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P3 Maiden Flight - First Impressions (Good & Bad)

Discussion in 'Pro/Adv Discussion' started by herein2014, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. herein2014

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    Overview

    I know there's tons of maiden flight posts but I figured I'd post my initial impressions anyway, from the perspective of someone who will be using the P3 on an almost daily basis to film everything from events to real estate. I figure I'll geek out a little bit too as I go along since I do still consider "work" to be fun.

    Ordering

    Ordering was fast and painless, ordered from Amazon Prime got it in 2 days. Batteries were a little trickier but eventually found a vendor thanks to this forum that had the 5 batteries in stock.

    Accessories

    I went with the NVIDIA Shield tablet since that seemed like the main recommendation from other owners, have a total of 6 batteries for what I thought would give me all day flying (more on that later), went with a Drone Crates case (fantastic case), and went with a Goal Zero Yeti 400 for my mobile power charging solution. I also ordered 2 additional sets of props in case I need to fight with jello sometime down the road, and 4 DJI chargers for parallel charging.

    Pre-Flight

    I read the getting started manual (RTFM goes a long way), downloaded the latest Pilot app directly from DJI, upgraded the transmitter firmware and the P3's firmware, removed all of the stickers, and I'll admit had to read the manual again to figure out how to reattach the gimbal/camera guard.

    I then fired up the P3, transmitter, and NVIDIA inside my house (props removed), to test the whole system and get more used to the DJI App. During this test I noticed there was so much 2.4GHz going on that the NVIDIA had problems activating the P3 because it could not stay on the Internet long enough to do so. I finally got it to activate, then immediately shut off the WiFi on the tablet.

    Last but not least, charged all 6 batteries, transmitter, and tablet.

    Flight

    Took the whole setup to an abandoned park set everything up and what do you know, forgot the USB to micro USB cable that goes from the transmitter to the tablet. Managed to find a spare cable in the glove box and was finally ready to go.

    Did a compass calibration, fired up the props and took off to a hover at 135 feet. First thing I noticed was that the display was finally in feet; no more translating from meters but what do you know I've gotten so used to working with meters when flying I may actually switch back...go figure.

    The second thing I immediately noticed was that my polarized sunglasses were not working with the NVIDIA Shield's screen, taking them off was no better, I could barely see the screen. So my very next accessory will be some kind of glare protection for the NVIDIA.

    The display contains an overwhelming amount of information so even though I had practiced the night before, I left it in a hover while I re-oriented myself to all of the data. I then did a slow lap around the park recorded some video, figured out how to take pictures, record video and changed some basic settings.

    Post-Flight

    Boxed it all back up, headed home, downloaded the footage, and tested editing it in my photo and video editing software.

    First Impressions - PROS

    Satellite Lock - Lightning fast compared to the P2. It was ready to fly by the time I had hooked up my lanyard.
    Remote Control - The ability to stop recording video middair and take pictures is awesome. No more long edits to remove the takeoff and landing and positioning. This will greatly reduce my editing time, copying times, and storage requirements.
    Jello - For me it was barely detectable and only because I went over the footage with a microscope was I able to find any. Hopefully it stays that way.
    Responsiveness - Way more responsive than the P2, instantly takes off in the desired direction.
    Stability - It hovered for a good 4-5 mins in about 5mph winds while I tested different settings in the app. The video playback was so rock solid it looked like a static picture.
    Camera Controls - The ability to shoot RAW is fantastic, the level of control over the video and camera are also second to none, I didn't even begin to start looking into all of the options. I can't wait to try out bracketing, HDR, and EF. It is hard to believe any aerial platform is stable enough to film brackets without major ghosting.
    Picture Quality - About on par with the GoPro. I do rate it a notch higher because of the RAW capability, but the level of detail is about equal to my GP4.
    Video Quality - About equal to the GoPro as well. Not sure about low light performance but video quality in general seems about the same. This is with all of the default settings, my opinion may change once I start diving into all of the options.
    Range - I did not test this on the maiden flight, only went out about 1500 feet or so and up around 135 feet but the video and control signals were rock solid the whole time. My P2 would have had a few problems with the trees at the same park.
    Overall - A huge step up from my P2 but there are some major cons that keep this from being perfect.

    First Impressions - CONS

    Battery Temp Requirement - This is without a doubt my number 1 most annoying problem with the P3. First flight, first battery and it took 30 minutes before it would let me charge it. On top of that, you cannot leave it on the charger until it cools down, you have to keep plugging it in and checking it vs it just starting to charge when it is cool enough. I don't see how I will possibly be able to fly all day on even 6 batteries with a problem like that.

    Needing the App
    - Although the app provides a fantastic level of control, when I just need a simple flight with point and shoot or start/stop video recording I would like to be able to do just that. An HDMI port out to a dumb monitor would have been a great option for those simple flights.

    Stuttering FPV - My NVIDIA was stuttering badly at times rendering the FPV display. It looked like it was dropping frames. This was with the cache off, nothing else running, and fully charged. Really annoying problem that I never had with my P2. I think I'll be able to tweak enough settings to fix this problem.

    Unable to Stream via Lightbridge - A very disappointing find is that you cannot use the Lightbridge ground receiver or a second controller to stream the video to a second display.

    Airport Restrictions - I haven't encountered this yet but I'm aware there are built in airport restrictions. The major problem with this is that there is no way to override them. I fly near airports all the time, I file the proper paperwork, I get the proper approval and I can legally fly in the area. The P3 will not allow that even when the airport has approved the flight.

    Wavy Camera Horizon - Although there is no fisheye curve in the camera's footage, the horizon actually looks a tiny bit wavy, there is a slight hump in the middle and the edges curve back up at the ends. Barely detectable but already an annoyance nevertheless. I may have gotten a bad lens, time will tell.

    Conclusions

    Definitely the best Phantom ever (Inspire 1 features without Inspire 1 price) but also some major drawbacks that I know will require me to use my P2 from time to time to complete a job. Who knows, the battery problem and airport problem for me is so severe I may have to continue my hunt for the perfect drone and the P2 may have a lot more flying time in its future.
     
  2. Jeff48920

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    Nice intelligent write up.
     
  3. SitkaGrover

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    So the island I live on is small enough, that my house, and most any flyable area here is inside the "Red Airport Zone" on the DJI App. I get the "Restricted Area warning every single time I turn on my drone. That being said...I just click "OK" and it goes away like nothing. I am not sure if this is the way restricted areas are supposed to be, but for me, it doesn't cause the least bit of an issue. Maybe someone else can chime on that deals with this frequently.
     
  4. owenrg

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    I'm about to get one and this is some great info for me! i'm upgrading from a v2+ and these are exactly the things i need to know. thanks a lot for sharing!
     
  5. kdrak

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    why do you have stuttering with NVIDIA whereas most of the people do not. Is it possible that stuttering is present due to the OS version ie lollipop or kit kat etc ?
     
  6. herein2014

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    According to the instruction manual the P3 isn't supposed to be able to take off except in A mode if it is within an airport restricted area. Still researching the specifics on that one though.

    I haven't even begun to troubleshoot that one, I'm still getting used to the app. I did check background tasks and a ton are running, I'll need an app to keep all the background tasks killed, a lot of Google tasks were running probably trying to reach the Internet.
     
  7. BenDronePilot

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    Nice Intelligent Post. I spoke to tech support at DJI about the air port no fly zone not having an off switch. It seemed they may be possibly considering a way to toggle it in some situations. A temporary work around would be to wrap foil over top of the bird effectively removing GPS capabilities so be careful. Otherwise you can still fly near an ear port but just altitude limited.

    A good alternative to the P3 may be the 3DR Solo once it matures as it's not bound by DJI's forced restrictions.

    Your video stutter could be an issue with the tablet itself or the OS. Try exiting everything first, restarting, making sure wifi is off. Make sure your P3 Controller antennas are also properly oriented straight up to the sky with the sides facing your bird. You'd be best off with an iPad Air 2 if you want the best of the best. Nexus 7 2013 version works great as well as the iPad Air and iPad Mini 3 if you want less glare.
     
  8. rrmccabe

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    I have not noticed this yet. I only have about 10 flights and my batteries go from the bird to the charger. Usually in about 2 minutes from power down.
     
  9. Flyboy

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    Nice write-up.
     
  10. SitkaGrover

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    I can tell you from experience, that is not the case. In standard GPS mode, I just have to click ok and the warning goes away and I can fly with no issues. I have no altitude or flight restrictions at all.
     
  11. bobmyers

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    Thank you for taking the time to post your review:):)
     
  12. Nannerz

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    Ha! ...really nice review

    But this reminded me of someone who just saw a really good movie that's been out for years, and just saw it for the first time, but still wants to talk about it, and how good it is.

    Yes, all the things people have been saying about the P3 before you got yours are true! Its a great little machine...Who would've known? :)
     
  13. Kris@DroneCrates

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    Nice write up! and thanks for the kind words on the case.