(C) 2014 Matt Jarvis. d vulputate
The DJI Phantom2 is a medium lift, 4 propeller multirotor helicopter. It has a 5200mAh battery, 4 brushless motors, integrated GPS and programmable flight controller. Out of the box, it’s a very competent flyer, but not the most exciting or demanding aircraft to keep in the air. Where it really wins out is as a simple to fly, aerial camera platform, where with the addition of a Go-Pro camera and stabilising gimbal, you can construct a really superb system capable of professional video results.
To enhance my Phantom, I have added a video downlink, based upon a Boscam 25mW transmitter, on-screen display of flight data via an OSD Mini module and a Black Pearl monitor with built in dual receivers. The monitor is fitted via a bracket onto the radio control transmitter, so the operator (Me!!) can maintain visual contact with the quadcopter and still easily view the video coming from the on-board camera.
I have also fitted a sun shade to the camera, as this helps to reduce the flicker from the rotors as the sun shines through them onto the lens. This is a simple, lightweight cone made out of back card. To keep the camera system off the ground, I have fitted longer, wider landing gear. This also helps to keep the landing legs out of shot.
To help protect from crashes due to hitting other objects, I have fitted prop guards to the helicopter. The front 2 are also painted in day-glow red, to assist in orientating the quad correctly. The down side of putting any sort of structure around the props is that their efficiency is reduced. This shortens flight times and can affect stability while landing, but I feel this is an acceptable trade off against potential damage and losing orientation.
The Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal can correct for unwanted movement in 3 axis. This clever device has 3 very fast responding brushless motors, controlled by gyros and accelerometers to keep the camera pointing with incredible accuracy. The only poor part of the system is the flimsy control arm on the back of the controller, which is both difficult to move smoothly and is prone to breakage. After mine packed up, I replaced it with a conventional knob. This is a very simple modification, requiring replacement of the control trimmer with a full sized pot, drilling a hole in the case and re-calibrating the control channel.
Many countries have tough regulations regarding where you can fly radio control aircraft - particularly when you fit a camera designed for recording to them. In the UK, the CAA are responsible for the rules, but have adopted very common sense policies. So long as you keep 150M away from towns and villages and don’t fly within 50M of anyone else, you should be fine, but do read the regulations in detail just to ensure you stay legal.
I have flown a wide range of radio control helicopters, and the DJI Phantom2 remains the easiest to fly and also the best camera platform for less than £5000. Mine has a few extras over the standard craft however.