A few months ago I got a random email that said "Would you like to review our new remote controlled drone that can carry a GoPro?" I love all types of electronics so I said I would be happy to. I assumed I would be receiving a remote controlled toy in the mail but I was very wrong. The DJI Phantom absolutely blew me away. Even after I destroyed it.
I received the Phantom a few months after that initial email. I had totally forgotten about it and when I did receive it in the mail it took my quite a while to figure out what it was. Once I put 2 and 2 together I opened the box and started assembling the propellers. I was instantly impressed by the feel of the product. It didn't feel like a toy. At that point I went online and realized that these things cost almost $700, way more expensive than the $20 RC choppers I enjoy flying around my office (which are incredible by the way). But at this point I assumed it was simply a very well made toy.
This is no toy
Although I have a bit of experience with RC products, I decided to watch some videos about the product online before I took it outside. It was at this point that I began to realize just how serious this drone was. As you can see in the videos below, this isn't some children's toy.
The benefits to GPS don't end there though. The Phantom can remember exactly where it took off and if it begins to run out of batteries, or if it looses its connection to the radio, it will simply fly up to 60 feet (to avoid obstacles) and then slowly land itself in the very spot it took off from.
I tested these features by flying the Phantom over my home and then cutting the radio off. My neighbor and I stood their in awe as we watched the Phantom land itself right in front of us. As I flew the Phantom around my yard I realized that this was the most fun I had ever had using a radio controlled device. It was so fast (22MPH) and the controls were so precise, it almost didn't seem real. It almost looked like something that was CGI but it was actually flying around right in front of me. I was having a blast using it but unlike my other RC toys, I could actually use this one for my business. Apparently it could hold the weight of a GoPro.
How I destroyed mine
My mind was racing with all of the pictures and videos I could shoot with the Phantom but I knew I should start simple. Mike Kelley was in town and we were filming his soon to be released DVD on architecture photography and I knew he was about to shoot a waterfront house. I knew the home had absolutely no back yard so the only way to capture an exterior shot would be from a helicopter. I've owned a GoPro for years but this was probably the second time I had ever used it. I attached it to the drone with the included GoPro mount and raised the Phantom into the air. I could tell the Drone felt much heavier, its movements were much slower than I was accustom to. I flew the drone out over the marsh and before I could spin it around it started to slowly descend. I gave it full throttle but the Phantom ended up descending faster and then crashed into the mud. We ran out into the marsh to grab it and to our surprise, the drone was fine. We suspect that the battery cable had broken loose causing the drone to fall. As you can see by this video below, these things are built like tanks.
I have a few friends in town that did aerial photography for a living and they spent $25,000 building a hexacopter that would do the job. Now obviously their monstrous machine was better in almost every way however, for just $700 the DJI Phantom is a technological marvel. I have no doubt that at this point, nothing in this price range can come close to what the Phantom can do. If you have ever considered getting into aerial photography or videography or if you simply enjoy high end RC products, I cannot recommend this product enough but please, practice using the drone before you ever decide to take it near water. Especially with a heavy camera attached to it.