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In this multi-part review, I'll be going over what my first thoughts were and everything that I experienced with the DJI Phantom 2 V2.0.
The first thing that I want to talk about is how we ordered the Phantom 2. I heard somewhere that the shipping from DJI would take at least a week to get to most states, but DJI recently opened up a warehouse in the United States, so I wasn't really sure how long it would take. Surprisingly, It arrived at the door (Phoenix Arizona) in only 3 days.
If you come from the consumer world, the Phantom battery might not seem all that interesting. You plug it in, and it charges–that's it. On the other hand, if you're an RC enthusiast then you'll greatly appreciate the time and effort that went into this battery. For decades, hobbyists have had to deal with big confusing battery chargers, worrying about things like cell voltages, battery temperature, or simply not setting the charger up properly and coming back to a battery fire.
With the Phantom 2, every battery has its own onboard charger with temperature and voltage monitoring. The only thing you need to charge is the included AC-to-DC power supply (which I noticed came with power adapters for all of the major countries). Another good thing about the Phantom 2 battery, is that it automatically turns off if you leave your Phantom on and the voltage drops below 8%.
So far, the only complaint I have about the Phantom 2 battery is that it's very hard to remove from the Phantom 2 body. Luckily, you can turn the battery on and off without having to remove it. I've also heard that it will loosen up over time, making it easier to pop in and out, so I'm not really worried about it.
With the Phantom 2 V2.0, the controller works just like the flight battery. You just plug it in and it starts charging. I even noticed that the controller will start beeping if you leave it on for too long (great feature by the way).
Mounting the propellers was also really easy. It took less than 20 seconds to mount all four of them. I also noticed that both the Phantom 2 and the propellers had markings on them that tell you where they go and what direction they have to rotate in.
The final big step that I had to go through was calibrating the compass. It was pretty easy. I just flicked the flight-mode switch up and down about six times, did a 360, then rotated the quadcopter so that the battery was facing up and did another 360. After that, the Led indicator lights started blinking green and I was clear for takeoff!
The first flight was a flop (literally). It started up, I tried to shut it down using the same sequence as the startup and it fell over. DJI didn't mention how to shut the motors off in the quick-start guide. I then realized that the sequences were on the big red wrapper that comes on the transmitter. For whatever reason, you have to read the quick-start guide and the wrapper on the controller in order to fully understand how to get started.
When it crashed, the plastic material that the propellers are made of seemed to have gotten scraped away pretty bad at the tips of the blades . After braking a prop, I ended up putting the prop guards on for the next flight (just in case).
Once I figured out how to properly shut the motors off, I went back out to try flying again. It took off with ease. Again, I couldn't stop smiling. I was amazed at how I could sit there and watch my drone just hover all by itself.
I originally tried flying in attitude mode, but then I quickly realized that none of the switches on the transmitter did anything. This is because the Phantom 2 is designed with consumers in mind. For the advanced features, you have to connect the Phantom 2 to the computer.
Downloading and installing the DJI configuration program was really easy. All I had to do was login using my DJI username. Once I plugged the Phantom in, it automatically downloaded and installed the latest Phantom 2 firmware.
After poking around in the configuration software, I came across some battery information that was very useful. There's a tab called "Battery" in the Advanced section that gives you every bit of info you could possibly want about the battery. It gives you info like temperature, design capacity, current capacity, percentage of charge, cell voltages, how many times it's been discharged and more.
I looked around for a setting that would enable the attitude mode, but I soon came to the conclusion that it's not possible to fly in attitude mode without entering into what's called Naza M mode. Naza M mode is for unleashing the full power of the Naza M flight controller (the flight computer that's integrated into the Phantom 2). Some of the features in this mode are almost essential, while others you might never use, but if you're reading this I highly recommend putting your Phantom 2 into this mode.
The reason why this mode is so important is because it allows you to bypass the GPS mode (incase your GPS loses signal).
After switching into the Naza M mode, I was worried that I might loose some Phantom-specific features, or that I'd have to set some additional things up before flying again, but I was wrong. All I had to do was press the Phantom button, enable the settings I wanted like attitude mode and intelligent-orientation-control and I was done!
I went out to fly again and all of the modes worked flawlessly.
As far as flying characteristics go, it's extremely smooth. I've logged hundreds of hours with RC helicopters and quadcopters, but I've never flown anything with a GPS before, so naturally I was skeptical on how stable the GPS modes would be. I originally thought that I would fly in attitude mode most of the time, but I found that it was very stable even while doing high-speed maneuvers. Eventually, I found myself leaving it in GPS mode simply because it was easy "and for the most part" didn't effect how I like to fly. The thing that stands out to me the most when flying in GPS mode, is that you don't abruptly stop when you take your hands off the controls.
I've never said this about a drone before, but one thing that I noticed after carrying it around for a while is that the beveled frame design fits in my hand extremely well. Some people say that they hate how the Phantom 2 looks and honestly, I didn't like how it looked when I first saw it in pictures. After finally owning one, I completely changed my mind. It's one of the only drones out there that I can honestly say looks "beautiful".
To sum up the setup process, I opened the box, charged the battery, mounted the props, turned the controller and quadcopter on, did the compass calibration dance, then took off. I honestly thought that I had missed something, but that’s all there is to do. I didn’t even have to charge or bind the controller.
If you're wondering why I never mentioned anything about the DJI Gimbal, don't worry. I'll be talking about my experience with setting up the H3-3D in Part 2 of the review.
Installing the gimbal and shooting some video..
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