The first test I did with my new Phantom 3 was all about getting my bearings. It was a very slow flight, mostly to get a feel for the sticks and different controls. For my second flight, I wanted to test out flying fast.
The area I took my first flight in was relatively small, only a few acres. I wanted to fly fast, but I didn’t want to be stupid. So I went to a park north of town where I played rugby in college. I went during my lunch break, so the park was mostly empty. It has a very large space with no trees or obstructions. It was still quite windy out that day, so I only dared 200 ft for my max altitude.
To start, I remembered that setup needs to go very slow. I took my time getting everything set up, even though I was excited to get back in the air with this thing. I double checked that my propellers and prop guards were on correctly, I had good GPS signals, and that the aircraft was in the flying mode I wanted to fly in.
Once in the air, I started out by getting “two mistakes high.” You gut instinct when you start flying is to fly low, so that if something bad happens to your quad it won’t have too far to fall. The problem is that flying close to the ground give you very little margin of error. One wrong move on the controls and you’re hitting the ground. Getting up in the air a little bit gives you a lot more room for error. If you, say, lose a few meters of altitude because you changed flight directions too fast, you’re fine. That same error down low would cost you some money in repairs.
Once I was up a few mistakes high, I started to really open it up. I took long passes and figure eights around the field at nearly full throttle to get a feel for how it flies. The Phantom has “breaks” of a sort, and when flying in a controlled GPS mode, it will reverse tilt to stop itself when you stop applying throttle in a direction. This takes some getting used to, as most quads I’ve flown get momentum in a direction and you can use that momentum when turning and doing other maneuvers (note: you don’t have to fly the Phantom in this mode, but I chose to because I’m still learning this aircraft and felt it was safer).
The only issue I ran in to on this flight was the sun. You control the Phantom with a radio transmitter, but you get real time video and settings control via an iPad you mount to the transmitter. Flying at noon on a hot and sunny day made it incredibly difficult to see the on screen display. In all the video I shot that day, I don’t think I was once able to frame a shot on screen while executing it (which is quite obvious in a few of the shots in the video). I need a sunshade for my iPad, and I’ve ordered one and expect it next week. Once I get it installed, I hope that flying in the brightness of mid-day won’t be an issue anymore.