10 things that could save your drone

10 things that could save your drone

Click here for a German translation of this post.

If you’re interested in drones you will have no doubt seen all the spectacular crashes on YouTube and heard about drones flying away by themselves. Drones like the DJI Inspire 1 or Phantom 3 are highly complex devices that rely on various systems to perform properly. While there’s no way to guarantee against a hardware or software problem there are a few things you can do to minimise the chances of crashing. Here are my top tips that could save your DJI drone.

Zenmuse X5

1. Know when and when NOT to calibrate the compass

A lot of people recommend calibrating the drones compass each time it’s flown at a different location. While this seems to work for some I think it introduces unnecessary risk. Let me explain why…

When you perform a compass calibration you’re letting your drone test its surroundings for magnetic force and once the calibration is complete it stores that data and assumes that those forces are normal for the current location and will be consistent throughout the flight. But what if there’s a large electrical cable or metal pipework buried below the paving you’re standing on? If that were the case then the calibration you’ve just performed will have taken those effects into account and the moment the drone takes off it will be flying with incorrect compass data.

Unless you’ve travelled a long way (hundreds of miles) since your last flight there’s no real need to re-calibrate the compass if you already have a good calibration locked in. If you find yourself in a nice open undeveloped area then it’s a good time to grab a clean compass calibration, otherwise why replace a clean calibration with one from an area where you have no idea what unknown forces are at play.

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Phantom 3 Professional test shots

A series of clips filmed with the DJI Phantom 3 Professional. For more information about my thoughts please check out my Phantom 3 vs Inspire post.

DJI Release the Phantom 3 Standard

DJI have today released another model in their Phantom 3 range of quadcopters, the Phantom 3 Standard. Priced at an amazingly low $799 (£649) this new model brings the entry point into the Phantom 3 range even lower than the Phantom 3 Advanced at $999.

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The Phantom 3 Standard connects to the same DJI ‘GO’ app that’s used by the rest of the Phantom 3 range. The biggest difference between the new standard model and the rest of the Phantom 3 range is that it uses WiFi rather than ‘Lightbridge’ to transmit a live preview to the controller and also to link the controller to the device running the app.

Unlike the Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced models the Phantom 3 Standard does not come with DJI’s Vision Positioning System or the ability to use Russian GLONASS satellites in addition to GPS satellites.


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The specs of the built in camera on the Phantom 3 Standard do stir things up a little as the maximum video resolution of 2.7K UHD is higher than that of the Phantom 3 Advanced which can only shoot up to 1080p HD. DJI do not currently state whether the Phantom 3 Standard shares the same Sony EXMOR sensor as the other models however it does share a 40 Mbps bit rate and many other specs with the Advanced model.

The Phantom 3 Advanced does however offer more framerate options than the Standard and the Professional model increases specifications to 4K UHD and 60 Mbps. All three models offer 12 MP stills.

Phantom 3 Standard

  • UHD: 2.7K: 2704 x1520p 30 (29.97)
  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 40 Mbps

Phantom 3 Advanced

  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 40 Mbps

Phantom 3 Professional

  • UHD: 4096x2160p 24/25, 3840x2160p 24/25/30
  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 60 Mbps


Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.54.12

The controller supplied with the Phantom 3 Standard has less functionality than the other models although it does still feature a shoulder mounted gimbal control dial and definable S1 and S2 switches on the front of the unit.

The signal transmission distance will vary depending on environmental conditions and local regulations, but the Phantom 3 Standard can reach distances of up to 0.5 miles (1 kilometer) away from the pilot. The Advanced and Professional models in comparison can reach distances up to 1.2 miles (2 kilometres) using DJI’s Lightbridge technology.


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The Phantom 3 Standard uses the same Intelligent Flight Battery as the other Phantom 3 models. DJI have announced that it also features updated motors that are more efficient and allow even longer flight times of up to 25 minutes.

At such a low price point it’s incredible the DJI are able to offer a quadcopter complete with a 3-Axis gimbal, 720P HD live video feed and a 12MP 2.7K HD camera. Whist the connection range may be shorter than the Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced models it’s worth remembering that many countries limit operational range anyway, for instance in the UK the CAA limit the operation to within 500m of the operator, well within the specified range of the Phantom Standard.

The Phantom 3 Standard will begin shipping on August 10th. Click here to order yours direct from DJI with Free Delivery to most locations.

Purchasing Links:
DJI Store 

DJI Phantom 3 Standard
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
DJI Phantom 3 Professional

B&H Photo (USA)
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
DJI Phantom 3 Professional


DJI Phantom 3 vs Inspire 1 – Which should I buy?

inspire 1 or phantom 3

I’ve owned my Inspire 1 for over a month now and with over 70 flights under my belt I feel like I’m starting to know it well, both from an operational and flight characteristics point of view.  Before i purchased the Inspire I spent a lot of time deciding between it and DJI’s other popular offering, the Phantom 3 Professional as both have 4K cameras and a lot of features in common. I wasn’t able to test either system so I based my purchasing decision on a few factors that could potentially make a difference. The things that really swayed me towards the Inspire was it’s ability to rotate the camera, the removable gimbal allowing for future upgrades and the ability to operate in higher winds.


Recently I’ve had the chance to spend a few weeks flying the Phantom 3 Professional so I thought I’d share my findings about whether I made the right choice and try to give some advice to anybody trying to decide between  these two platforms. Firstly I’ll describe some differences in the aircraft and then I’ll go on to talk about my findings.

Size, weight & build.
By far the biggest difference between these two drones is the size and weight of each design. Although I’d seen a few Phantoms in the past I’d never actually used one before and after using the Inspire for a few weeks I was quite surprised how much smaller and lighter the Phantom is. The Inspire weights in at 2.93 KG whereas the Phantom 3 is less than half that at a mere 1.28 KG.

inspire-vs-phantom-3  inspire-vs-phantom-1


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Inspiring Panorama’s – Shooting panoramas with a drone


The great thing about shooting pano’s with the Inspire 1 is that due to it’s ability to lock position using GPS it pretty much works like a tripod in the sky allowing you to rotate through horizontal pans at various pitches without the camera slipping position too much. The Inspire is especially good at this job because it’s props lift out of view enough to get a 30 degree up angle on the camera and still not see the props or the landing gear in the shots.

After some experimentation I settled on shooting 4:3 Raw stills and in order to provide plenty of overlap for stitching them together I shot around 16 images per 360 degree rotation. I found I could cover from 30 degrees up to 90 degrees straight down using four rotations so ended up with around 70 stills per pano location.

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Click here to view the interactive Panorama I created.

In order to stitch the images together I used an application called AutoPano Pro from Kolor Software. AutoPano does an amazing job of taking all the individual images and then combining them together in to one seamless pano file. AutoPano handled the Inspires Raw DNG files perfectly although it is quite a CPU intensive process.

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Once the images have been stitched together there are multiple tools allowing you to tweak various aspects of the pano. I found the only tools I really had to use were the crop tool to remove some black space at the top of the pano and the automatic horizon tool to straighten the horizon. Both tools worked perfectly.

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I wanted to create an interactive pano so I opened the exported file using another application from Kolor called Panotour which magically turns the pano file in to an interactive html experience allowing the pano to be controlled and viewed on both the web and on mobile devices.

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One of the great things about Panotour is that you can also link multiple pano’s together creating a virtual tour for the viewer. In my example I simply linked together two pano’s allowing the viewer to jump between them.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.