Gadgets come and go — and I’ve certainly had many.  But I’ll never forget the first time that I flew my amazing DJI quadcopter.  I refer to it here as a DJI Phantom 1.  Note that there is now a more expensive DJI Phantom 2, with an available vision option.  But when I got it, it was simply called the DJI Phantom — and you will often still see people referring to it without the “1”.  Now DJI calls it the Phantom 1 officially.

My first flight was just after Christmas 2013.  I remember unwrapping the box and not believing my eyes.  My very cool wife Paula (who obviously loves me very much) surprised me with the Phantom as an awesome gift on Christmas Day — just the day before.  I’ll have to admit – I was a little apprehensive.  After all, this thing was expensive as toys go, the box was big, and I didn’t have a lot of experience flying remote controlled aircraft — especially not expensive ones.

I had heard the copter was easy to assemble and fly, but RC geeks always say stuff is “easy” even when it isn’t.   I think that is a geek trait in general.  Anyway, the geeks were right about the assembly part.  It was super easy to put together.  You basically just attach the blades and the fixed landing legs and you are ready to go.  Couldn’t be easier.

My Very First Quadcopter Flight

dji-phantom-1-controllerOne of the really cool things about the DJI Phantom 1 is that is has both a GPS radio and a compass (in addition to an accelerometer and gyroscopes).  So in addition to knowing how to fly straight and level, the quadcopter knows where it is.  You have to calibrate the compass before you fly for the very first time by holding the copter in a couple of orientations and spinning around slowly.  To be honest, I remember looking (and feeling) pretty silly out in my driveway that day.

But I didn’t care.  I wanted to fly.

Once you are ready to fly, you set your Phantom on the ground and wait for “green lights.”  The green lights indicate that the GPS radio has found enough satellites to know where it is.  Once that happens, the Phantom is able to use the radio to assist you in flight and find its way home (more on this later).

I pushed the throttle ahead.  The unit came up off the driveway and just sat there hovering.   I couldn’t believe how stable it was.  I tried all of the controls and got oriented and immediately decided to see how high it would go.  It was a able to go a lot higher than I was willing to fly it.  Wow!  Hundreds of feet in the air in seconds and completely stable.  That first flight lasted 15-20 minutes (that’s about how long the battery lasts on each charge).  In a word, it was amazing.

My Favorite Features

This toy is full of features, but there are a few that I really love.

  • Ready to fly.  This unit could not be easier to assemble and fly.  It’s almost ready to fly out of the box and the controls are easy to understand and learn.  Just stay away from tress when you are learning to fly and you will be a pro in no time.
  • GPS assisted.  The GPS radio allows the craft to “maintain position” even if a gentle breeze would normally make it drift.  Really great for us beginners.  Additionally, the GPS unit means that if the controller losing contact with the aircraft during flight, the quadcopter will return home.
  • Easy to fly.  My seven-year-old can fly it easily (and safely) with adult supervision.  Enough said.

Conclusions – DJI Phantom 1 Rocks

The bottom line is that this thing really rocks.  I highly recommend it.  You can’t help but have fun.  In the near future, I’ll post about the GoPro camera I have mounted underneath, and the First Person Viewer (FPV) upgrade that I really want. There are many different quadcopters out there, but I can’t imagine anything better than the DJI Phantom.  If you would like to get your own DJI Phantom, you can find it on Amazon.  I hope you enjoy yours as much as I have enjoyed mine. Images courtesy of the DJI.com website.  Those guys totally rock.