First look: DJI's new Phantom 3 drone is more powerful, affordable & integrated with Apple's iOS

in iPhone edited April 2015
DJI took the wraps off its new Phantom 3 drone on Wednesday in Manhattan, and AppleInsider was there to get a first look at the more powerful and more affordable model, which also boasts tighter integration with Apple's iOS platform.

Wednesday's event was based out of New York City, but the company used the new live streaming capabilities of the Phantom 3 to show scenes from around the world, ranging from Hollywood, Calif., to a spectacular night flight out of a high-rise hotel in Singapore.

And to show off the new indoor flying capabilities of the Phantom 3, a drone was flown into the enclosed presentation area in the West Village, where a representative safely landed it on a table onstage.

What excited us more than anything, from an Apple perspective, with the new Phantom 3 showcased on Wednesday was a tweaked controller design shown with a Lightning connector. The demo unit shown on the floor was hold an iPad Air, and video was being streamed live from the drone to Apple's tablet.

In our previous tests with the Phantom 2 Vision and Phantom 2 Vision+, iOS devices had to be connected to a custom Wi-Fi network in order for video to be streamed from the drone. But it would seem that right out of the box, DJI has eliminated this step with its latest model --?a welcome change.

We also came away pleased with the price, as the entry level Phantom 3 Advanced will cost just $999 when it launches later this month. For comparison, the Phantom 2 Vision+, which also uses a three-axis gimbal for spectacularly smooth video footage, was priced at $1,299 when it launched last year.

DJI is also offering a more premium "Professional" version of the Phantom 3 priced at $1,259, but the only difference in this upgrade is an improved camera capable of capturing 4K ultra-high definition video at 30 frames per second. For most "prosumer" and casual users, we feel the Advanced model's 1080P HD camera and its 60 frames per second recording capabilities will be more than enough.

We're especially glad that the camera appears to be the only difference between the Professional and Advanced models. That means all of the new features, including live HD view, instant sharing, automatic video editing, and, perhaps most impressive of all, indoor flying will all be included on the $999 model.

Previous Phantom drones could not be used to fly indoors, as the devices lock their position via GPS for stable hovering and even fighting against wind. But the Phantom 3 now allows stable flight indoors, DJI claims, thanks to a new "Virtual Positioning System" created by the company.

As for the live video stream, 720p HD video is sent out over distances up to a mile thanks to DJI's "Lightbridge" technology. The company says its newest drones will feature almost no latency when viewing the live streaming video feed from the embedded camera.

Interesting, most of the changes for the Phantom 3 appear to be under the hood and also in the form of software. A representative for DJI told AppleInsider on Wednesday that an update to its official iOS app will be forthcoming, enabling new features such as live streaming video to YouTube and instantly editing clips together.

The instant-edit capabilities are also tied into a new hardware button on the Phantom 3's remote. This allows pilots to quickly "bookmark" a section of recorded footage, and those favorited portions of the video are automatically edited together.

DJI claims that a user can have a finalized video ready to go as soon as the drone lands, using this new feature.

The updated DJI iOS app will also feature instant sharing of videos, a live map showing the drone's location, and flight logs for your device. There's even a new flight simulator app that will help users practice without having to send their costly drone to the skies.

The new capabilities of the Phantom 3 and accompanying app update require an Apple device running iOS 8.0 or later. It will be compatible with the iPhone 5s and newer, iPad Air and newer, and the iPad mini 2 and newer.

The Phantom 3 controller also features dedicated buttons for both camera and gimbal control. And previously available functions like auto-takeoff, auto-landing, and auto-return to home are once again included.

In terms of flight, the four motors on the Phantom 3 are more efficient, which the company says has led to an increased max flight time of 23 minutes. The Phantom 3 can fly at 16 meters per second, ascends at 6 meters per second, and descends at 2 meters per second.

Wednesday's presentation also featured real-life Phantom drone users who spoke about the virtues of the platform. In the most interesting example, a volunteer firefighter from Connecticut explained how a Phantom drone was used to save lives in a highly dangerous blaze where there was risk of a major explosion.

The event wasn't just limited to the Phantom 3, either, as DJI partners were onhand to showcase what they have done with the company's drones through custom modifications.

In particular, DJI showed off a drone that has been modified with a custom gimbal and wireless transmission system that connects to the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. By wearing the headset and flying a Phantom, users can get a sensation of actually flying and pilot with even greater precision.

The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional are both scheduled to begin shipping in the coming weeks. They will be available to order directly from DJI's online storefront.


  • Reply 1 of 17
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,457member

    Some toys one must have.... 8-)

  • Reply 2 of 17
    One day drones will deliver themselves to customers.
  • Reply 3 of 17
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    One day drones will pick us up at our homes and take us to Amazon warehouses to get our online purchases.
  • Reply 4 of 17
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    I'd love to play around with one but I'd probably crash it on day 1.

  • Reply 5 of 17
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,506member
    [QUOTE]In particular, DJI showed off a drone that has been modified with a custom gimbal and wireless transmission system that connects to the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. By wearing the headset and flying a Phantom, users can get a sensation of actually flying and pilot with even greater precision.[/QUOTE]

    Neil, did you perhaps notice that they added a second camera for stereo 3D to transmit to the Oculus? Then the modification and viewer hookup would make sense. Otherwise, not so much.
  • Reply 6 of 17
    I've owned a Phantom. These guys do slick ads. Almost as good as Apple but you can see they are not quite there. Almost like a pig wearing lipstick. Something here's not quite right. A close up of soldering a circuit board? We're not building a Mac Book here.

    When you stop drooling over the slick ads, you realize you're buying a more expensive version of those little copters you can get at a mall kiosk. The technology is nothing new but there is one big catch...

    These things are hard to fly well. Go look up videos on YouTube. There are hundreds if not thousands of shaky poorly shot videos. Then check out all the videos of people crashing their Phantoms. You are flying a machine in a three-denominational space. What is forward? What is backwards? What is right or left? it depends on which way the machine is facing but then which is the front and which is the back? On top of that how are you going to fly and aim a camera at the same time. If you can walk and chew gum while patting your head and rubbing your belly maybe you can fly one of these things...maybe.

    Someone with lots of time, experience and lots of hours of shooting video can make a few minutes of awesome video work. Do not expect to take one out of the box and start shooting the kind of video you see in a Phantom ad. It is not a realistic expectation and in my opinion a misrepresentation by DJI. You will be frustrated long before Mom calls you home for dinner.

    So before you wet yourself and drop a grand on one of those things think long and hard about it. Forget these slick ads. They are not telling you the other two-thirds of the story.
  • Reply 7 of 17
    xixoxixo Posts: 417member
    I'd spend a grand on this before I'd spend it on a watch.
  • Reply 8 of 17

    MidwestApple maybe you had an original Phantom but I had (had) a Phantom 2 Vision and it was easy to fly and to achieve great footage almost right off the bat.  To be certain there is a learning curve--a scary one at that with $1K hovering about, but the original Vision was pretty tough, though it lacked the 3 axis gimbal that came with the Plus later on. 


    I mentioned I had the Vision, had it for about 6 months when one evening it got a mind of it's own and headed off into the darkness.  I'm still waiting for the "failsafe/return-to-home to kick in, but I think after 8 months the battery probably died.  That's the risk people need to address before flying one of these.  I've read literally hundreds of accounts in various forums of similar "fly-away" incidents.  To be certain user error can account for a good number of them--the Phantom 2/gopro combo had an issue where the gopro wifi would interfere with the control signal of the aircraft, so gopro wifi had to be disabled before flying.   Compass calibrations must be made on a regular basis, and a certain number of satellites must be locked in before take-off.  But in my case, and from many of the account I've read, you can do everything right, take off with good gps and lose satellites while flying and it will be out of control range in seconds.


    I was obviously put off when my Phantom left me.  I stepped away from the hobby for a month or two, but then re-approached it, opting for a few micro/nano quads, which led to camera equipped one's, slightly larger airframes, to now, where I'm considering one of these.  That's the route I would recommend to anyone who hasn't flown one of these.  You can get a great little micro (eachine cg023) for like $26 shipped (buy 2 they're small!) that's tough as nails yet completely safe to fly around a small apartment and still able to hold it's own outside.  Move up to a Hubsan X4 ($40), for a little sportier outdoor experience.  Maybe get one with a camera ($60), or FPV ($150ish) or a larger airframe (LaTrax Alias $150) which you can also throw a camera on for another $50.   Of course none of these use GPS technology, nor do they have the range of a Phantom, but they're great for learning how to actually fly a quadcopter and if you crash you can either repair them or just get another one and you have a "parts machine", and in the event you do lose one (it happens outside, even with these little guys), there's a LOT less sting than losing Phantom! 


    As far as the Phantom 3?  I'm excited to learn the the only difference (it seems anyway) between the 2 is 4K.  If the lens/manual camera control options/avionics/apps are the same.  I'm gonna go for Advanced.  4k would be nice to have in some situations, but for most it would be more of a pain dealing with the files.  I've read that the GPS/flight control systems have been improved, so maybe that means they won't be as likely to fly away and not come back.  It does look like the gimbal is much the same as the Plus, which works great for stabilizing footage but will render itself completely useless after a crash (oh, and if that happens?  You'll be waiting a LONG time to get it fixed and/or pay close to 2/3rds the price of a whole kit for a new camera/gimbal). 


    I might just keep an eye on the used Vision/Vision+ market and see how low they go with this one coming out too.  Whatever the case, these things are like crack to someone like me who loves photography and always wanted to fly but never got around to getting a license or full scale aircraft.  I guarantee they're a lot more fun than a watch! 

  • Reply 9 of 17


  • Reply 10 of 17

    I recently purchased a DJI Phantom 2,  out the box the Phantom worked great.  However,  recently ran into an warranty issue where the live video feed stopped working.  I searched the support blogs for answers and it ended up I had to ship the unit back for repair.  After shipping the unit back they informed me that it would take 5-6 weeks to repair once unit has been checked into their system,  yes 5-6 weeks!  On top of that,  it was delivered to DJI over a week ago and the unit has not even been checked into their system yet.   This is absolutely not acceptable and it is not like these drones are inexpensive throw aways.  


    I will keep you posted on the repair or lack of repair as the weeks go by....



    Stay tuned!

  • Reply 11 of 17

    It sounds like someone wanted a Phantom for xmas, but his mom got him a "mall-kiosk-copter" instead, and now he's bitter. ;)


    They're not THAT hard to fly.


    Should people stop buying MacbookPros because they can't create a feature film "right out of the box" without previous experience?

  • Reply 12 of 17
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,457member
    Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post


    It sounds like someone wanted a Phantom for xmas, but his mom got him a "mall-kiosk-copter" instead, and now he's bitter. ;)


    They're not THAT hard to fly.


    Should people stop buying MacbookPros because they can't create a feature film "right out of the box" without previous experience?


    My friend flies R/C Aircrfat and he said get a cheap one and learn to fly before stepping up to something like the phantom.  So, I got a Symex for $60...

  • Reply 13 of 17
    midwestapplefan said:
    "When you stop drooling over the slick ads, you realize you're buying a more expensive version of those little copters you can get at a mall kiosk. The technology is nothing new but there is one big catch..."

    Folks, I don't work for DJI, but I do happen to be an owner of phantom 2, and BTW, less than a year worth of experience. DJI has it's shortcomings on documentation and other issues, but please don't be fooled by midwestapplefan. A Phantom 2 or higher model quadcopter is NOT comparable to a garden-variety mall copter! You will crash a garden-variety mall copter, you might crash a phantom, but let me speak plainly from experience, the Phatom drones are incredibly easier to fly then "the old rc days." ... you do NOT need extensive experience to get great results!

    I'll put my money were my mouth is, here is a video I created with the Phantom 2, Go Pro 3 Black, H3-3D Gimball.

    If you watch, you will see the exact opposite of what midwestapplefan is saying. I have less than one year flying experience with Phantom, and zero experience flying any rc craft previously. You will notice the footage to be rather smooth (Thanks to DJI's H3-2D & later DJI's H3-3D gimbal) While true you can get on YouTube and see many phantom footage that is not nearly as pretty as mine, that really isn't the point here! The point is, the ability to get footage from the sky at the quality we can get now as hobbyists is amazing when compared to just a few short years ago! Of course you aren't going to take it right out of the box and be some kind of master. BUT .... you'd be surprised how little time it will take you to BECOME one.

    midwestapplefan said:
    "These things are hard to fly well."

    Midwestapplefan, riding a bike is hard too if you never have. Did you fall off your bike as a child and never get back on? Enough said here.

    The slick ads are meant to get people excited, there's nothing wrong about that!
  • Reply 14 of 17

    DJI has had some pretty significant growing pains over the last couple of years.  I have owned almost every one of their copters including the 1000 for my DSLR.  The phantom models did/do have issues with runaway.  Primarily due to wireless interference.  Let's be clear this is unacceptable for a company to produce products with fatal flaws such as this.  I had it happen to me but fortunately was able to recover the drone.  The Phantom series...specifically the phantom 2 vision + is supper easy to fly.  You have to make sure you take off from grass/dirt and not from concrete or pavement of any kind.  It will mess with the compass.  They seem to be working the bugs out with current models so should be a good product to go with moving forward.  If anyone has suggestions for other brands please the mean time I am planning on purchasing the 3.

  • Reply 15 of 17
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,402member

    Originally Posted by Rocco Saya View Post

    I'll put my money were my mouth is, here is a video I created with the Phantom 2, Go Pro 3 Black, H3-3D Gimball.


    Great, great work!  Beautiful.   It's this kind of footage that makes me want to buy one.  


    But I have to admit that I'd want a lot of practice before I'd send it out over the water like you did.   

  • Reply 16 of 17
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,442member
    @midwestapplefan: the Phantom 2 is incredibly EASY to fly and I expect the 3 to be even easier. It is important to start with freshly charged batteries, always follow preliminary procedures before take-off, and [B]not go anywhere near pushing the battery's limits[/B]. It's easy to ask too much of the drone during maneuvers, too, so just behave yourself, don't go too fast in a crowded area, and you'll be fine! With practice, one can have hours of uneventful fun (one 15-20 minute [I]safe[/I] battery session at a time). I can't count the number of crashes I've seen on the 'net of people that didn't install blade guards and then ran into something and crashed, too. Blade guards are inexpensive protection against (some) crashes and damage. A live video feed also makes flying easier and safer by keeping front/back/left/right properly oriented in your brain at all times--as long as you don't fly out of radio range.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    midwestapplefan - I don't believe you've actually owned the DJI2 and toy-quality one to compare. I have a lowly parrot 2 and it''s light years ahead of the 'mall toy', but I'm still saving up for a phantom, because it has better sensors, controller, motors, and everything else.

    In this world, you *do* get what you pay for. If you're too oblivious to tell the difference, this hobby is not for you.
Sign In or Register to comment.