Having an interest in photography, loving gadgets and being an avid mountain biker were all the reasons I needed to pick up a DJI Phantom 3 Standard (that and my wife’s approval) so how easy is this budget quadcopter to fly for a complete beginner?
My only experiences with quadcopters have been terrible. I was once sent a DJI clone from a Chinese factory, the reason you didn’t see a review of that is simply because I smashed it to a million tiny pieces and set it on fire (no joke). The only other times I’ve played with 4 rotor flying machines are small toys, tiny enough for indoor use and not big enough to do any real damage (but I still managed to destroy these too).
So my experience with quadcopters hasn’t been all that great, but when DJI announced their ‘budget’ Phantom 3 Standard, I took notice and after a little persuasion my wife finally let me buy one.
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard looks like the other quads in the Phantom range. It even boasts updated motors for longer flight times of 25 minutes, advanced automatic flight controls, and a 2.7K camera on a motorised gimbal. The more advanced (and costly) Phantoms have higher resolution 4K cameras, sensors on the underside so they can carefully monitor height more accurately and a longer range (the Standard has a 1KM range).
The budget Phantom 3 Standard comes with all the usual GPS features so it knows where it is, can return home automatically (or by tapping the return home option in the DJI Go APP), and will even take off and land at the tap of an option. GPS is handy incase of an emergency too. If you break your controller, or the Phantom 3 runs low on power, GPS will guide it ‘home’ and land it safely.
DJI call the Phantom 3 Standard their ‘Budget’ option and compared to their other quadcopters it is a bargain. In the U.S the Standard is $799, for the quad, a single battery, 2 pairs of blades, plus that built-in 2.7k camera. In Europe the price is 919 Euros and in the UK the price is £649.
With those prices in mind it’s not exactly a ‘cheap’ product, but you do get a lot for your money. That said I wasn’t really happy forking out so much for something I might just crash. Luckily the price in China is just 4799 Yuan (around $753 so quite a saving compared to EU/UK pricing) and there is a DJI flagship store in Shenzhen airport so I picked one up plus extra spare battery and hard carry case (the next few hours included a lot of explaining to passport security what I had in my case).
Everything about the design of the product is made to fill you with confidence and keep you at ease. The quad and controller are a friendly bubbly design all finished in bright white. They look like something a child would use, and that’s a very clever piece of marketing. Had DJI made a stealthy black stealth machine with hard angles, I am sure people would have been put off by the aggressive looks, and they wouldn’t have sold quite as many.
Setting up the DJI Phantom 3 Standard for the first flight is super easy. All you need to do is remove the protective clip from the camera, attach the rotors (hand tight is enough as the threads are opposite to the direction the motor turns so no need to over tighten them), slide in the battery and switch it all on.
Before you can even attempt to fly you will need to connect your phone with the DJI Go App to your Phantom 3 via WIFI and then run through any calibrations the app tells you are needed. The only thing I needed to do was orientate the GPS. The DJI GO APP shows you onscreen exactly how to do this.
Once all this is accomplished the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is ready to go, but don’t worry about having to learn how to fly all you need to do is hit the “take off” icon on your phone and up it goes. Once airborne the Phantom 3 Standard is really stable, even if a gust of wind tries to push it will come back to where it should be according to GPS.
I took the photos on a day with a few gusts and was amazed that I could let the Phantom 3 Standard just hover and take control of itself while the wind tried to blow it away. Really clever stuff.
As a beginner and certified drone killer, I was nervous to start with, but the stability and ease of control is just amazing. Within 5 minutes you feel comfortable and at the end of the first battery charge (25 minutes later) you cannot wait to take the Phantom 3 Standard out again!
During my first flight I had the app in “Beginner Mode” , this limits the height to 30m and I also have options to limit the distance too. 30m is more than high enough to start with and from that height you can manoeuvre about with the drone in sight to get use to the simple controls.
I took the training wheels off for my second flight and shot some photos, and video with the 12 mega-pixel/2.7K built-in camera. The photos aren’t the greatest, but next time I plan to shoot them as RAW images which I hope will improve things.
DJI Phantom Standard 3 photo samples
Video is amazing! I’m shocked at just how stable the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is! Some of the video I shot is so stable it just looks like I filmed it from the top of a huge tower. To prove that this is not what I did, the video below shows the Phantom 3 Standard flying about and landing (this is my first quadcopter video so don’t expect an Oscar worthy production).
DJI Phantom 3 Standard First Flight Video
DJI have just recently rolled out an update for the Phantom 3 range which brings auto pilot modes to the quads, I haven’t tried these options yet, but I cannot wait to try the fly by waypoints and follow me options.
So to answer the original question “How easy is this budget quadcopter to fly for a complete beginner?” my answer is a simple “Very easy!”. Don’t bother trying to compare the flight experience between this and an entry-level ‘fun’ quad, as the experience is totally different and the DJI is much easier to fly.
If you have any questions about the DJI Phantom 3 Standard, operating the quad for the first time or have any tips for me about quad piloting then please feel free to let me know in the comments below.