So it’s been close enough to a year to give you my thoughts on the DJI Phantom 3 Standard drone from DJI. This review will be based on pros and cons and has opinion has been developed over a 10 month period with multiple flights in multiple locations. The review will be on the drone itself, with some associative commentary based on amateur drone flying and the lack of information provided by those in authoritarian rule.
Deciding to get a drone was a want not a need. Seeing beautiful reveals and cinematic shots on YouTube and Instagram peaked my interest, and wit the newest drone offering from DJI being marketed sub $700 I just had to have one. My local JB Hifi had one in store and quite happily handed over the drone without a second thought. I was surprised there was no control measure in place to restrict purchasing (That we could see anyway) but gladly tucked t under our arms and off for a maiden voyage.
Took a few trips to the local oval to really get a grasp on its features and controls but once I started to feel confident enough I took it on a quick holiday down to my parents on the south coast (See video here – Phantom 3 First Flight – Merimbula, NSW ) and started playing around with camera angles etc. The more minutes I put on the drone the more I became confident this thing wouldn’t fall out of the sky. Having flown a small toy drone before I was god awful, however the GPS feature was (and still is) the saving grace of this unit and after a fortnight of ownership I remained crash free.
We took it to Tasmania for a 3 week lap of the triangle (See video here – Trip to the Triangle – Tasmania, Part 1 ) and managed to pilot it anywhere I thought I wouldn’t either offend anyone or risk crashing into some remote location. Some mornings I would wake up before other campers in the area and get in a quick 20 minutes as to not offend anyone. Having read the rules over and over again I was confident in sticking to basic rules and regulations but was unsure how people would react to any perceived breach of privacy.
After returning from Tasmania I have flown the drone perhaps a dozen times more, and for the most feel I have mastered the basics of flight manoeuvring using the GPS function. There are times I feel I could place the drone into attitude mode to achieve manual flight however it’s still not an area I feel comfortable exploring, and there are a couple of other basic functions I need to get down pat before continuing experimenting.
The controls are relatively smooth and the interface of the two joysticks whilst taking a little time to get used to, is the same yaw pitch and roll as found on similar drones (with the added aid of stabilising GPS). If I took off I could literally take my hands off the control and the Phantom would stop and centre itself, something to the novice that is worth beholding. This makes taking decent footage hat much easier, and coupled with the gimbal system really helps get those cinematic shots worth keeping.
By no means are a defining view there a couple of cons to this review, mainly by way of price point. The Phantom 3 Standard comes without a viewing screen, meaning you use your phone as the screen and control the drone via wifi signal. The drawback being the range can be hit and miss, with achieved ranges of 800m to as little as 100m (Depending on signal etc). If it’s a clear, flat area with little line of sight interference this things fly’s like a bird on a wire. However, introduce some trees, buildings or hills then signal quality drops.
Another con is the software upgrades. Google drone updates and you will read about them being notoriously buggy. Since my last upgrade I have noticed my SD card fails to record every flight. It has also freezed mid fligh0t (No issues before with same card), only to return 60 seconds later when it disconnects (Luckily whilst it was returning to base – more on this later). The result being unless you are aware of the recording button continuously blinking you may end up missing that special shot, not being able to attempt again.
The biggest plus IMO is the return to home feature. When you do lose signal (and undoubtedly you will) the drone alerts the user it is beginning to return to home. Staying in the same course it used to get to the area it lost signal in, the drone follows the breadcrumbs attitude and trajectory directly back to the area it was last launched from (the auto home pint). Took awhile to gain confidence in this feature but once trust is gained I happily let it do its thing, especially when launched from wooded environments where clearance is king.
Now would I buy another Phantom 3 Standard, depends. If you are a novice looking at getting a drone capable of taking quality video on a budgets then yes, understanding that 2.7k is the current standard 3 limiting video capability. However, if you have some experience with video and are looking at improving your results rather than say achieving them and budget isn’t the constraint then the Phantom 4 would be your best bet (with 4k quality), plus additional increased range. If you’re looking for enhanced quality and enhanced portability then the Mavic’s collapsible nature offers the best of all DJI worlds, with stacks of range and a slick user interface.
None of these opinions or stats really update the due diligence one must strive for when researching their first drone purchase, but they will offer some reflective value with our YouTube channel (See here – City Gone Bad ) featuring 2.7k edits taken from our Phantom 3 standard. Whilst I am relatively happy I would love some increased range capability, plus the sheer size of the Phantom 3 makes it rather bulky to transport (When compared to the Mavic). But at almost a 1/4 of the price of the flagship consumer model, the Phantom 3 remains a solid choice for those budget worthy considerations.