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On joining the dark side - thoughts of a new Phantom 3 Pro owner

Discussion in 'Pro/Adv Discussion' started by eBird, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. eBird

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    For what it's worth, my observations about my newly purchased Phantom 3 Pro...

    Quickly about me, so you can see my frame of reference: got into R/C planes (electric) in 1999, been flying ever since. In 2002 or so, learned I could attach a cheap, lightweight camera to a cheap "park flyer" and got heavily into aerial photography. This was, of course, all home spun DIY stuff, practically held together with Velcro and zip ties. No FPV or anything fancy like that, just had to take pictures kinda guessing where the camera was aiming. Was kinda fun to put the memory card in the computer to see what the photos were of! Very few people were doing aerial photography then, and that was the early days of RC Groups and the creation of aerial photography forum. I was even a moderator for a while. Back then, you were an R/C pilot first, a photographer second.

    Fast forward to today, when people are buying and getting these "cool drones" from department stores (yikes) as presents, and many really haven't a clue how to fly an R/C plane (and probably don't want to). They are tooling around the skies (and into buildings) with these amazing quadcopters (I hate the term "drone" for these things). They are TOO easy to fly, and when something goes even slightly wrong, inexperienced operators (I won't use the term "pilot") can panic and lose control. These are my impressions and opinions only, of course.

    I hesitated to even buy one of these things, feeling like I was going over to "the dark side". Hating that so many "unworthy R/C noobs" owned one, I couldn't stand the temptation any longer, being a big fan of technology and all. (I freely admit I did buy a micro drone last year to fly around inside the house. The thing is 2" across.) After a couple of flights with the Phantom showcasing the photo and video quality, the incredibly still videos, and the ability to see what I'm photographing, I've been won over. I love flying this thing, but contend it's not as fun as flying an airplane. It still freaks me out a little to take my eyes off of it even for a second to look at the iPad, as you could NEVER do that with an airplane. I miss being able to cruise up to a nice comfortabl altitude, kill the motor, and just float on air currents while snapping photos. Very relaxing. I have not found it relaxing to fly the Phantom, and I honestly doubt I ever will.

    Upon unpacking the quadcopter, I was struck by how heavy it is. It may seem "light" to those of you who have not flown electric planes, but it is very heavy in comparison. These things fly by brute force alone, no grace. A momentary loss of motor power and it's a meteor heading for terra firma. I'm not used to having to rely so absolutely on technology to avoid a potentially catastrophic crash. There is no dead stick landing this thing. With a plane, flying over roads and houses at altitude doesn't make you nervous, because you know you can keep on floating towards an open area in the event of a problem. With the Phantom, whatever you are directly over becomes the target of your aerial bomb should the motors quit. I will never be totally comfortable with that, so have to avoid flying over stuff I'm not ok with "bombing."

    I feel technically comfortable flying the Phantom, my experience with planes helping make automatic the ability to maintain orientation and turn properly whether heading away or towards me. I tend to like flying in ATTI mode as I feel I have more control over what it's doing. I know, I'll trust it more eventually, but it has to be earned.

    Advice: I cannot stress enough how important it is for new owners to learn to actually fly the quadcopter and become really good at it without the GPS. If you are not interested enough in R/C to do this, then please consider another hobby. I think you owe it to yourself, and certainly to innocent bystanders who have the reasonable expectation that you are way better at flying the thing than they are. Ideally you would buy a cheap park flyer and learn to really fly an RC plane, or at least a toy grade quadcopter without GPS. You would be amazed at how much this would help keep you calm when you have the occasional GPS glitch or other reason to need to take control.

    Lastly, please fly your Phantom as if you are an R/C pilot first, and a photographer second. Do not get so tempted by a good photo op that you fly where you know you really shouldn't. Doing so is not fair to those you might hit if you crash, nor to us that enjoy this hobby and wish to avoid heavy handed regulations and the disdain of those watching us fly. It is interesting how much more self conscious I am flying this thing than I ever was flying my A/P airplanes.

    Having typed all of this, I'm afraid I am very likely not reaching the audience most in need of some advice. By virtue of the fact that you guys belong to this great forum, you already care more about the hobby than many.

    Cheers, thanks for reading, and have a great time with this absolutely amazing piece of technology.
     
    #1 eBird, Oct 19, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
    Cyclone, Toddzilla, Buckaye and 9 others like this.
  2. ATPhoto

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    This in particular is a great point!! I know that feeling very well, not just in the air, but on terra firm as well!
     
  3. olof Ekbergh

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    I share all your thoughts.

    Thanks for posting this. I feel all these new pilots/operators need to hear and learn how to really fly. It always amazes me how people get upset and love to blame manufactures when something goes wrong.

    In flying model airplanes we crash all the time as we learn. Sometimes because we did a lousy job putting the model together, but most crashes I see are actually "tip stalls", not understanding how to fly. They usually are blamed on brown outs or what ever. But they are almost always pilot error. Bad battery management or old fuel, or just flying in conditions above your skill level. But as we get more experience we stop crashing.

    The scary thing about these new operators is they fly everywhere, not just at AMA fields. So when crashes or fly aways occur they are not in a safe field but right in our neighborhoods, not good places to learn.

    Basic flying skills is what will save the day not relying on technology or GPS those will always fail at some point. So this is why it is so important to only fly in very safe places as these drone turn into bricks when something goes wrong, not gliders you can guide back to a safe landing away from persons and property.

    This is why all these new regulations are coming down so heavily from the FAA now. And I actually welcome them, to bring some sanity back into this great hobby.
     
  4. Bryce

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    I feel weepy eyed on all these stories... I want to have a big group hug.

    Bring on the licensing!
     
  5. ukman

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    #soapbox
     
  6. Andrea

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    Nice, and very wise, post.
     
  7. Wibble

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    I love this post. I felt the same way. After years of flying RC with many crashes this felt like cheating flying something that does all the hard work for you!.
    Learning ATTI mode will often save the day.
    I always think of my P3 as a flying machine first and a camera 2nd.
     
  8. Woffski

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    Very wise words indeed....
     
  9. Fplvert

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    Wow, nice first post ebird!

    I get the same negative comments from my old RC friends when the find out I fly Phantoms. "Oh, one of THOSE!"

    I'm much more afraid of my old homemade or kits that I built myself. Yes, they crash for any number of reasons including pilot error. Helicopters used to be my least favorite RCs to fly. Very expensive and two 24" wooden blades on a 32cc gas engine is much more dangerous than a mostly plastic Phantom. Also, with no GPS, it is total MANUAL control.

    The photography aspect is especially appealing for me! Just show old school RCers some of your gimbal stabilized video and they will shut their pie holes.;)

    Welcome to the Dark Side!
    image.jpeg
     
  10. eBird

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    Thanks for the positive comments ya'll. I'm very excited about the photos I'll be able to get with this thing, Western Colorado is a pretty area, lots of Phantom targets. I'll just have to keep a good 'ol fashioned RC plane on the bench to get my occasional fix.
     
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  11. John Locke

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    I share your thoughts, I've been flying RC Planes for 45yrs before I got into quads. You'll have a good time with your P3 in Colorado. Here's a view of a western Colorado flight I recently took, a place you may recognize.



    Code:
    http://youtu.be/YkPMNWkctNk
     
    #11 John Locke, Oct 21, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2015
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  12. eBird

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    Ah yes, CO Nat'l monument. I have many good photos of the area from years ago. I was approached by a Ranger eventually and told I wasn't allowed to fly in there. Looks like it took them 4 years to finally notice me. I actually took my portfolio of photos to the Park Superintendent, she was amazed at the shots I had. I actually got permission to fly as long as I let them know first and avoided any areas where the hawks and eagles were known to nest.
     
  13. Mob 06

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    ImageUploadedByPhantomPilots - DJI Phantom Forum1445493632.948826.jpg
    Use the Force!
     
  14. RedHotPoker

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    The Force, yes! Use it, you must. Hahaha

    Titan at Tesco Leicester 2014


    And dance. . .

    RedHotPoker
     
  15. JKDSensei

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    Yeah, the first time I held a Phantom 3, "flying brick" is what came to mind.

    My old Sig Kadet was a feather by comparison.

    What's needed to give these things a chance of a future is to give them the ability to autorotate to a decent landing. ;)