Since the DJI Phantom 3 is probably the best consumer grade quadcopter on the market at the moment, this and the fact its marketed as “Ready To Fly”, thousands of people who have never flown anything RC in their life are buying and putting them in the sky. Some of these people end up crashing, getting depressed, turning to drink and eventually crime to fund the habit ( OK maybe not the others but definitely crashing ).
Some of the people who crash come on forums complaining that aliens did it, terrorists, weather issues and equipment failure when in reality it simply boiled down to a new pilot just a little too keen to get in the air and forgetting the basics.
In this post I aim to make the ultimate bulletproof list if things you MUST do before you put the Phantom 3 in the sky for the first ( and for some points EVERY ) time. If you follow it, learn from it then I am sure that your first flight as well as subsequent ones will be happy ones.
The guide is split into four sections that cover Vital things, preparation, pre-flight and post-flight.. I will add short video guides to accomplish some of the tasks shortly.
The ULTIMATE DJI Phantom 3 Checklist
- Vital things to do RIGHT AFTER you receive a Phantom 3…
1: Download and READ the manual. Yeah it sounds boring and no one wants to read when they have a cool toy to play with but it DOES contain vital information someone new to flying will need to know. It wont take you long and might well prevent you planting your £1200 investment into the ground. You can even read the manual whilst you wait for it to be delivered.
2. Update to the latest Firmwares for the Phantom 3 and Controller as well as having the latest version of the DJI Pilot App.
3: The Phantom 3 will more than likely have had one hell of a journey from factory in China to your house. Its worth calibrating the IMU, Gimbal and Controller when you receive it.
4: There is a piece of foam at the back of the Phantom 3 gimbal, make sure to remove it or you will get rubbish video.
4: Activate the Phantom 3 with the DJI Pilot App.
- Preparation before going flying….
1: Visually inspect the Phantom 3 aircraft for body damage taking greater attention to the landing gear and camera/gimbal.
2: Check the propellers you will use during a flying session for damage like chips, cracks, bending and hub wear.
3: Check your batteries for damage/signs of swelling. Swollen batteries should really not be used for flying.
4: Spin the motors with your fingers and make sure none feel/sound different.
5: Charge all required flight batteries. Run the battery self check feature.
6: Charge the Phantom 3 controller and power on/off to verify it works.
7: Charge your mobile device. Close all running apps then test the Pilot App to make sure it opens.
8: Make sure you have MicroSD card(s) available empty/formatted. Slot one inside the Phantom ready.
9: Power on the controller then Phantom 3 and quickly check that IMU readings are within range. It should normally be OK. Power everything back off.
10. Cache maps in the DJI Pilot App is needed.
11: Make sure Gimbal guard is fitted before transport. You can use the one that came with the Phantom or another 3rd party one you might have purchased.
12: Pack the Phantom 3 in your chosen transport method making sure its secure. Many cases and backpacks available.
13. Check Weather, Solar Radiation/Storm Levels, Wind speed/direction and is the location you will fly in is within a No Fly Zone or not.
1: Make sure the area you are going to fly in is safe not only for you and your phantom but members of the public, animals and other aircraft too. A big wide open field would be best for the first few flights.
2: Carefully unpack the Phantom 3 and the controller, tablet, batteries and propellers onto a clean surface. If you transport in a case you can place them on top or take a small plywood board with you for this purpose. Check the Phantom to make sure its OK. Also remember to remove any lens cap and check the lens is clean on the camera.
3: Mount your tablet/phone onto the Phantom 3 controller and attach the USB cable fro the device to it.
4: Put the battery into the Phantom 3 making sure it is seated correctly ( should be almost no gap between the Phantom’s shell and the battery ).
5: Attach a set of propellers to each motor. Make sure to mount the Black headed hubs to the black tipped motors and the Gray headed hubs to the silver tipped motors. make sure to snugly tighten the propellers by hand.
6: Place the Phantom 3 on clean level ground. Use a small square sheet of plywood or a transport case if needed.
7: Remove the Gimbal Guard.
8: Power on the controller and then the Phantom 3. Open the Pilot App on your tablet/phone and verify you can see a live feed from the aircraft. Allow it to set a “Home Point”. Monitor the aircraft’s status lights to confirm this as well as the Pilot App. Have the antennas setup like Rabbit Ears ( Looking at the controller form the side _| – Looking at the controller form the front \_/ ).
9. Turn the volume UP on the tablet with the Pilot App Open.
10. Set the brightness to full on your tablet.
11: Calibrate the compass. Keep the Phantom about 10 feet from the controller and any metal objects when doing compass calibration. If the calibration fails, move the Phantom from its current location and try again.
12. Check that the PAF switch is in the desired position. P mode is best to start with.
13: Move about 10 feet from the Phantom making sure the back of it is facing you. Arm the motors using the CSC ( Combination Stick Command ). The Pilot App will confirm the aircraft is ready to fly. Make sure a valid “Home Point” has been recorded.
14: Slowly increase the throttle and lift the Phantom 3 about 15 feet off the ground. Do a slow left/right/forward/back movement and YAW to confirm its stable and working as expected. You can now enjoy flying the DJI Phantom 3.
1: Land or hand catch the Phantom 3 and power it off (it will take a few seconds before the aircraft switched off, don’t do anything until its OFF ). Power off the controller.
2: With the Phantom 3 on a clean surface, give it a quick check for damage, dirt and dead flies. Refit the
3: Remove the propellers, use the provided prop tool to loosen them if needed. Give them a quick look over for damage before storing them.
4: Remove the battery. It might be a little warm after flight, this is normal. Check it for damage/swelling and if all is OK, place it to one side to cool a little whilst you do everything else.
5: Remove the phone/tablet from the holder and store it and the controller.
6: Refit the Gimbal Guard.
7: Put the Phantom 3 back in its case/backpack.
8: Put the battery back in the case/backpack.
9: Make sure you haven’t left anything behind before going home to check the video/photos out.