadcopters then this post is for you.

    The Phantom range is perhaps the most popular of the current flock of quadcopters. Currently you have two to choose from but a third is just about to be released. The Phantom Vision +

    I own both a Phantom Vision and a Phantom 2 with full FPV. FPV stands for First Person View. That means I can see in real time what the camera sees. My favourite is the Phantom 2 as I have a Zenmuse gimbal that does a good job of stabilising the video.

    So lets compare them both so that you are aware of the differences and what makes them tick.

    The Phantom Vision

    The Vision is often advertised as a one stop shop. It has virtually everything that you need to capture video out of the box. It has an FPV system in that it comes with its own camera mounted on a one axis gimbal. It also comes with one battery and a charger. You have to supply your own smartphone or tablet to receive the video signal from the camera whilst its in flight. The camera is controlled via an app made by DJI. With the app you can tilt the camera, stop and start recordings, control the framerate and exposure settings and take still photos. Its a very neat package and it works quite well.

    The Vision uses 2.4ghz to transmit video to your phone and 5.8ghz to transmit flight commands from the supplied hand controller. Your phone mounts to the controller.

    The Vision is not without its problems though. A smartphone does not make a particularly good FPV screen as its a little too small. Also the stock antennas do not give you very much range before you lose the picture. Using the touch screen controls are sometimes awkward to use. For me though the biggest problem is the instability of the video footage due to the lack of a proper gimbal.

    There are now at least three after market gimbals available to upgrade the Vision 1. They all do a fair job but there are clear differences between their designs. The leading models are the Rotorpixel Gimbal and one produced by Dronexpert.

    The biggest weakness though is the Visions camera. It has suffered from some poor quality control leading to many people returning the camera due to poor focus issues. Professional photographers have dismissed the camera as falling far below the performance of a fairly low tech mobile phone. Now some people are happy with its performance but many are not. You really need to think carefully then about will the camera live up to your expectations. There is a huge amount of video and photographic examples on the web so you will be able to see for yourself before purchasing. It seems that there is not to be an upgrade path for current Vision owners but maybe that will change with the release of the new model.

    The Vision +

    The Vision+ works exactly the same as the Vision. The improvements are the inclusion of a 3 axis gimbal and a new camera. Early reports suggest the camera is an improvement but still not good enough for serious photographers/videographers. Comparisons with the Gopro camera have said the current Gopro is still better. However, you will see that many people say they prefer the Vision+ camera picture to the Gopro. The observation I would like to make on that though is that the comparison is between the cameras default output. Remember the Gopro also has its Protune setting which allows you to determine everything in post, rather than just accepting the standard camera settings.

    So having bought a Vision I found that the video quality was not good enough for my needs so I bought a Phantom 2.

    The Phantom 2

    The P2 is an identical airframe but it uses 5.8ghz to transmit the video signal and 2.4ghz to control the quad. The Vision does not come with a camera. You have to supply your own Gopro Hero 3 camera. This can be mounted on the DJI Zenmuse 2 axis gimbal. A gimbal is a device that removes the roll and pitch movements of the quad in flight and thus gives you stable video.

    To get the maximum benefit from the P2 and Gopro though you will need to also add an FPV system. This consists of a video transmitter and antenna fitted on the quad which beams back the live image from the Gopro back to a receiver which is usually mounted on the controller you use to fly the quad.

    You will need an FPV monitor to view the image and its important that this screen does not ĎBluescreení like your tv does when you lose signal. When flying FPV its common for there to be interference on the monitor. Even though the picture may be breaking up a little its still good enough to fly. If the screen turned blue instead you would be in trouble. You donít need to use a screen, you could use goggles instead and some of these come with a built in receiver.

    The icing on the cake is to also fit a device called a Mini IOSD also made by DJI. The Mini IOSD is a small box that fits between the camera output and the Video transmitter on the quad. It overlays flight information onto the Gopro video. Its not present in the recorded material, only on your flight monitor. Without it you will not see your battery level, your home position, height, distance from your home position, whether your climbing or descending, the mode your flying in, how many satellites you have locked, which way to turn to fly home. Without the IOSD you will be a nervous wreck unless you keep the quad very close, which will deny you lots of amazing shots..

    The results that you can achieve using the P2 and a Gopro can be stunning. The range on the P2 is much further than the Vision. The downside is that new pilots are often intimidated over what to buy and they get confused over the different equipment needed.

    Whilst the added complexity is a little daunting there is nothing to be afraid off. Especially when you have the support of this forum to fall back on for help. The P2 components have to be assembled which requires some very basic soldering skills. If you can twist 2 wires together, solder the join and put some heat shrink over it then you have the skills required to assemble the P2. This is not for everyone though and some prefer to buy a ready built solution. I can recommend Quadcopters.UK for this and its where I got mine from. If I was doing it again though I would build it myself.

    If you do aquire a P2 with FPV its important to ensure that the antenna is fitted to the quad before you power it up. If you forget then you will burn out the video transmitter and have to replace it.

    Phantom Mode v Naza Mode

    Once you have either a Vision or P2 you will find that they both arrive set to perform in Phantom mode. This is a simplified setting that only allows you to fly in GPS mode.

    Sooner or later you will read reports of the infamous Phantom Flyaways. This is the term given to a Phantom that stops responding to control signals and just keeps on flying away or drives itself into the ground. In the early days this was a problem but various design changes and firmware upgrades seem to have reduced the vast majority of problems.

    We still get the odd report though. My theory is that most of these problems is caused by errors in GPS calibration. If the compass is confused then it may think South is North etc and nothing works as intended. A solution to this problem though is to enable whats known as NAZA mode.

    Naza Mode switches on some advanced safety features and in my opinion anyone who does not activate NAZA are denying themselves features that will almost certainly save the day should your compass become confused.

    The first feature is known as ATTI mode. This deactivates the compass and GPS. The quad will however remain level and hold its altitude. The only difference is that it will no longer hold its position. It will drift with the wind or continue moving in the direction it was flying until you make it stop. You can see why switching to this mode is highly likely to give you back control if you encounter problems.

    The second safety feature is HOMELOCK. With the flick of a switch you can bring the quad back to you if you lose orientation and cant tell which way its facing. All you have to do is pull back on the right hand stick.

    Thats enough for now. I may add more later. Feel free to ask for further clarification.


    Last edited by iDrone; 04-19-14 at 11:07 AM. Reason: Update title before Move
    I fly Phantom 2 with Gopro 3 Black, Zenmuse, Imersion RC600, Black Pearl Monitor.

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