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Review: DJI Phantom Vision 2+ Quadcopter Drone

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We have reviewed a few DJI products in the past, but this is the first time we have had the chance to sit down with this year’s “DJI Phantom Vision 2+” quadcopter drone and really give it a go. Released April 2014, this is DJI’s latest in the collection of quadcopters, offering a built-in HD camera and gimble allowing GoPro-like shooting and flight right out of the box.

Attempts were made to reach out to DJI so that we could better deliver information to you via a series of Q&A, but DJI declined to respond to any of our efforts to contact them (aka never responded), therefore we got our hands on one and decided to do our own testing by beating the living crud out of it to see what is worth, and if you should even bother.

Surprisingly, the quadcopter is very well built and takes such beating very well, which we will further detail further in the review.

The new model comes with a series of new features and enhancements allowing safer and more confident flight experiences. More confident as in, most anyone can fly one of these now without crashing it into something with every attempt. That doesn’t mean it is perfect, but the stability and control is quite notable.

It offers a number of failsafe features such as radar/GPS positioning, return home functionality, gimble shut down variables, no fly zone adherence and more.

  • GPS: The Vision 2+ has built-in GPS that allows it to flag it’s original starting location and track itself as it travels. It uses this to better stabilize itself, take advantage of it’s return home features, identify no-fly and restrictricted flight zones, allow you to track it if you lose it and so that you can pre-program a flight path via the map, where it will fly itself across up to 16 custom waypoints. The map features don’t always work as you need to have maps downloaded on your phone else it will be a blank screen, but when it is working, it works well.
  • Control RangeReturn Home: In the event that you lose connection to the drone, disable your controller, fly out of range or battery is running too low, the Vision 2+ will stop, fly to about 60-80ft in the air and attempt to return “home” and land itself on its own. By “home”, it means the original starting location. Side note: it’s wise not to take advantage of this feature if launching it from a boat, as if you are moving, you will no longer be at the return home spot and it could land itself in the water.
  • Gimbal Disablement: In the event that the temperature of the gimbal and camera is too high/low (operating range: 0?-40?), it receives a great deal of shock or is obstructed from moving, the gimbal will eventually shut down and go limp to prevent any damage to the motors. The camera will continue to record in this situation.
  • No-Fly Zones: It has a built-in database of no-fly and restricted flight zones that prevent it from either taking off, going too high or flying into a zone that is restricted by the FAA (or FAA equivalent if you live outside of the US). Examples of these include areas near air ports, military bases and heavy flight (plane) paths.

ControllerThe controller is simple and handles your up, down, forward, back, strafe (left/right), spin (left/right) as well as GPS control and calibration. Attached at the top is a WiFi extender that allows a very far range of control and a cellphone clamp for an Android or iOS device.

Using your Android or iOS device, you connect to the Phantom via WiFi and receive flight telemetry on screen, as well as live video and camera tilt, record and snapshot control.

The attached camera is proprietary to this model of Phantom, and both the camera and gimbal is one. The camera can shoot at 720p30 and 1080p30 as well as 1080i60 and take still shots at up to 14 megapixels. It has a microSD slot and comes with a 4GB card (recommended you by something larger). Recording FOV can be set from 85° to 110°. It also supports Adobe DNG RAW format for still images (as well as standard jpeg).

DJI Vision App2The camera is controlled via the Android or iOS device you are using, where you can adjust the tilt, start/stop record or take a picture. You can also enable FPV (first person view), where the gimbal will follow the direction and actions taken by the Phantom so that you can get a better FPV feel while flying (vs focused on a specific location/angle at all times. You can also enable accelerometer mode which takes advantage of your phones accelerometer to control the tilt of the camera with vs touching the screen (which we thought was a neat feature, as you don’t always have time to conveniently poke around the screen while flying it).

DJI Vision App

It also support “Adobe Lens Profile Support” that allows you to correct for barrel distortion (fish eye effect).

Adobe Lens Profile Support

From the “DJI Vision” on your phone, you are also able to control the Phantom’s camera settings (ie, resolution), general/advanced Phantom settings, and view the album content (including syncing the images to your phone directly).

The “Ground Station” feature is available in the app and is what allows you to setup a flight plan and send it on its way. You have to be running version 3.04 or higher of the firmware in the Phantom for this feature to work. The feature is also disabled by default in the app and you have to visit the settings screen (in the main menu, not camera view screen) and enable it. Once enabled, while in the camera view screen, you just have to slide your fingers to the left and it will enter Ground Station mode. You can program up to 16 points of interest and go as far as 3.1 miles and up to 656ft height (since at this point it will be flying itself and won’t need connection to the remote). The feature will also disable itself if your battery falls below 30%.

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It comes with the controller (with range extender and cellphone clamp already attached), battery, charger, 4 blades plus 4 extra, a maintenance packet (small pieces you will need for small repairs to the gimbal), a small wrench for getting the propellers back off with, instructions and other paperwork such as training, warranty and more.

Flight time is up to 25 minutes per charge/battery. This is an improvement on earlier models and consistent with the Phantom 2 series. It takes about 1-2 hours to charge a battery once depleted.

Battle Tested

We have been flying this thing all over the place. We have tipped it as it dragged itself across the ground with strong force, flown it into bushes and crashed it 30+ feet above ground into trees where it came tumbling down. We have made a few emergency landings onto grassy areas as well as bounced it off the ground while attempting to land it and getting a feel for it. Keep in mind, none of these situations were done on purpose but well-noted for durability testing when they did occur. We have replaced 6 blades throughout the mess and 2 guards. We had more blade damage due to laziness of someone not putting on the guards half the time it gets taken out. If blade guards were on at all times, we probably would have only gone through 2-3 blades by now.

We have taken it about 700ft away and about 550ft high. We could have pushed this hard, but due to our flight area, there has been too many ways to lose it if something unexpected goes wrong. We could have flown it higher but we lost connection at such height and it began to return home. We are assuming that was due to the amount of nearby trees and objects as well as the bombardment of broadcasted signals coming from the nearby mountain top that affects other wireless services in the area). On our highest flight, we are assuming winds were much higher as it had a violent trip coming back down. Thankfully it was able to stabilize itself during this event without completely tipping or spinning out of control. It came down pretty hard but around 16ft from the ground it was able to assume full control of its situation and slowed to stop and began to rise back up and enter normal return home conditions (of 60-80ft). Nothing was damaged in this test (those blades are tough).

The tree incident was the biggest test of its endurance. We took it up to the mountains and flew it around at about 8600ft elevation (take off point), up to about 130ft into the air. Everything went very well until one of us took it down some and flew it into a pine tree where it tumbled its way through the tree and to the ground (bouncing from branch to branch like out of some cartoon). It survived outside of having to replace the blades and a few blade guards. We thought the camera and gimbal would have been shot after that. To make things worse, it started to rain the second we hiked out to get it and it got a little wet on the hike back. Nothing major outside of a very light rain, but still drew cause for concern. In the end, once again, it was back in the air after the few repairs and full calibration connected to a laptop.

Throughout all of that, the Phantom still flies and the gimbal (thankfully) still functions normally. The gimbal is the most delicate feature of the drone and also one of the most expensive fixes if you destroy it (somewheres around $600 to repair/replace).

Should you get it? 

Depends on your budget more than anything. Since they currently run $1299, you have to be willing to cough up the money before anything. If the price tag isn’t an issue for you, then we say go for it! Especially if you have any past experience flying multi-rotor drones. The price speaks for itself when you look at everything it comes with. Out of the box flight, gimbal, recording, telemetry, FPV and more for less than $2000 is great.

It is HIGHLY recommended that you read the instructions prior to flying for the first time as there are rules and procedures you need to familiarize yourself with, such as the compass calibration process. There is also software for your PC or Mac that allow you to view the conditions of your Phantom as well as run a full calibration with and keep the firmware of all pieces up-to-date.

You should also connect it to the desktop app so you can make sure all firmware current and run a full calibration (which is fully automatic and you simply have to wait 5-10 minutes).

On top of reading the instructions and connecting it with the desktop app, you should also pick up blade guards so that you can reduce the chance of damaging the blades in case of ground tips or minor impacts (also helps protect your fingers/hands). It is much better to break the guards than the blades since they are cheaper.

You will also benefit from buying an extra battery or two as your “up to 25 minutes” goes by very fast (time flies by when your having fun). Especially if you want to use this for professional purposes.

Even though this model is very easy to control and manage compared to other models, it is still an expensive piece of equipment and all precautions should be taken to maintain its safety. Damage can still happen easily and the price to keep it fixed can get very expensive if you are careless.

As to how easy it is to fly this model, I would like to take a moment to geek out a little in my explanation. If you have ever played the “Halo” series on Xbox/360/One, you would be quite familiar with the “Warthog” and the “Banshee” vehicles. Both of these vehicles are known for their semi-complicated control. If you are wicked behind the controller in either of these two vehicles (especially in high stress situations), you will be just fine behind one of these Phantoms. Feeling more like the Banshee than anything, control is very similar, minus the barrel rolls and flips.

You probably want to heed our advice above though, since it appears contacting DJI does you nothing (at least in our experience).

If we find stories that DJI’s customer service/support lacks the need to respond to contact requests like their PR department, the score may go down a little. We do welcome the feedback if you want to share your experiences below, or email us directly via the contact options on our site. Please be honest as the result can go either way (they may have amazing support).

Our Conclusion

We have had a lot of fun flying the Phantom Vision 2+ around. Crashing it has been gut wrenching, but pleasing to see it go right back up soon after. The price tag of accessories is within a normal range, although we still advise minimizing the activity of doing such regardless. It is a highly advanced piece of equipment and you have a lot of potential to get your monies worth. The over-all price tag is a little high in our opinion making it tough for some consumers to be able to afford it, yet it does come with so much for that price (forcing us into a stalemate about the topic). We believe the price can come down, but if it does, it will be an industry-wide act and not just this model (if it happens). We decided to give it a 8/10. It works, its fun and you will play with it for hours.

8 / 10 stars           

chartDJI Store

 


Video:
httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESKl2dza16U

Some indoor uses that someone on YouTube did:
httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P1ibdIpEPQ

A video of a user filming their cruise ship & Hideaway Island in Vanuatu:
httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e84GvjVcAxY

Additional Images:
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Specifications:

Aircraft

Supported Battery
DJI 5200mAh LiPo Battery
Weight (Battery & Propellers Included)
1284g
Hover Accuracy (Ready To Fly)
Vertical: 0.8m; Horizontal: 2.5m
Max Yaw Angular Velocity
200°/s
Max Tiltable Angle
35°
Max Ascent / Descent Speed
Ascent: 6m/s; Descent: 2m/s
Max Flight Speed
15m/s (Not Recommended)
Diagonal Motor-Motor Distance
350mm

Gimbal

Working Current
Static : 750mA; Dynamic : 900mA
Control Accuracy
±0.03°
Controllable Range
Pitch : -90°?0°
Maximum Angular Speed
Pitch : 90°/s

Camera

Operating Environment Temperature
0?-40?
Sensor Size
1/2.3″
Effective Pixels
14 Megapixels
Resolution
4384×3288
HD Recording
1080p30 & 720p
Recording FOV
110° / 85°

Remote Controller

Operating Frequency
5.728 GHz?5.85 GHz
Communication Distance (Open Area)
CE Compliance: 400m; FCC Compliance: 800m
Receiver Sensitivity (1%PER)
-93dBm
Transmitter Power
CE Compliance: 25mW; FCC Compliance: 100mW
Working Voltage
80 mA@6V
Battery
4 AA Batteries

Range Extender

Operating Frequency
2412-2462MHz
Communication Distance (Open Area)
500-700m
Transmitter Power
20dBm
Power Consumption
2W

DJI VISION App

System Requirement Of Mobile Device
iOS version 6.1 or above/ Android system version 4.0 or above
Mobile Device Support
  • iOS recommended: iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 4, iPod touch 5 (available but not recommended: iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad mini)
  • Android recommended: Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note 2, Note 3 or phones of similar configuration

[Updated 08/13/2014]: Included some of the images taken from one of the test flights in California.

Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.

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About Author

James

Designer, Editor and Reviewer for Poc Network, ProAudio and Mobile Nations. James enjoys spending most of his time as an audio engineer and technician for the live music industry when he isn't running around the office here juggling an intense workload. He can also be found frequently in the nearby mountainous ranges, scrambling rocks and rappelling down large sections.

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