As the technology continues to advance, radio-controlled aircraft grow in popularity. They also expand in their capabilities. One such capability is in providing aerial platforms for photography and video. The DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone is the best affordable drone to use for aerial photography.
DJI, Da-Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Co., specializes in this field, allowing it to design vehicles and accessories that are both sophisticated and easy to use. The company is based in Shenzhen, China, but also has employees in the US, Japan, and Europe. With a total of approximately 900 workers, DJI has captured over half of the global market for these specialty aircraft.
Along with a series of professional-grade multi-rotor craft, DJI has introduced small-scale quadcopters aimed primarily at hobbyists. The first in this series is the Phantom. This vehicle serves as an entry-level craft with fewer capabilities but a lower price tag than other members of the family.
Despite its relatively modest abilities, it still has some impressive features. In fact, even though it’s not meant for bigger chores, it’s still occasionally found doing serious photography and surveillance work for film crews or security providers.
The Phantom is the smallest and lightest-weight of any vehicle produced by DJI. As might be guessed, the quadcopter possesses four rotors mounted on fixed arms, giving it a total area of 13.7 inches by 13.7 inches. The landing skids are also non-retractable and provide the craft with a height of 7.5 inches. All of this weighs in at just under one kilogram. The body of the quadcopter includes a mount for a GoPro or similar camera.
It also has LED lights on the underside of each rotor arm. The purpose here is to allow the operator to spot the vehicle at night and to gather immediate information on its flight conditions. The LED lights can switch from red to amber to green and blink, providing information on direction, loss of radio signal, and other events.
The key feature of the Phantom is its ability to provide stable flight without much skill on the operator’s part. Trying to control a four-propeller vehicle directly can be notoriously difficult. The Phantom contains on-board electronics, Naza-M plus GPS,that precisely handle the rotors and provide smooth flight.
The computer controls have been calibrated at the factory and the operator only has to work the remote’s joystick to tell the craft where to go. The rechargeable lithium polymer batteries of the Phantom provide up to 15 minutes of flight time and give it a maximum forward speed of 22.4 miles per hour and a vertical ascent of 13.4 miles per hour.
The remote’s signal has a range of about 3280 feet. With the Naza-M autopilot system, if the vehicle goes beyond the signal range, the autopilot kicks in and uses GPS to fly the craft back to its initial take-off spot. This same mechanism can also maneuver the vehicle to a safe landing if the batteries run too low and the operator fails to heed an LED warning signal from the craft.
Since it’s meant to bring in new people to the hobby of radio-controlled aircraft, the Phantom is designed to be operated by anyone with virtually no previous experience. It’s built to be very inexpensive and yet offer sophisticated computer controls to handle the details of orchestrating the four propellers.
Because it’s also meant to provide a stable platform for entry-level aerial photography, the Phantom has a simple-to-use mount for attaching a camera. It’s also light-weight, which makes it easy for an aerial photography enthusiast to transport it to any location for a quick launch and some spectacular images.
Because the Phantom is a very basic model, it does have limitations. Compared to other models in the family, it has less flight time and a more limited signal range. It’s still quite capable for the price, though.
Among the various reviews given by users, the biggest complaint is the lack of a gimbal to attach a camera to. Without it, images can sometimes be blurred. It is possible to remedy this problem with a separate stabilizing gimbal device, but this takes a bit more knowledge than a novice has and defeats the goal of making the vehicle ready to use out of the box.
Overall, both the product description and online reviews by users point to a UAV that’s perfect for beginners interested in aerial photography.
The Phantom is priced right for anyone who wants to master the basics of this hobby without having to commit to more complicated equipment.