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Old May 8th, 2013, 01:44 AM   #1
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DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

For anyone interested in buying and flying the Phantom commercially in the UK a short blog I wrote, hope this OK to post Chris.

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The Phantom from DJI is a very respectable, out of the box, ready to fly quadcopter. The simplicity of the Phantom and what makes it so great is that unlike most other quads on the market you don't need to build it yourself. The total amount of assembly required is eight screws to hold the landing gear to the body and a bolt to hold each propeller in place.

The Phantom is sold as ready to fly, in reality once you have assembled it you do need to undertake a quick calibration of the compass, DJI make this very simple with an online video showing you how to complete this necessary step. That's it, you're good to fly! But wait, although it is as simple as that you need to spend some time learning the LED sequences that the Phantom uses to communicate it's status. If you rush this and try to fly before it has warmed up the Phantom will simply tip over and mash its propellers.

The Phantom is supplied with a matching, white, hand held transmitter that has all the required knobs and sticks that you need. All are neatly labelled, nothing to confuse you here except the intelligent orientation control switch which is disabled until you set it up with the downloadable assistant software.

It's important to realise that this isn't a toy. The Phantom is a quadcopter, a four rotor craft of the multirotor family. These aircraft can be compared to food blenders, flying food blenders that without a shadow of a doubt are dangerous. They are certainly cool, they can be fun but they are not a toy. They need to be flown safely and with respect for people and animals in the area they are being used as well as aircraft above and around them. You need to be thoughtful as to where you fly them, around what buildings, taking off from whose land and flying in restricted or congested airspace.

To me the Phantom is a tool to which I can attach a camera to take stunning photographs or video from an angle that is totally alien to us. To some and sadly a few of our newspapers the Phantom is a drone, this device is seen as being used for surveillance, to strip away our privacy. As responsible pilots we need to act in a manner that doesn't harm this emerging market for aerial video and photography. My fear is that sooner or later a member of the public will be hurt by somebody flying irresponsibly. The press that will follow will put all multirotor pilots in the spotlight.

My involvement with multirotors has up to this stage been as a hobbyist, I was introduced by a friend to this technology about 18 months ago and have fallen in love with it. I was involved with building my first rig, went on to buy a Phantom and have almost finished building the larger DJI S800. From this point on my interests are of a commercial nature, I want to provide aerial footage to a niche and specific market. To do this though however brings about what appears on the surface to be another set of complexities.

To fly commercially or as the UK CAA phrase is - "for valuable consideration" you must first obtain a CAA permission to fly. To do this you need to pass two exams run by an organisation called the EuroUSC and write an operations manual. Their isn't a great deal of information on the web about this with the exception of their own website. Once completed EuroUSC will issue you with a qualification known as a BNUC-S that will enable you to get from the CAA the permission you need to earn money from flying. As of April 2013 I have passed the first part of the exam.

The first stage of the EuroUSC exam is the two day ground school, on the afternoon of the second day you are presented with a 60 question multiple choice test, you have just 90 minutes to complete this. If you have been paying attention and read and re-read the book you are given prior to the course this test shouldn't be a problem. The two day course focuses heavily on safety and procedure and gives you a head start with writing your operations manual. You will also leave with a basic overview of manned aviation, after all we will be sharing the skies with manned aircraft.

The operations manual is an altogether different beast. These are closely guarded technical and procedural documents that you and you alone must write to demonstrate how you plan to operate your multirotor aircraft. I have almost finished writing my manual and so far it has posed more questions than the ground school. I will update this blog as and when I take the flight test to keep you up to date. Back to the Phantom...

So, you've assembled it, calibrated it, you're happy flying it and now finally you're going to film with it. Firstly bear in mind the Phantom is good, it's great for the price, you won't however get blockbuster quality video out of it. There are some great examples of Phantom video on Youtube and a lot of bad examples, it's all down to how you fly, when you fly, what framerate you choose (50p) and your subject. To get the best from the Phantom you want to balance the propellers to reduce vibrations and also insulate the GoPro mount from the body of the craft. I use a small sticky foam pad between the GoPro and the body secured with two longer screws which are loctited in place.

The other consideration with the Phantom is that you can't see what you are filming, my Phantom is fitted with a 25mW 5.8GHz video transmitter that I can view on the ground with a monitor. The GoPro plugs into the transmitter and I can frame my shots. For photography I leave my GoPro set to take a photo every 5 or 10 seconds as I have no control over the shutter button.

The Phantom / GoPro combo is ideal for photography, for video you will need to work on your shots from the camera to get the best out of it. Considering the price of the rig this isn't a terrible hardship. If you want higher quality, rock steady, HD video to start with then you need to think of investing a few thousand pounds before you even consider a camera.

So the question remains, should you buy a Phantom? For photography an absolute positive yes. For video once you understand that you need to fly in optimal conditions, i.e. not on a windy day and invest some time in learning about balancing your propellers and post stabilising the footage.I would also say yes.

The Phantom is an ideal toe-in-the-water aircraft for those new to aerial photography and video. Even if you are looking to invest in a larger aircraft the Phantom is the ideal place to start and to gain experience.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 06:11 AM   #2
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Can you show us the image of the foam pad and screws? Also which video transmitter is this?

I view the DJI as a tool to first fulfill childhood fascination for flying remote copters, even though I am bit old for playing with toys. :) I see some really terrible videos in youtube with the gopro. So I am not sure if one can do professional work with the DJI phantom and go pro. I would love to be proved wrong.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 06:17 AM   #3
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Will post the picture of the modification when I get home tonight.

There are a few really nice Phantom videos where clearly someone with skills in video has edited out the chaff. DJI are manufacturing a "mini Zenmuse", or brushless gimbal that will steady the shots a lot and improve the quality.

As for being used professionally that's a whole debate, but commercially I know people flying in the UK where I am based using these for producing photos for estate agents.

You're never too old to play with toys!
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Old May 8th, 2013, 06:20 AM   #4
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Oh, I use the Immersion RC 25mW TX:

http://www.immersionrc.com/datasheet...09_01_2011.pdf

Manual is for the 600mW
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Old May 8th, 2013, 11:31 AM   #5
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Add a couple of photos and I'll publish this on our content side with your byline. Thanks Simon,
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Old May 8th, 2013, 11:34 AM   #6
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Hi Chris,

Long time. Will post some photos a bit later this evening.

All the best,

Simon.
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Old May 9th, 2013, 02:23 AM   #7
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Okay then,

Photos attached are showing:

Foam pad between camera mount and phantom
Underside of Phantom with video tx mounted
Phantom next to the DJI S800
Whitwell Hall in Norfolk, photo taken at the weekend.

The orange tape on the Phantom helps with orientation when flying!

I'll post some "sexier" photos later, I quickly snapped these before breakfast on my workshop table, or the dining table as my wife likes to call it.
Attached Thumbnails
DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK-foampad.jpg   DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK-phantom_tx.jpg  

DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK-phantoms800.jpg   DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK-whitwellhall.jpg  

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Old May 9th, 2013, 10:21 AM   #8
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Excellent -- now published to DJI Phantom – Flying Commercially in the UK at DV Info Net

Simon please shoot me an email with an "About The Author" paragraph plus photo and backlink similar to what you see at the bottom of this page: NAB 2013 Reflections at DV Info Net so that I can properly credit you.

This is an excellent article and I'm looking forward to any updates!
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Old May 12th, 2013, 09:49 PM   #9
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

A great read. thank you
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Old May 14th, 2013, 07:39 AM   #10
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Chartier View Post
A great read. thank you
Thanks Craig, you're quite welcome.
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Old May 14th, 2013, 08:11 AM   #11
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Thanks for the post, great info. Just a comment on the gopro foam, and bear in mind this is just from my reading about it as I don't have my Phantom yet: the screws bypass the foam and therefore may transfer some vibration to the gopro. The ideal foam or insulating mounts are one's that totally insulate the camera from any of the hard surfaces which have vibrations, like the body of the phantom. That seems to be the consensus in the various (many) forums that are discussing the phantom and gopros.
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Old July 9th, 2013, 04:50 PM   #12
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

I can see myself getting hooked and treating myself to a Phantom. :) But these constant references to "flyaways" I read about worry me a lot. Not just the expensive loss of the Phantom and camera but the concern of one of these just dropping out of the sky!
Despite googling a lot cannot find much info on any rules about flying these in the UK apart from when you start using them for commerical purposes as you mention in your excellent article.
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Old July 9th, 2013, 06:54 PM   #13
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Re: DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK

Simon, this was a great read and I really appreciate your input. I will probably never fly for commercial purposes as I hope to stay away from government regulation. It is a shame that this has to be so regulated but on the other hand I can see in close quarters how dangerous it can be. Have you looked at this or something similar for camera anti vibration Amazon.com: DJI Phantom GoPro Anti Vibration Anti-Jello Vibration Isolator Low Profile Carbon Fiber Mount: Toys & Games
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DJI Phantom - flying commercially in the UK-41dzlab1z6l.jpg  
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