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Explore like never before with Quadcopter FPV system - DJI Phantom

Updated on October 31, 2016

DJI Phantom Quadcopter

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So you want to fly? I can show you how!

There's nothing quite like exploring a new place in novel ways, and in 2010s flying became an affordable way to explore new exotic locations. Small, agile and portable drones with 4 propellers (quadcopters) are capable of carrying small cameras in the air, feeding live video into your phone or goggles.

You fly the drone, you see what it sees and get an immersive outlook on interesting places from the air.

What flying feels like?

Honestly, it feels like driving a flying car! The controls are so simple:

  • Go up/down
  • Go forward/reverse
  • Turn left/right
  • Glide left/right (like shifting lanes in a car)

A quality first person video (FPV) setup puts goggles in front of your eyes, so all of your driving skills are applicable. Instead of driving a car on a road, you are flying a drone through the air, using the same principles to avoid obstacles.

How expensive is it?

While there are many inexpensive drone setups, like Parrot AR drone, these lack critical component of enjoyable flying - stability. These cheaper drones shake and jerk around, as opposed to high end drones like DJI Phantom. A typical DJI Phantom first person video setup would cost you around 1000$ -1500$

Bare minimum setup:

  • A quadcopter (with camera and FPV system)
  • Smartphone to receive video
  • 2 Batteries and charger
  • Backpack to carry the quadcopter to interesting places

What system is right for me?

There are 2 types of first person video systems suitable for flying - those based on goggles and those based on smartphones. Having flown both, I strongly prefer goggles due to better immersion and color contrast. Allow me to explain.

A ready to fly bundle for smartphone

Most of quadcopter setups you would find on amazon are capable of sending video directly to your smartphone using Wifi boosters. The setup is easy to use - just connect to the Drone's Wifi network and launch the DJI app, which handles video transmission, while the remote operating on a different band sends control commands.

The weakness of this setup is low brightness of mobile device's screen. While controlling a quadcopter, the mobile screen is typically too small to get a good fix on your position, causing you to raise your head and visually locate the drone in the sky. Oops! Even an overcast sky is hundreds of times brighter than the brightest smartphone screen, causing your eyes to water. When you return your gaze back to the screen, it seems too dark to make out all the features. You can reduce this inconvenience by focusing exclusively on the mobile screen and operating in the shade

A goggles based setup

Having video beamed into video goggles changes the experience dramatically - the goggles block outside light, causing you to see the video clearly. They also eliminate outside distractions and shift you into an "I'm driving a flying car" mode. Imagine the goggles as your windshield - now you can use the same skills you use while driving to avoid obstacles in the air. You would pass around most of them by banking left or right. Then you would orient your field of vision by turning. Give it a little "gas" to make it fly forward. After a while, the setup feels completely natural.

The disadvantage of the goggles based setup is that it requires a lot more assembly - the FPV transmitter requires mounting on the drone, and needs power and video feed cables. Typically such setups were common for DJI phanom 1 drone which had a battery with 2 sets of cables - one for powering the drone, another could be used for FPV.

Hardcore adventurer - DJI Phantom 1, Used

While DJI Phantom 1 cannot be bought directly anymore, it remains a viable choice for exploring from the air. Recent hardware upgrades have locked DJI drones from flying over large areas of United States, such as national parks or the No-fly zone around Washington DC. Drones equipped with locked hardware will check their GPS position and will not get off the ground.

DJI Phantom 1, was developed before this limitation and if you get a sufficiently old model will fly within these areas just fine.


Tech Enthusiast - DJI Phantom 4 bundle

It is super cool and still gets heads turning, provided the system allows you to fly where you are :). DJI Phantom 4 is an amazing system, bypassing DJI 1 in every respect:

  • Almost twice the air speed - up to 44 miles per hour
  • 3 times the flight time - up to 28 minutes
  • Super stable integrated gimball for steady shots from the air.
  • Ability to control the camera remotely

It makes a terrific gift :)

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