After thorough research of DJI and reseller Helipal.com I decided to purchase the newest edition to our video capture toolbox- a maxed out Phantom 2 drone. The drone is manufactured by DJI in China however I purchased the complete set (minus the Go Pro) from HeliPal.
I found the HeliPal website very good. I wanted a complete set-up but was a bit surprised to find that some rewiring needed to be done upon arrival to connect a FPV video receiver which enabled me to see ‘live’ what the GoPro was seeing and filming. Through a couple YouTube videos posted by other users connection was straightforward and the drone was airborne a few days later. I found HeliPal easy to deal with and everything was shipped as ordered and well packaged- no damage during shipping from China to Canada whatsoever and delivery was about a week (if only local mail was that fast!).
HeliPal suggested that if I never flew a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) before the Phantom 2 would be a good choice. This turned out to be good advice. With 2 joysticks on the remote control it’s a bit tricky for a first timer – in fact I flew it into the side of my house on the first flight. This is likely why HeliPal (and DJI) suggests flying it in wide open spaces- at least initially. No damage was done with the exception of breaking 2 propellers but that was OK since I ordered spare props with my initial order ($15.00 US for a set of 2 props) just in case.
The Phantom 2 is a remarkable bit of technology. This drone is fast! The ascending altitude speed is amazing and once you get to know the remote control you can place it anywhere you wish as long as it’s not too windy. The advertised flying time is 20 minutes on one Phantom rechargeable battery. Buying a spare at time of purchase is recommended ($129.00 US). I never got a full 20 minutes flying time out of a charge because once you load up the drone with gimbal, GoPro and FPV transmitter the Phantom is heavier- more power is required and hence your flight time is a few minutes less per charge.
The Zenmuse HD-3D 3 axis Gimbal is well worth the money (about $250 US). The resulting video is silky smooth and amazing. You can get video results with this rig that rival more expensive rigs costing several times more. For the technically inclined the Phantom 2 can be very customized as seen in YouTube videos.
Part of my package was the FPV Storm Deluxe package which included a transmitter for the Phantom 2 and video receiver for the remote control. Again, some wiring/soldering was required and instructions were a bit light from HeliPal but I got the job done with other YouTube videos. Some static exists on the video screen but the video is ‘live’ and acceptable. The mounting of the FPV Storm to the remote controller is awkward and unbalanced- not totally impressed with this combination. I expect future releases will produce a better attachment solution but saying that…it all works.
The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition Camera is a very cool tool. The small size and many features make it a perfect companion for the Zenmuse Gimbal and Phantom 2. Capable of shooting 15fps 4K video and Super Wide Angle 1080p 30fps video (this is what I use most) you can easily achieve footage that will excite viewers. The 12MP still photos are great too. I can’t praise this little camera enough. This camera was purchased from Vistek in Ottawa.
So, if you are thinking about buying a Phantom 2 for video capture I would highly recommend the path I took – buying direct from China. The service was fine, delivery was fast and everything arrived as it should. Plus, I saved a few hundred dollars. This is the coolest video recording tool ever!