Preparing to Fly
NOTE: This book is not intended to replace or supplement the DJI quick start guide or manual, rather it is to familiarize the reader with the basics of the aircraft before a potential purchase. After you have finished this book and decided on a model, please download and read the manual and watch the official DJI videos. Continuing education is needed to get the most out of your Phantom – and also to avoid mishaps!
Safety Warnings and Topics
Please become familiar with the many safety issues which apply to this hobby. An outline of some major safety points is below:
Spinning Propellers can injure humans and animals – Phantom propellers could cause deep wounds or worse. Be cautious – do not fly near or over people, moving vehicles or animals. Make certain you are familiar with the startup process (arming) of your quadcopters. Newer pilots may want to consider propeller guards which are sold by DJI.
LiPo Batteries can ignite as well as cause shocks. Do not charge batteries near combustible materials and do not charge unattended. Use specially made LiPo battery charging sacks or charge in a metal or ceramic container. Make certain there are smoke and CO detectors in the areas where you charge and store your batteries. Make certain that water and other fluids do not come into contact with your LiPo batteries. A guide to traveling (flying) with your DJI Phantom is covered later in this book.
Falling or Crashing quadcopters can injure or kill. As stated before, do not fly over or near people, animals or moving vehicles. Use common sense in planning your flight path. Do not fly out of your line of sight (LOS).
FAA Registration and Use of your Phantom
Starting in 2016 the FAA requires registration of all drones weighing more than 250 grams. Registration is easy and costs only $5 for 3 years. Here is a link to the FAA registration. Once you have obtained a registration number, mark or label your Phantom with this information and carry a printed card with your FAA information.
FAA Registration entitles you to hobby and recreational use of your Phantom. If you intend to provide commercial services (house inspection, realty photography, etc.), then you need to take a test to qualify and obtain a UAS (unmanned aerial systems) license. Anyone of reasonable intelligence can study and learn the subjects needed to pass this test. However, since this book is an introduction we will not delve into the specifics. Here is an FAA link to the general information on Part 107 for commercial uses.
Your Flying Grounds
Avoid the temptation to walk out onto your small backyard or the street in front of your home for your first Phantom flights. Crashing your valuable bird before you even paid the credit card bill can easily ruin your day – or week!
Instead, seek out a large open area with few obstacles (trees, people, buildings) – an acre (200 x 200 feet) is a good minimum size to shoot for although larger is better. Good candidates include local conservation land, unused town and high school sports fields and/or R/C club flying grounds (contact a local R/C club). Pick an area away from highways, large power lines and dense housing to avoid radio frequency interference.
Place the Phantom well away from trees, buildings or other obstacles. This will allow it a clear landing space if it goes into Return to Home (RTH) mode either automatically or on your command. Become familiar with the RTH settings and functions (covered later in this book) so that you can anticipate how it will react in situations such as low battery or loss of Remote signal.
The Phantom models have programming which limit the use of the aircraft near major airports. Responsible pilots should stay a distance from ANY airport and also limit the height of their flights when close to such facilities. If you are very near (
Even experienced pilots should only fly in open areas. It would be wise to consider your anticipated flying ground(s) before you make your purchase as flying over people, dense urban areas, buildings, roads, etc. is a safety hazard and could also result in premature loss of your valuable Phantom.
You’ll want at least 2 batteries to get the most out of your Phantom. Make certain to bring an extra set of props to the field. If you are a first time flyer you may want to install the optional prop guards before attempting your first flights. A small bag with various tools, rubber bands, electrical tape and glue can be handy for various in-the-field small modifications and/or repairs.
Only DJI brand batteries should be used for the P3 and P4 series. Clones (copies) may eventually hit the market, but it’s not worth your valuable quadcopter to take a chance.
Understanding how your Aircraft Moves
The various directions in which an aircraft moves have names – as do the usual flight controls which make the vehicle take these actions. Once in flight and hovering, your Phantom can move up-down, left-right, forward-backwards and also spin on its axis.
The following definitions will apply – we are using aircraft terms although quadcopters do not have the actual mechanical parts such as moving flaps and rudders.
Elevator – this is the flight control used to make the quad angle up or down when facing forward. Pitch is the term used to describe the effect of the elevator on the nose of the aerial vehicle. The Phantom will fly forward when the nose is pitched down and backwards when pitched up.
Aileron – this is the flight control used to make the quadcopter lean left or right – the actual movement is called a roll or banking and the aircraft will move left or right when this stick movement is applied.
Rudder – This describes the flight control which makes the quad rotate on its center axis – called YAW. It will stay level and spin (as in dance pirouettes!) so that the nose faces various directions.
Throttle – The left stick, when moved in an up or down direction, puts more or less power to the propellers. In a quadcopter, throttle is used both for up-down movement of the machine and for movement in other directions when combined with other stick commands. Beginners would do well to notice how helicopters fly – they “lean” forward (pitch) and then apply throttle. This is the same way that a Phantom moves through the air.
Since a quadcopter is computer controlled, they don’t have the actual flaps as with a fixed wing aircraft – but if they did, the Elevators would be the tail flaps and the ailerons the wing control surfaces. Instead, control is achieved by the Flight Controller varying the exact amount of electrical power delivered to each of the rotors, making the craft lean in the direction the pilot desires to fly.
Phantom 3 and 4 initial Setup
The owners manual and quick start guide are quite complete and can be used to properly set up your Phantom. An overview of the steps required are listed here:
Note: if your smart device does not have cellular service it would be best to first setup your Phantom in a location (back yard, etc.) where there is a wireless network – the DJI Go App requires you to login with DJI and also may require some software and firmware updates. After setup, you can then take the Phantom to a larger field for your actual first flights.
1. Unpack Phantom and install props – no tools needed, but make certain to snug the new plastic hub propellers on by hand (P3). Remove small foam piece from behind gimbal(P3).
2. Using the included battery charger, charge up the Remote Controller- when the Remote is fully charged, hook the battery charger to the included Phantom smart battery and charge fully. DO NOT CHARGE BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.
3. Download and Install the DJI Go App on your phone or tablet.
4. Mount your smart device in the included holder on the TX and connect it to the TX using either the supplied USB cord (android) or your own lightning connector (IOS). (P3S and P3 4K are wireless so do not connect via USA) Make sure the 3 position switch on the top left of the TX is in the rightmost position (P-GPS)
5. Remove plastic gimbal lock and lens cap (if included) – check that the micro SD card is in the CD camera slot on the side of the gimbal holder.
6. Turn on the Remote (first) then the Phantom – both are turned on by pressing the respective power buttons once for 2 seconds, then leaving go, then pressing again.
7. Open the DJI Go App (with a working cellular or wireless connection)- this should guide you through the steps required to register and update your Phantom.
Note -there are multiple ways to upgrade the firmware on your Phantom – through the app though the SD card and/or through a computer program for Mac and PC called DJI Assistant 2. This can be downloaded from the DJI site. On occasion firmware updates will not take or throw off errors. If this occurs, try to reinstall again – perhaps using another method. In some cases it helps to replace the MicroSD card with a newly formatted card.
8. Activate the Camera screen in the DJI Go App. A banner across the top center should inform you of the status of the aircraft – Safe to Fly-GPS means the aircraft is ready. Check the map on your smart device to assure that the home point is where you are currently located.
9. Calibrate compass on the Phantom (the DJI Go App should guide you through this step). If not prompted to calibrate the compass, touch the status banner on the center-top of the screen to navigate to the settings where you can select “calibrate compass”.
Note: If you did the above at home in a wireless access point – you can shut everything down and move out to the field where you intend to fly. If you have a cellular connection to the net and are already at the flying field you can just go ahead to #10 below.
10. Arm props using the CSC (Combined Stick Command) as with other Phantoms – propellers should start spinning slowly, indicating that the quadcopter is ready for take off.
11. After landing, power off the devices in the opposite manner – that is, turn off the quadcopter battery first and then power off the transmitter.
The DJI Go App
Note: The Camera and DJI Go App on the Phantoms are nearly identical to that on the DJI Inspire 1. When searching online for videos and guides to camera and Go App functions, you may find those about the Inspire helpful.
Note 2: The DJI Go App puts a very heavy load on the smart device – so faster and newer models will work best. IOS (Apple) devices tend to work better as they have fewer background applications (so-called bloatware) running.
The DJI Go App, which runs on certain IOS and Android smartphones and tablets, functions as your monitor as well as an interface to many of the functions and settings of the Phantom. The Go App is not fully documented in the current DJI manual (it is quite complex and capable), so you will have to learn many of the functions and settings by other means. You can explore the App without turning your Phantom on, which will give you some ideas of the main menus. There are also some useful videos online. A simulator is included with the Go App, allowing you to practice most all functions of the Phantom from the comfort of your home.
The main screen of the DJI Go App is the Camera view and contains a number of status indicators and menus as well as a view of what your Phantom Camera is seeing. A second picture in picture can be tapped to fill up the entire screen shows a map which indicates your Home Point (where your Phantom was started) as well as your flight path and current location of the Phantom.
#1 – shows the mode your Remote is switched to
#2 -the GPS status and will show the number of satellites as well as the overall signal strength.
#3 shows if IOC is turned on and exactly which mode of IOC is active.
#4 -status banner which will display messages such as warming up or ready to fly (GPS)). Tapping the status banner will bring up a screen with options to calibrate the compass and other options.
#5 -colored line which is the battery status and level indicator
#6 -strength of the Remote Control Signal (your sticks, etc.)
#7 – he strength of the HD video signal from the Phantom 3 Camera.
#8 – Battery percentage remaining
#9 – Tap this to access to the settings and calibration menus
#10 – Camera controls and settings panel
#11 – VPS (close to ground sensors) status and measurement.
#12 – Altitude and distance to your Phantom from the Home Point
#13 – Map screen – tap to have it switch places with the Camera view.
#14 – Return to Home icon – tap to have the Phantom return to the Home Point.
#15 – Auto-takeoff – tap to have the Phantom take off or land automatically.
#16 – Live streaming indicator when sending directly to youtube.
#17 – Go to Home Screen of DJI Go App
The secret to learning the DJI Go App is to take some time at home and poke around to find all the various menus and settings. To do this effectively, follow these steps:
Remove the propellers, gimbal lock and lens cap from your Phantom 3 and set it near you on the floor or a desk, etc. – if you are on an exterior wall with windows you may even get a GPS lock.
Turn on your Remote – have your smart device mounted and connected to it as usual. Then turn on the Phantom.
Open the DJI Go App and chose Camera from the main App screen. You should then be seeing what the camera is pointed toward. In the settings menu (top right) is a sub-menu called Other which has a setting (near the bottom of that screen) for Tutorial. Slide this switch to the right so that it is green.
Tips and Hints “Bubbles” will then show up in the Go App as per the example which follows. They will go away after you make a few selections on the touch screen – go back to the Other screen and slide the switch to the right again if you want to activate it again (repeat as needed).
DJI has included a Simulator program with the Go App. This will give you a chance to practice use of the app as well as virtual piloting of your Phantom.
If you are using a tablet computer or other device without a cellular connection, you’ll want to preload (cache) the maps of your intended flying area into your device before heading out to the field. You can download maps for a large area, so your flying grounds will be available to you on your device even when not in a wifi or cellular networks. If you have cellular service (using a smartphone or cellular enabled tablet), disregard this step.
Map preloading is done by opening the DJI GO app while still in a wireless access point and then scrolling the map screen to the area where you intend to fly. Make sure “cache maps” is enabled in the general settings of the DJI GO App. On Android devices it may also work to open Google Maps and scroll the flying area.
This should automatically cache (save) the maps and they should be still available when you go out to the field. Another option if you have both a phone and a tablet is to setup the phone as a hotspot when you are out at the field and connect the tablet to it with WiFi. This will allow the DJI Go App to continuously download and update the maps.
Note – the Phantom still knows where it is even if you have no maps displaying on your smart device.
Chapter 5 coming soon.
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