Mark deploys his own surveillance hardware in the DJI Phantom 3 Standard
Requirements: iOS 8.0 or later or Android 4.12 or later phone, boundless enthusiasm
I’ve wanted a UAV for some time, and even though I was tempted to spend much more, in the end i resisted and plumped for the Phantom 3 Standard edition.
DJI launched the Phantom 3 in 2015, and there are three current versions you can choose: Standard, Professional and Advanced. It’s since added Phantom 4 models, the new Mavic Pro and the Inspire 2. But even the Phantom 3 Advanced costs nearly double this, and the Professional is more than a thousand pounds.
There’s a huge third-party market for parts, should you break yours.
That begs the obvious questions of how DJI made the Phantom 3 Standard so cheap, and whether it undermines its usefulness.
The cost cutting has hit two specific areas on the UAV: the drone itself and the controller. Whereas the controller on the Advance and Professional have dual antennas and the ability to connect using Lightbridge technology, on the Standard you get a single stubby antenna that uses frequencies that realistically only get you out to about 1km before the link starts to break. Since I’ve had mine. I’ve found some simple and relatively inexpensive ways to extend that to a mile or more, and under UK rules you are supposed to maintain a visual link with the UAV at all times.
The camera on it can also only record 2.7K video, not 4K, but it’s hardly chopped liver when you play it back on a TV. There are also a few limitations about slow motion recording, but you can also get around some of them using alternative software to the recommended DJI Go app.
And the better drones have some collision avoidance technology, but with this drone it’s up to the pilot not to fly into things.
DJI Phantom 3 Standard Features
• Gimbal stabilised 2.7K camera.
• Camera takes 12MP still photos.
• Wi-fi downlink for HD live view.
• GPS for enhanced stability and failsafes.
• Works with DJI GO App for Android / iOS.
• Auto-takeoff / auto return home.
• Up to 25 minutes flying time.
• Intelligent LiPo flight battery.
• Built-In controller battery/usb charging.
• Mobile device holder included.
I’d classify almost all the other differences as minor details. As an example, the quick release props are a welcome feature, but as I leave mine attached, it’s not a huge deal. Equally, the mount on the controller only takes a phone sized screen not a tablet, but you can buy an alternative mount for £10 easily.
If there is a catch It’s that buying the drone is just the start of spending, because you’ll soon want all manner of extras to enjoy your aircraft even more.
While not an absolute necessity, having some visual feedback from the camera and reference information requires an Android or iOS device, and you might not want to flatten the battery on your own phone.
And talking of batteries the ones for this drone are pretty expensive. It only comes with one, and even with a decent flight time of 25 minutes, you’ll want longer. The official battery costs £124 from DJI, though you can get It cheaper elsewhere or chance third-party batteries.
Incidentally, power problems account for the top five problems that cause people to crash their drones, in case you wondered.
I ended up buying prop guards, a gimbal protector and a second-hand Nexus 7 2013 to use as a control screen, along with three batteries. All told, I’ve blown at least another £300 on it.
Out of the box, you get the drone, controller, a set of replacement blades, a charger and a cable to use a phone charger (or PC) to charge the controller. You also get a lovely set of metallic stickers, so you can identify your UAV when it’s around others.
There’s a huge third-party market for parts, should you break yours or you wish to invest in carbon fibre props or some other enhancement.
This aspect and the current price are the major advantages of this not being the latest DJI design.
Even after all that outlay, what do I think of the Phantom 3 Standard? In a word, ‘amazing’. I’d love a Mavic Pro or an Inspire 2 but I’d be genuinely terrified of crashing it catastrophically, as most people eventually seem to do with their drones.
With this choice, I’ve now got a UAV that can film high-quality video, run preprogrammed flight paths taking still images for terrain mapping and a million other uses. And if it crashes, it can be fixed or replaced without it bankrupting me.
I just can’t wait to take this on holiday with me and use It to get some video shots that people will be interested to see and not sleep through, mm Mark Pickavance
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