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The Phantom 2 Vision Plus - My Journey
4246 17 2014-10-8
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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I bought a Phantom 2 Vision Plus two weeks ago. I think it may be interesting to do a report on it as I go through the various stages. It was in Phantom mode initially, but it's now in Naza.

Hopefully, this write-up can help those still sitting on the fence, torn between wanting a Phantom but suffering from apprehension due to the seemingly ubiquitous tales of inexplicable crashes, fly-aways and watery graves.

The good news is that, in spite of all the horror stories, my first two weeks with the Phantom have been almost totally glitch-free. There have been no serious hardware, software or other technical issues and certainly no crashes or anything resembling a fly-away.

It’s important to note that I’m sure part of the reason for this is the fact that I did lots of research prior to my purchase. I basically made sure I was ready for the Phantom before I took the plunge. You have to be prepared before you fly a Phantom. Buying a home? Location, location, location. Buying a Phantom? Preparation, preparation, preparation.

In my case, this meant I spent about two months devouring all kinds of Phantom-related information. I must have watched every single YouTube clip out there. I’ve seen elated Phantom owners their new-fangled flying machine, countless and , various crash compilations and dozens of hardware modifications, you name it - I reckon I’ve seen it all.

Some of the dedicated Phantom channels out there are awesome, extremely helpful. Not naming names, but thank you, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1-HUeRKBGiKZrVhiOEtGjQ.

Forums such as this one are a wealth of know-how too. I’ll continue to use these sources of experience and expertise in the years to come, given the duties my Phantom will perform as my main cinematography/photography tool.

The other reason nothing major has gone wrong in the past two weeks is that I always follow all DJI instructions. I calibrate my compass religiously and never fly with fewer than 7 steady satellites AND home point locked in.

The other thing to remember is to make sure your flying arena is big, the size of 2 football fields is a good size to aim for. And always, always stay away from possible interference, such as and telephone beacons.

Suffice to say also that all my firmware is up-to-date. I also do a pre-flight and post-flight check of the entire Phantom and batteries to make sure that there are no issues (prop hairline crack, worn motor bearing, etc.) that may be invisible now but could cause a major malfunction whilst air-borne.

Another safety habit I’m into is to look and listen for anything out of the ordinary whilst the motors are idling just after start-up, i.e. before lift-off. When all is ok, I raise the copter and hover at 2-3 meters for a minute or so to see if there’s anything not looking or sounding quite right.

Only when I’m sure the copter is doing well, do I fly off. To make sure it’s flying true, I align the skids with my line of vision and fly the Phantom dead forward a short ways. Whilst moving off, the skids must stay in the same straight line (give and take some lateral allowance for wind of course).

If all this is fine, then off the Phantom goes into the blue yonder, although for now, I’ll be flying it defensively: no speeding, hot-dogging or any flying in more than 5 knots of wind, or flying far or high. For now, the aim of the game is to familiarize myself with the copter’s flight characteristics.

Speaking of flight characteristics, note that my Phantom is in stock condition. No mods have been done at all. Mind you, I did order the Getterback and a gimbal protector and I'll fit these in the coming weeks. I also bought DJI prop guards, but since I’m still only flying in wide open off-the-beaten-track places, I haven’t attached these yet, so as ensure that I get the real feel of the original Phantom, i.e. without anything possibly changing its normal flight characteristics.

Incidentally, I have 2 Li-Po batteries and neither has reached 20 cycles yet. This means I’ve not yet had the need to run them down to 8%.

Let’s not forget that the other main reason nothing has gone wrong in my two weeks’ experience: the Phantom has been doing what it’s supposed to do: getting up into the air, obeying my TX commands and getting me out out of a pickle if and when required. (Read: I did a FS test and it worked like a charm.). Oh, CL and HL are also functioning as per normal – good to know!

As an aside, I’d like to say that having some experience in controlling RC vehicles has been a huge benefit. I was lucky to have been given an UDI U818A to cut my teeth on before I’d even heard of DJI. Only after I’d sussed the UDI controls did I progress to the Phantom. If the Phantom had been my trainer the way the UDI has been, I would have been broke from all the replacement parts, due to the countless UDI crashes.

Take it from me, learn the TX controls using a cheapo RC toy like the Hubsan or the UDI. It will safe you $$$, because these toy copters don’t have the pilot-friendly software and hardware (GPS, IOC, FS) that the Phantom has and this lack of intelligence makes these toys harder to fly. Bare-bones toy copters can also take more crash abuse because they’re way simpler and lighter.

Once you know how to fly a Hubsan or a UDI, especially nose-in, you’ll breathe easier flying the Phantom. Trust me, don’t fly the Phantom if you’re still an RC rookie. Sure, the DJI website and the Phantom box say the Phantom is easy to fly and this is true, given all of the Phantom’s built-in smarts. But nothing separates the men from the boys faster than a situation where you suddenly lose satellite lock, leaving you in ATTI mode and disaster can only be averted when you instantly and intuitively know how to move the TX sticks. Without GPS, even FS won't be able to save your bacon. Stick control really ought to be second nature before you promote yourself to the Phantom.

Alright, we’ve come to the end of my write-up. I’ll do another after two months. Hopefully, I’ll be as pleased then as I am now.

But hang on a minute. Didn’t anything go wrong with my Phantom at all? Well, it did tip over during take-off twice, probably the result of ground-effect and my light touch. So now when taking off, I prefer the not-so-shy approach. That is, I gun the throttle for a second or so. The moment the Phantom is clear of the ground, I throttle back a bit. No tip-overs since. Note the importance of a flat and even launching surface. Long grass isn’t recommended. Neither are very dry dusty patches or sand, as this may result in grit fouling the motors. Short grass is ideal.

By the way, to avoid a tip-over at landing, I drop the copter in the last 2 inches or so and execute the CSC kill-motors command the moment it touches down. On choppy terrain, rocks and high grass, I cautiously but assertively hand-grab one of the Phantom’s skids whilst the copter hovers a foot or so above me. Once I’m holding the skid with my right hand, I throttle down with my other hand - left stick way down for 3 seconds.

Actually, there’s one other slight wrinkle I noticed in the past two weeks. I received a “Signal Lost” alert on my cell display during a ground station sortie. In fact, I received it twice, once at just under 100 m and once at just 2 m. Both times I had 10+ satellites and the Phantom was within 10 m of me. The second time, I happened to be in the video that I was taking. When watching the clip later, I could see that I’m commanding full right stick at the moment of the lost signal, but the copter ignores the command. Luckily, both events lasted just 1 or 2 seconds. But it goes without saying that I’ll be watching this hiccup very very closely going forward. (Note: Right after the first time I got the alert, I replaced my TX batteries (the original DJI-supplied ones which were still full) with new Energizers. The second time I got the alert was right after the batteries were replaced).

Now, with all this mostly smooth sailing, I don’t mean to marginalize any of the hapless owners whose Phantom inexplicably fell out of the sky or had it go AWOL. Perhaps I’ve been lucky. Perhaps playing it safe pays dividends. Perhaps both.

Either way, quadcopters are extremely precise instruments, particularly when fitted with GPS, gyros and what-have-you. No device comprising intricate electronics is 100% immune to untimely failures. It happens.

Should something fatal have happened to your Phantom because of a software glitch or a crucial part suddenly failing at no fault of yours, then my advice is to gather all the details of the fly-away, crash or break-down. Then contact your Phantom dealer or DJI and follow their instructions. Be realistic; DJI is is obviously not looking to create bad press for themselves, but neither can they hand out free Phantoms to Tom, Dick and Harry. It’s a delicate balancing act. So be patient in answering their questions. There likely won’t be an overnight fix, but assume they’re doing their best to resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.

Happy flying!

2014-10-8
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Tony
Second Officer
Flight distance : 2856060 ft
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United States
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Great write up. Very informative. I, too, read and watched everything I could prior to my first flight. My first P2V+ arrived with a bad flight controller. I found out the hard way... crash, and broken camera/gimble. DJI took immediate and expedited care of me. I was amazed at how this was in stark contrast to the stories I had read about their bad customer service. Needless to say I am now a DJI fan. They treated me right.
My new P2V+ arrived and I have not had a single problem, that was not my fault. So, to stress the importance of what you said, users should know everything they possibly can about their Phantom before attempting to fly it. And not be so quick to blame DJI and expect a brand new unit if something goes wrong that was within their control.

But, I know how it feels to have a crashed bird with a possible $700 repair tag. It sucks.

Thanks for taking the time to post this. I hope, and believe, it will help others immensely.
2014-10-9
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Thanks Tony. Hopefully, it will be a long and happy journey.

Just read a post about a guy who dropped his Phantom and broke the gimbal. He sent it to DJI, owned up to pilot error and said he'd pay the full repair amount. Couple of weeks later he got the lot sent back, fully repaired and all firmware updated. All of it at no charge! It's just that these posts tend to stay under the radar more than the ones.

Happy flying eh!
2014-10-9
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Quick update.

I've been venturing out of my comfort zone more and more, upping the copter's flying speed, going further and higher and switching to ATTI mode quite a bit to get a feel of this more free-style type of flying.  No issues so far.  (And no more "Signal Lost" instances, so great).

One thing I discovered that I hadn't come across in my research is the way you can inadvertently induce VRS in other ways apart from descending too quickly. For instance, I found that - in GPS - if you let go of the stick when the copter is moving at speed, the copter will flare to come to a stop, but whilst flaring, it's overtaken by its own prop-wash, at which point the props will lose purchase and the copter will descend quickly unless you counter this by throttling up.  

So basically, VRS is the props losing grip due to the copter's own prop-wash, i.e. it doesn't only apply to descending too fast.  It's good to be aware of this.
2014-10-14
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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I've been hearing quite a bit about this GPS mod that some fellow-pilots are carrying out on their Phantom, which, apparently, is receiving fewer satellites than are available. I realized that I have a NAVI GT31 GPS that also displays sats in range, so I took it to my flying spot to compare sat reception between its GPS receiver and that of the Phantom. According to mod proponents, the Phantom should show fewer satellites than the GT31.

The results:

The GT31 showed "In view 12" and "Tracking 9", which is at ground level. Meanwhile, my Phantom never showed less than double digits the entire sortie, at one point showing 15 sats! This is one higher than the max according to http://satpredictor.navcomtech.com/ for this location and time slot, but that's probably because the copter was higher than the 10 meters default of http://satpredictor.navcomtech.com/

All in all, it appears  that the GPS mod is not required, at least not on my Phantom, which is the P2 Vision Plus.

That said, I'll be taking out the GT31 every time I go flying from now on to get a more significant average.
2014-10-15
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javtorales
lvl.2
Flight distance : 34780 ft
Argentina
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insitb@singnet. Posted at 2014-10-16 08:58
I've been hearing quite a bit about this GPS mod that some fellow-pilots are carrying out on their P ...

Hi Insitb, you are loosing sats when recording a video ?... thanks.
2014-10-21
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Hi Jav,

Nope, there's no noticeable drop in sats when I start recording. In fact, I've been carrying my NAVI along with me ever since my post above and this has shown that my Phantom has no sat issues. It tends to detect even more than my NAVI.
2014-10-21
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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An interesting, albeit somewhat unnerving development during my sortie today. Barely a few minutes after take off, (I was, in fact, still carrying out the hover manoeuvre) my display popped a battery warning. I don't recall the exact phrase, but the warning did end with "fly carefully". The warning disappeared after a moment, but reappeared as I headed in to land a few seconds later.

Once the Phantom was back on the ground, I replaced the battery in question with my second battery and flew for about 15 minutes without getting the warning again.

I've since checked the various P2V+ forums, but haven't come across a lot of information regarding this warning, apart from a thread about an issue with pre-March 2014 Phantom battery pins. As my Phantom is from a month ago, I doubt that this is a pin issue. That said, the warning received by this pilot was the same as the warning I received, however.

Once back home, I checked both batteries in the Assistant software and took a screen shot of the affected battery.

Sophie, Blair, or any other DJI technician, perhaps you can shed some light on this? I'm wary to use this battery now, for obvious reasons. I'd rather be prudent. But I'm keen to hear your take on the above.

Thank you.

P.S. I didn't locate the warning in the Phantom manual, nor in the Wiki here. I also didn't find it on Google Images.





2014-10-22
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Whilst awaiting advice on the issue above, I got a spot of good news today. This morning, I received my two additional batteries, to complete my battery quartet. I'd ordered this extra set of two batteries October 21st from the DJI website, at just before 9 pm and, incredibly, the parcel was dropped off this morning at just before 11am.

Just over 1.5 days from order to delivery?? Is that even possible? Evidently it is. Simply awesome! Sure, Singapore and China aren't exactly oceans apart. But still, 1.5 days, from order to delivery?? I think that is out of this world! Superb service! A big WELL DONE and THANK YOU to DJI and DHL!

UPS and FedEx, eat your heart out:

Thursday, October 23, 2014         Location         Time

17         Delivered - Signed for by : BUYER    SINGAPORE         10:45
16         With delivery courier         SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         10:30
15         Scheduled for delivery         SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         09:11
14         Arrived at Delivery Facility in SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         09:09
13         Departed Facility in SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         08:36
12         Clearance processing complete at SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         08:20
11         Processed at SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         08:20
10         Departed Facility in HONG KONG - HONG KONG         HONG KONG - HONG KONG         01:59
9         Clearance processing complete at HONG KONG - HONG KONG         HONG KONG - HONG KONG         00:33
8         Processed at HONG KONG - HONG KONG         HONG KONG - HONG KONG         00:33

Wednesday, October 22, 2014         Location         Time

7         Arrived at Sort Facility HONG KONG - HONG KONG         HONG KONG - HONG KONG         21:53
6         Customs status updated         HONG KONG - HONG KONG         20:36
5         Arrived at Sort Facility SHENZHEN - CHINA, PEOPLES REP        SHENZHEN - CHINA, PEOPLES REP        20:19
4         Departed Facility in SHENZHEN - CHINA, PEOPLES REP        SHENZHEN - CHINA, PEOPLES REP        20:18
3         Processed at SHENZHEN - CHINA, PEOPLES REP        SHENZHEN - CHINA, PEOPLES REP        20:08
2         Customs status updated         SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE         20:02
1         Shipment picked up         SHENZHEN - CHINA, PEOPLES REP        18:59


By the way, I checked both new batteries in the Assistant software and both passed. In fact, I used both in my afternoon sortie  and everything went A-OK.
2014-10-23
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Time for an update.

The Phantom has been flying just great. I go on daily sorties, sometimes 2 sorties in one day. No GPS issues, nor for that matter, any other serious issues. Apart from the battery one above, about which I'm still in standby mode. I've also written to my local dealer about it; they let me know the same day that they're currently taking a closer look at this and they'll get back to me. I'm not using that battery for the time being, so my sorties are 30-45 minutes each.

As I'll be recording over water in the next week or so, I've fitted my Phantom with a Getterback. I used 2 small cable ties, cut to size, to fasten the Getterback to one of the skids, as high as possible, to reduce any swing weight to a bare minimum. There's no play whatsoever, it's like it's bonded on. Let's hope it never needs to deploy.

Lastly, one of my batteries sounded an alarm during a flight quite unexpectedly. There were no visual alarms to accompany it - all systems were green with plenty to spare everywhere. I've read that a few other pilots have also encountered this, with no real cause pin-pointed yet. Playing it safe, I returned the Phantom right away and during the landing, it sounded again. I stopped using this particular battery for a few days, but used it again today, down to 1 minute (20+%). It didn't sound the alarm again. It could of course just be a minor programming/loop glitch/bug. Then again, I have a hunch that it may be linked to an unstable satellite count, i.e .when satellites oscillate back and forth from double digit to single digit. I don't think this is a documented feature, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's there nonetheless. Perhaps one of the DJI technicians on this board would care to comment?
2014-10-26
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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It's been a while, so let me just say that the past few weeks have been hot and heavy with fault-free fun-flying.

Meanwhile, firmware-wise, everything installed without a hitch. This also applied to the newest Assistant. Nothing broke, was bricked or had to be reverted to a previous version - everything worked the way it's meant to.

The footage I've been able to record of Pulau Tioman, an island off the Malaysia east coast, is awesome. Plenty of scenes shot whilst over sea - the Phantom did a great job. Next trip, middle of the month, will be to Anambas, a far-flung Indonesian archipel that offers countless untouched paradise islands to immortalize.

One noteworthy event was during a routine check of the batteries whilst in a hotel room. I'd set up the Phantom and my laptop on the desk, next to the tv. But when I fired up the Assistant, the Phantom's various values were way erratic and I got an Error-27, which stated that the GPS was off, due to interference. Turned out the tv, even though it was unplugged, was still emitting a lot of noise signals. Once I'd moved to another location, the error disappeared and all values were back to normal. Lesson learned: Don't hook up the Phantom to the Assistant too close to a tv set.

As an aside: I've installed the gimbal protector from www.djiphantomfix.com. Justin Case.

Lastly, the above-mentioned battery issue has cleared, no untoward alarms were sounded since 27 October and the app's new battery history feature says that the status for all 4 batteries is A-OK.

Anambas, here we come!
2014-11-8
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johnwarr
Captain
Flight distance : 6467 ft
United Kingdom
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Thanks for keeping us updated on your phantom journey.
2014-11-8
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Haha. No worries
2014-11-9
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Two and a half months and one day since I bought my P2V+ and still loving it.

I've been taking some awesome footage in various locations around Asia. Pretty much everything on the Phantom and the Tx has been working the way it should.

Let me just mention 3 wee issues.

1. On one flight, about 2 weeks ago, after taking a RAW image, all icons in the app grayed out. Strangely, he video counter was still going, but I could no longer toggle between video and photo. That said, everything returned to normal after taking the copter down and rebooting. Random glitch I suppose. It hasn't happened since.

2. My S2 switch is no longer doing its job well when generating a new HL. I have to put extra pressure on the down flip during the switch-flipping cycle to get the green blinking LEDs. Likely a mechanical issue, given the frequency of use when manually generating HL, like I tend to do. Suggestion to DJI: Perhaps have another HL/CL initiation function?

3. There is no 3

Have a lofty Christmas, everyone.
2014-12-15
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ciprianboboc
lvl.3

United States
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insitb@singnet. Posted at 2014-10-16 08:58
I've been hearing quite a bit about this GPS mod that some fellow-pilots are carrying out on their P ...

Thanks for your detailed report.

I've never seen double digits satellite reception for my Phantom. I think it helps to live in Singapore, close to Equator... Or maybe you're lucky with a better Phantom
Regardless, I think preparation may save users from a lot of problems / issues.
2014-12-15
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umpa
Second Officer

United Kingdom
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insitb@singnet. Posted at 2014-10-23 10:06
An interesting, albeit somewhat unnerving development during my sortie today. Barely a few minutes a ...

I had the same error just before a Waypoint Mission, I think this was because my battery was at 75% and the phantom thought it might not make it back, but as it was only a short mission I sent it and it came back a few minuets later with 70%.  So I guess it throws the error up as a precaution if the battery is less than full.  I'll keep my eye on it.
2014-12-16
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Ciprian, keep an eye on http://satpredictor.navcomtech.com/ We get single digits too on certain days. Unless you fly at 3 am
2014-12-20
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insitb
lvl.4

Singapore
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Yes, Umpa, I think that's it. Mind you, I wasn't flying a GS mission at the time, so I'm guessing it was just a wee glitch.

Anyways, it hasn't happened since, so all good.

Cheers.
2014-12-20
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