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Video Drones

The technical guys have been adding things to their Christmas Wish List and the kit that is ticking their boxes at the moment seems to be something like DJI’s PHANTOM II Video Drone. I thought I’d better take a look at what they were talking about and it is kind of interesting, the technology has certainly moved on from a few years’ back.

The DJI’s Phantom II Quadcopter does seem to be well built. The seams where the panels fit together are snug. The moving components fit beautifully together too. It also has a pair of skid-like legs for the quadcopter to rest on; they are also just the right height for you to be able to fit your camera underneath. The rotors are paired with grey and black centres for identification and they fit particular motor points, so that in flight they are self-tightening, which is a clever safety feature – loosing a camera from a height isn’t good for anyone. The propellers must be screwed on by hand and then tightened with a special Y-shaped wrench. The wrench also needs to be used to take the propellers off, and two of the propellers are reverse-thread – now to me that sounds a warning signal since I have a strange ability to misthread that sort of thing!

The remote control of the Phantom II is about the size of the full-size DSLR body with battery grip. The Wi-Fi extender sits on a chrome bar along the top of the remote. The remote also has an adjustable spring-loaded clip used to hold a smartphone. The remote control features a sliding Power button, left and right joysticks, S2 and S1 switches and a chrome eyelet to mount a neck strap to. There is a movable antenna at the top of the controller that can be angled upward, which is recommended by DJI for attaining the best signal. The Wi-Fi extender has two LED lights that indicate connection status as well as the power level health.

For piloting, and yes the driver is called the Pilot, the “drone”, both the S2 and S1 switches need to be flipped up and the Wi-Fi extender needs to be powered on. The S1 switch places it in calibration mode, the S2 switch changes the home location.

The Phantom II has and in-built GPS system and if you lose it or you have trouble controlling it you can switch the S2 on and the Phantom II will navigate its way “home” – saves losing some valuable kit and footage, plus prevents an insurance claim. The left joystick powers the drone up, down and turns it left and right. The right joystick moves the Phantom II forward, backward, sideways to the left and the right.

So all in all it sounds quite interesting but I am not yet ready to buy I’m afraid – with time on shoots and costs getting tighter we tend to concentrate on the basics of good down to earth content – not to say if a client were to ask for some nice aerial shots we wouldn’t consider the Phantom, it would certainly make the techies smile for awhile!

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