My first test of my new Phantom 3 was a cautious exercise just to get a feel for the controls. My second test was to fly fast in an open area and see how it moved with speed. My third test took place on the first calm day we’ve had in Oklahoma in a while. With winds calm, I decided the third test would be getting some real altitude for the first time.
In the US, the FAA has authority over all aircrafts. They’re in the process of setting official rules for using unmanned aerial vehicles such as my Phantom for commercial purposes, but the rules for hobby use are pretty simple and clear. Don’t fly near airports, don’t fly over crowded areas, always maintain visual contact with your aircraft, etc. Most relevant to this post: don’t fly over 400 feet.
400 feet may not sound like a lot, but it’s intimidating to fly that high at first. A small white quadcopter gets quite hard to see even when it’s right above you at that height. Oklahoma, as you know, is where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. At 400 feet, I was worried that sweeping wind would carry my quad all the way to Texas (and I wouldn’t wish Texas on anyone or anything). Finally, on this relatively calm day, I decided I’d take it up to maximum legal altitude.
Being up high was exhilarating, but it made me much more cautious about all of my setup. After one flight up there, I realized it was going to be important to create a preflight checklist to make sure I was consistent with how I prepared myself, my transmitter, and my quad. Right now I only have version one of the checklist, and I know it’ll grow and change as I fly more. The basics:
- Check firmware on transmitter and Phantom
- Secure props
- Secure prop gaurds
- Remove gimbal guard
- Insert SD card in camera
- Attach iPad to transmitter
- Turn transmitter on
- GPS mode active
- Turn Phantom on
- Calibrate compass
- Visually inspect Phantom for obvious flaws
- Confirm GPS lock
- Confirm it’s safe to take off
- Hover for 20 seconds to confirm proper flight
On the back of the checklist, I have a key explaining all warning and indicator lighting meanings on the Phantom. I know them by memory, but it’s nice to have them for backup in case I blank out.