It wasn’t that many years ago, that the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter could only have existed in a high budget sci-fi film, through the efforts of Industrial Light and Magic. But after taking a rather large chunk out of the review budget for the Robot Stockpile, I found a box containing the futuristic drone at my front door.
I had tested some other drones in the past, but none with a price tag this steep, or one that had the capability to turn me into some rather unpleasant looking sushi. So to be sure that I knew what I was doing, I tackled the manual that closely resembled a phone book in size (for any of the younger readers, phone books were large books of numbers that no one ever used.)
Once I was ready to take off, I went to the open greenspace behind my house, so that I wouldn’t put anyone – or anything at risk while I learned the controls. Expecting the worst, I was immediately surprised at how easy it was to get it started, and airborn.
I started with some basic commands, and thanks to its robust flight intelligence, it was very simple to keep it steady. The flight intelligence helps it to remain more or less stable, even if it’s fighting strong winds. Of course it’s not perfect, and you can get movement of several feet in any direction while holding it like this, but it is far better than I expected.
I also took some time to try out the much trumpeted GPS system. According to the manufacturer, it will return the drone to the starting position if contact is lost. This also worked without issue, as the drone returned to the starting position the first time I lost contact.
After playing around with it for a few minutes, I decided to try out the camera control. This is where things tend to get tricky, since you have two controls and a smartphone to deal. At the beginning, it felt like I would have to start using two hands and a foot to really do it justice, but I quickly got the hang of it. Now I should state, that it does take some getting used to view the location through the camera, so its strength is definitely flying within eye sight.
Unlike the previous DJI Phantom Drone, this one comes with an excellent built in camera. I had the chance to test out the previous drone, and the one weakness that constantly detracted from the experience was the difficult mating of a camera with the drone. Even with a GoPro camera, I found that the process was annoying and more often than not, provided shaky, subpar photos.
Thankfully the camera that has been provided for the new DJI Phantom Drone is a huge improvement, and along with an improved battery and tweaks to the flight software, makes for a nearly perfect flight experience.
Within a few minutes of flying this, I admit that I was hooked. I don’t have any real use for the drone, but there was something satisfying about flying something this cool and futuristic behind my house. And while many people will just buy one for fun, there are hundreds of commercials applications for this drone.
They are currently being used in all sorts of photography, security and even in building inspections. And once you try out the cameras on these, you will see why. They can give high quality shots, that include panoramics and videos of the flight.
And the camera is more than up to the job. It comes with a high-resolution camera attached to its belly, that is mounted on a vibration-reducing platform. The video from the camera is streamed directly to your smartphone that is attached to the controllers, and you can choose between videos and pictures.
The camera can be easily aimed from your smartphone and you’d be amazed at some of the shots of buildings and gatherings that you can get when flying the drone. I even know a building inspector who is testing out the drone on old heritage buildings, since it can go to places that are almost impossible to reach by other means.
The camera itself offers 1080i resolution and 60 frames a second, with 14 megapixel resolution. You can record the video onboard onto a memory card 4Gb micro SD card, and the camera is fully controlled from your smartphone.
But like so much else with technology, not everything about the DJI Phantom Drone is perfect. The drone has a great camera, but it’s not as powerful as many of the professional S.L.R cameras available out there. While most people won’t notice the fifference, anyone using this for professional purposes may notice some fish-eye distortion in the wide angle, and that zooming can be difficult.
The second issue, is that it claims to keep itself steady when you let go of the controls. It does keep itself mostly stationary, but I found that it can move several feet to either side. The reason for this, is that it doesn’t use military grade GPS, so its more of a relative position.
The final issue is something that I thankfully have avoided up until now, but there have been some reports of battery problems. So you might want to think twice before you fly it out above a local lake of the ocean. Thankfully these problems seem to be rare, but they are worth mentioning.
But when it comes right down to it, this is hands down the best drone on the market, and just for the sheer fun quotinet, I would recommend this to anyone interested in a high end drone.