First (and second) flight with the DJI Phantom 2…

Carmen bought a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter for my birthday, which I’ve been a little too chicken to put into the air so far. But John and Joachim were interested in flying theirs today, so I decided to give it a whirl. Initially, we headed out to Miller/Knox park, out near the old location of Pixar in Point Richmond. Despite some fairly hefty wind, I got enough courage to put mine into the air. Sadly, within a few minutes of launch, the No-Fun Police showed up and informed us that it was illegal to fly quadcopters in Eastbay Regional Parks. Sigh. We did some quick googling on our phone, and at the very end of the park regulations in very small print it was said that quadcopters equipped with video (specifically) were not allowed. Grumble. Anyway, in my excitement of getting the quadcopter in the air, I forgot to start video recording. Carmen did record me operating the quad from the ground: perhaps I’ll put some of that video up later.

We debated going to Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley, where model rocketry, kites and RC airplanes of all kind seem to be common place, but we were frankly annoyed, and wondered if that park too was at least technically illegal. In the end, we ended up going to a place where were haven’t had any problem: the soccer field at work.

This time, I did remember to turn on the camera, but it appears that my gimbal controller may have some sort of loose connection: it was essentially deactivated for this flight. Thus, the footage is considerably less steady
than it really should be. Nonetheless, we have to document these milestones, even if the result is less than 100% successful. The sound is nothing but motor whine and wind noise, so you might want to turn it down.

When I got home, I tried hooking up the copter to my laptop. Initially, it didn’t see the IMU unit on the gimbal. I powered it down, pulled all the cables and reseated them, and when I powered it back up, it seemed to work okay. I did it a few more times, and did have one situation where it seemed glitchy. Not sure if the issue is really the connection or something else, but I’ll have to try it again in the future.

Thanks a lot for the spiffy birthday present, Carmen! The DJI is really easy to fly: in part because the throttle isn’t actually a throttle: it’s a relative altitude command. When you push the left stick forward, the quad copter goes up. When you pull it back, it does down. If you let go of the stick, it stabilizes at the current attitude. When you push the right stick forward to go forward, you don’t have to increase the throttle to maintain altitude. It’s all designed to stay in the air in the most stable way. When you gain experience, you can switch it to a more complex mode that allows for greater control and riskier maneuvering.

I think I’ll try to send it up (hopefully with a working gimbal) later this week. Stay tuned for more footage.