My Experiments with Legacy DJI Phantom FC40

Introduction:

DJI the world leader in consumer drone products. DJI Phantom FC40 series is meant for amateur photography to professional cinematography in Hollywood movies. It is a great equipment for anyone who is interested in the drone revolution or need it as a tool. The Phantom has gained quite the reputation in the media for the past few years. It has been used in construction for land surveying, firefighters who need a better view of the fire zone, and for search and rescue; the Phantom has been there and done that.

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My Experience Buying a Phantom:

*Please know that this is my experience for the Phantom FC40 and Phantom 2 Vision and will mostly talk about the FC40.
Check out the latest posts on DJI Mavic , DJI Phantom 4 PRO and DJI Inspire 2 .

When I first got interested in quadcopters, it was pretty confusing road since there is no one to guide you, like a car dealer selling cars. During that time, I was debating over a Phantom, Blade 350, or a CX-20 since the price tag was within my range. They all performed similar tasks like Return to Home, GPS Hold, and have a failsafe.

There are many reasons why I believe my choice with DJI is the right choice and here is why:

Fast & Responsive Customer Support:

The customer service was a terrific experience. They know their product inside out with superior response time. I truly believe that if a brand has a strong customer support, it shows that they also care about the customers and want to show the best of their brand. This gave me confidence with my purchase.

Updatable Products:

In my opinion, any product that can be updated in the future shows that the brand isn’t just focused about making the next generation of Phantoms but also cares about the performance of their old products as well. I would never want a recall on the Phantom due to a bug in the software. The other quadcopters like the Blade and CX-20 do not allow updates to their system unless you hack into and do it yourself whereas the Phantom can be upgraded through a small micro USB port. Heck, even the remote can be upgraded, that’s already damn impressive.

Material & Design:

During my purchasing dilemma, I really wanted to be able to show off my quadcopter like a someone who just purchased a fancy car. I have not seen a CX-20 or a Blade 350 before in real life but just through pictures and repair videos, the Phantom has a much sturdy frame and a cleaner “engine”. The design of the Phantom truly looks like it’s been designed by someone at Apple, sleek, simple, and professional.

Spare Parts:

DJI has a massive collection of repair parts in case you break something. They have from small replacement screws to a whole new shell. Unlike the Blade 350 and CX-20, good luck finding spare parts for them on their official website.

Third Party Modifications:

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This may not apply to the average user, but I was also looking for a quadcopter that could be customized quite easily. Many shopping sites were selling accessories and upgrades mostly for the Phantom. This allowed me to find pretty neat upgrades for the Phantom like a gimbal, retracting landing gear, fpv bracket, and OSD. I also noticed that the same parts can be purchased through other sites for relatively cheap with the same quality. An important factor is the circuitry is also clean and understandable to modify as it’s all been color coded and labeled.

A Closer Look at The Product:

Upon receiving the Phantom FC40, it was nicely packed in hard cardboard which held everything in place during shipping. The Phantom is RTF (Ready to Fly) with only 8 screws to install the landing gear and spin on the self-tightening propellers. The Phantom came with a third party balance charger which charges from 1ss to 4s at 3 amps max. It came with three different country adapter plugs which are really nice in case I take the Phantom for travel. In a separate box came the FC40 camera; the camera allows wifi live stream to your Android or Apple device. Batteries for the transmitter was not included in the box; the transmitter needs 4 X AA batteries.

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I immediately charged the lipo and went on my computer to download the Naza Configurator. I wanted to see if there are any updates available for the Phantom before I fly. Two updates were available for my Phantom and the transmitter. It was a simple USB update for the Phantom but the USB for the transmitter was inside the casing. I had to open the case in order to get to the micro USB, weird design. The Phantom 2 and 3 series transmitter shell has a cut out of the micro USB for easy access.

Phantom in the Air:

The Phantom was a complicated aircraft, coming from a guy who only flew store bought helicopters and small little toy quadcopters. The Phantom requires you to know its system fairly in depth. From different color signals to flight modes. This is where I highly recommend you to study the different switches on the transmitter and the behavior of the Phantom. If you did not even bother to read the manual like I did, you will be stumped to even figure out how to arm the Phantom. The Phantom requires a simple maneuver on the transmitter sticks in order for it to be armed. Another mistake I made is flying the Phantom without calibrating the compass. Luckily, I did not have a fly away.

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Once the Phantom is in the air, it was the easiest quadcopter I had flown. Over time, I have built great confidence for the GPS system to remain hover while gusts of wind were pushing at it. I love the fact that in GPS mode, it remains at the same altitude during a forward pitch. Unlike most toy quadcopters, you will need to manually compensate forward motion with some throttle, the Phantom automatically does this for you. It was really stable and super easy to fly after about 3 hours of practice. The only complaint I can make is that the battery only lasts about 8 minutes with the stock setup.

Different Flight Modes:

There are a couple special flight modes I want to talk about. The two flight modes are “Course Lock” and “Home Lock”. Right off the bat, I am not a big fan of these flight modes. Course Lock allows the quadcopter to have no yaw relativity. Unlike many traditional quadcopters, if you turn 180 degrees, your roll and pitch controls will be flipped relative to you. Course Lock mode removes the relativity and does not allow the yaw position of the aircraft to affect your sticks. So if you were to do a 90* turn while the camera is pointing away from you, the camera will be facing to the right, then if you were to give it forward pitch, the camera footage will be traveling to the left relative to the Phantom but direct away from you.

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The Home lock is similar, but the relatively is lock towards where it took off. Both of these flight modes, I consider is very unhelpful. The point I'm trying to make is, the Phantom is an aerial camera, if you do not care about where your footage is pointing at then you can use this flight mode.

The ONLY positive I could say about this is if you lose orientation, while flying you can quickly switch to home lock and pull the Phantom to your direction. Other than that I would stay away from these flight modes until you understand how to fly in GPS Mode as it would cause greater confusion in the future.

Problems:

I have had experienced about three aways during my time with the Phantoms. However please do note that 2 fly aways were due to pilot error. These mistakes were from not understanding the aircraft fully; flying too close 2.4ghz wifi signal and forgetting to calibrate the compass. .

A small problem I also have noticed among all the Phantoms is their tiny landing gear. If the ground is not close to being level, the Phantom can easily be tipped over during the landing. I have experienced this problem once too many that I now actually descend the Phantom until it is about my height, grasp onto the landing and disarm with my other hand. It is a dangerous method, but never personally had a problem with it. Furthermore, the compartment space for the Phantom 1 and Phantom FC40 is fairly small. It is ridiculous having to shove the XT60 and balance through little space left above the battery.

Conclusion:

I have experience with the Phantom inside out for about 2 years now and done many DIY upgrades and modifications to it. I can confidently say the Phantom, is a fabulous and easy quadcopter to work with. Although it only has a few drawbacks, the pros of having this strongly outweighs the negatives. DJI has created a fantastic tool, that not only looks elegant but have top notch performance as well.

 

 

 

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