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Phantom: Year 1

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Skypod, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. Skypod

    Dec 24, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Silver City, NM USA
    It’s been nearly a year since I saw that first inspiring YouTube video of Niagara Falls filmed by someone using a Phantom and FPV goggles. After watching the video (perhaps while watching it) I did a search for “DJI Phantom” and was even more impressed with the technology available to make the video than the video itself. Two weeks before I became aware of such things, my anxious research indicated that the Phantom had dropped from $700 to under $500 and I had a tracking number for one of my own by the end of the day!

    After a dozen flights with my new Phantom, an H3-2D gimbal and mainboard upgrade kit arrived, which I promptly installed. A couple flights later and the final parts for my first Phantom arrived: The FatShark Attitude v2, CP antennas and IRC 600mw VTx. Each upgrade worked perfectly and enhanced the flying/filming experience exponentially. I logged over 210 flights on this bird with only a couple of slow, low altitude crashes, carefully inspecting and cleaning after the mishaps. These things are surprisingly tough.

    Last month I took the platform to the Yucatan on vacation. I flew two batteries at the condo we were staying at and noticed that one of the motors seemed a little hot. I didn’t think much of it. The next day, we went on a fly fishing excursion to Ascension Bay and I took the Phantom with in hopes of getting some of the best footage of the trip.

    I took off from the boat next to shore. Everything seemed fine. I was flying with the FPV goggles when I made a sharp turn back to the boat and saw a Phantom arm fill the screen and then images of tumbling. I immediately removed the goggles but never saw the craft again. It was a hundred or so meters away, close to shore and my spotter said it came down at a very sharp angle. We searched for an hour before I called it off. Nobody saw exactly where it went down as there was a peninsula of jungle between where we were and where it went down. It could have been in the water or in the dense jungle. The FPV went out immediately, which might suggest it went down in the water but who knows. The way it dropped suggests mechanical failure or an electrical connection. I suspect a motor.

    So I’m stuck carrying an empty GoProfessional case back home, wondering if I should step up my backburner F550 build (with frame and E300 kit so far) or order another RTF Phantom. I wasn’t nearly as upset about the loss as I might have been since I’ve convinced myself over the last year that it’s a matter of when I would lose it; not if. $1500 is a hard hit for me but not disastrous in the grand scheme of things and certainly not enough to scare me away from my new favorite pastime.

    It was decided to replace the Phantom as soon as possible but should I try and utilize some of the remaining equipment and get another Phantom 1 or scrap it and get a Phantom 2? B&H helped me make the decision when I saw they had a kit with a Phantom 1, a Hero 4 Black, a wheeled case, SD card, AA charger with batteries and an extra flight battery for $720. I figured this was a pricing mistake but went ahead and ordered it just in case because I felt like I could use a little good luck after my most unfortunate loss. Sure enough, the order shipped before the price of the kit was adjusted to $1200. Woo-hoo, back in action with a free GoPro Hero 4! Thank you B&H. I am now your humble and obedient consumer for life.

    I went ahead and ordered an H3-3D gimbal, upgrade board and landing gear/mounting plate kit (from B&H, of course) as soon as I received the bargain Phantom kit. The upgrade went fine with a couple exceptions. The first thing I noticed was a motor stress noise when the camera was tilted all the way up. It didn’t do it every time I booted and went away as soon as I tilted down a few degrees. I’ve since stuck the anti-interference board in-line under the craft and the gimbal noise hasn’t returned. The other problem I’m having is getting the Phantom to connect to the Naza Assistant. It connects briefly, then the LED fades and the light indicators on the software go out and I have no control. The radio and Phantom are communicating fine but I get intermittent connectivity at best with the assistant software. I suspect it’s a bad LED board that came with the upgrade kit but all the other LED indicators work when unplugged from USB. Weird. I’ll swap it out with the original since the cables appeared to be the same length, anyway, when I sized them up during the upgrade.

    With an AUW of 1116 grams (compared to 1060 grams with the previous build), I was going to test this new bird with or without the assistant. I could connect long enough to see that I didn’t need to calibrate the IMU so I figured I was good to go after a compass calibration. My first flight with the upgrade board and H3-3D didn’t go so well, in fact; I wouldn’t even call it a flight. The gimbal was installed too far forward (as per a bad YouTube video) and the craft just nosed into the ground. Ouch! My intuition told me to install the gimbal mounting plate with the small end forward but the how-to video clearly showed it the other way, which puts the gimbal so far forward that the battery door doesn’t drop all the way down.

    After a quick 180 of the gimbal mounting plate and some compressed air dusting, the gimbal is now better centered on the craft and she leapt from the ground with confident attitude. When I first read about the H3-3D gimbal, I imagined having control of the third axis (on a radio with more channels) but later learned that it is a passive feature. It still makes a noticeable difference and the already amazing Zenmuse Hero gimbal is just that much more amazing! Looks like a good day to fly—I shall endeavor not to crash today…
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