DJI Phantom Review

DJI Phantom drone

Overview

DJI’s original Phantom quadcopter is still a popular choice within this exciting new hobby. It is a complete Read-To-Fly package that you can literally get in the air minutes after unpacking it. Flight is enhanced by an on-board GPS system and Naza-M autopilot system. It is a fully capable flying machine that is easy enough to learn that it makes a great quadcopter for those without flying experience.

DJI Phantom from above

PROS:
  • Excellent quadcopter for both beginning and pro pilots
  • Mounts the most popular GoPro Hero cameras
  • IOC controls provide pilot heading flexibility and ability to film an event in center of flight circle easily
  • Easy to update via firmware/software downloads
CONS:
  • Supplied documentation is skimpy and a poor Chinese-English translation
  • Original, new props often need balancing to avoid video “jello”
  • Return-to-home feature failures and “fly-aways” happen too often
  • Most problems are attributable to V1.1, so get 1.1.1 if possible
Once you become an expert flyer, take your hobby to the next level by adding a video camera. The Phantom is specially designed to work with GoPro cameras so that you can make your own cinema quality flight movies easily. Using a third-party transmitter, you can enable the Phantom for First-Person-View video as well.

Detailed Description

The DJI Phantom comes with a pre-tuned remote transmitter. Just fully charge the battery, attach the landing gear and propellers and install the AA batteries into the remote controller. Do a complete pre-flight check to ensure all systems are go.

Phantom 1 in flight

The Phantom’s internal GPS serves two purposes:

  1. It allows you to program the Phantom with the take-off coordinates, to which it will automatically return if communication between copter and remote control is lost.
  2. During flight, the GPS helps the copter compensate for light wind to stay on course.

 

DJI’s Naza-M Assistant software lets you program the built-in Naza-M autopilot from any PC with a USB connection. You can adjust self-leveling and altitude holding parameters to make controlling the Phantom a breeze. Intelligent Orientation Control gives you three settings that affect how the quadcopter responds to pilot controls relative to the copter-pilot position.

A GoPro camera
The DJI Phantom is equipped with a camera mount to accept three models of GoPro video cameras: the Hero2, Hero3 and Hero3+. With the addition of a third-party video streaming radio interface, such as a Fat Shark FPV system, you can view what the camera sees in real-time. See this video for more information:

Dimensions350mm diagonal between rotors x 190mm height
Weight at take-off1.2kg without camera
Batteries2200mah LiPO
Power3.12W
Maximum speed10m/s
Maximum ascent6m/s
GPS accuracy2.5m horizontal, 0.8m vertical
Number of control channels6
Control frequency2.4GHz
Transmitter range1000m
Transmitter power20dBm
Receiver sensitivity<-100dBm
Transmitter power consumption52mA at 6VDC from 4 AA batteries
Charger input voltage100-240VAC

What Buyers Are Saying

Man holding a checklist

Most reviewers of the DJI Phantom are first-time quadcopter fliers or they are upgrading from less expensive models by other manufacturers. The consensus among these buyers is that the DJI Phantom is easy for a beginner to pick up and vastly superior in capabilities and handling characteristics of cheaper models by other copter makers.

Beginners really appreciate the GPS/Naza-M/IOC features that assisted them in not crashing the machine while getting the hang of the controls. When crashes happened, usually the durable Phantom suffered only minor damage and was able to continue flying.

 

The “return to home” feature of the Phantom appears not to work consistently or not at all in some of the machines shipped as new. There are too-frequent complaints and even disaster stories regarding the inability of the Phantom to return to the take-off point if remote control communication is lost.

Some GoPro Hero 3 models reportedly interfere with the Phantom’s GPS, which could be a cause of reported fly-aways. In any case, it is strongly advised that you confirm GPS function, IOC settings and test the return-home function in an open area before each flight.

Most reviewers also recommend buying additional quadcopter batteries and a back-up battery for your GoPro if you have one. They advise adding prop guards, painting them for visual orientation clues and to balance the props to avoid video “jello.” Magnetic prop balancers should not be used near the Phantom itself to avoid de-calibrating the compass.A closeup photo of DJI Phantom

 

Rating and Conclusion

The DJI Phantom is such a capable quadcopter and of such good build quality that it should get five stars. However, due to not infrequent experiences with navigational system failures, even on new machines, it gets one star knocked off.

One of these with a few accessories plus a GoPro camera can be in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars. For a package like that to fly out of control due to a mechanical or firmware bug is unacceptable. DJI has was one of the first advanced quadcopter manufacturers to ignite this hobby, but they may be losing their edge in terms of quality control and customer support.
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