Category Archives: Hardware

Phantom 4 Advanced

Just two days ago I bought myself Phantom 4 Advanced. I debated within myself whether I needed all the features of Phantom 4 Pro and decided that the extra pair of anti collision sensors plus the ability to use 5.8Ghz spectrum wasn’t worth it. I noticed in all the screenshot from Phantom 4 Pro that everyone still uses 2.4GHz. 5.8GHz is designed to be used in built up areas. Due to the fact that the whole area where I live use the same ISP, which provides 5.8Ghz routers as standard it wouldn’t have helped me. Out in the open you would still want to use 2.4GHz as it provides a superior range. In the end the deciding factor was the deal that I managed to get on eBay – I got a brand new Phantom 4 Advanced for a mere £700. How and why would someone want to sell a brand new Phantom 4 Advanced for almost half the price is beyond me. It came in a sealed box, all the stickers were still in place, controller wrapped and the battery showing 0 number of charges.

The main reason I decided to move on to Phantom 4 Advanced/Pro is the 30 minutes flight time and its camera. 20 megapixels is nice but what is more impressive is the full sensor size and the ability to change the aperture! Now when shooting a video it is much easier to follow 180 degree rule. Yes I might still need one ND4 filter on a very sunny day, since for the most part I should be able to adjust the shutter speed with the aperture alone.  The camera even gives you an aperture or shutter speed priority. I haven’t tried those yet, but in theory, in case of shutter speed priority it will keep the constant shutter speed by adjusting the aperture and the ISO. The ISO has been bumped up all the way up to 25K (with a small hack or 12K without it). Still, most of my photos and videos are going to be at 100 ISO.

What I like about Phantom 4 Advanced

  • Its camera. The UHD videos and the photos are awesome. Especially on my new 43″ UHD screen.
  • The build quality – DJI have learnt from the past and this time use much better materials for the body. The gimbal is now attached to the camera from both sides, rather than just one. Props are now easier to put on. Attaching the gimbal holder/fixing mechanism is no longer comparable to solving a rubik’s cube. Prop are also easier to attach: just press then twist and they are securely attached.
  • Intelligent flight modes: I haven’t tried them all yet, but the tripod mode is great and yet so simple.
  • Flight characteristics: it hovers much better, no movement whatsoever. The flight speed has also increased (that is if you disable obstacle avoidance or switch to the sports mode) 45mph is no joke. I also had a mini collision on its maiden flight at about 2m in height. I clipped a propeller by getting too close to a lamppost. To my surprise a bit of the propeller flew off, the drone shook for a second and the carried on on hovering like nothing happened. Upon inspection 1.5 cm of one of its propellers was missing. I very much doubt that Phantom 3 would have been able to stay in the air. I think it’s due to the material that the propellers are made of and a better IMU. The plastic is quite hard but brittle at the time. I was really impressed, as it looked like the drone would crash.
  • The box that it comes with is very nice and saves you from buying a separate carrier bag. It’s probably not as durable but still much better than simply a box

Things I didn’t like so much

  • Obstacle avoidance is useless. It didn’t save me from hitting a lamppost nor did it recognise a small tree as something that needs avoiding. In addition when obstacle avoidance is on the flight speed is restricted. In the Pro version the side sensors work only in the tripod mode (what was DJI thinking?) . I seriously wouldn’t trust it and have turned it off on my drone. So I’m glad I didn’t go for the Pro version. Looking at the forums the majority keep the collision avoidance permanently switched off.
  • The batteries are very expensive. The new one £169!

Overall I’m very impressed with the camera, its build quality and the flight time. And how it saved itself after colliding with a lapmpost. Worthy upgrade, especially for £700.

Alientech Booster – you’ve got mail!

Finally, after almost 2 months from ordering the product I have received it. It got stuck in customs and I had to pay an additional £12 import duty to get it released on top of $269 I paid for the booster itself.

The box contains the booster with the built in antennas, bunch of wires for modifying the controller (which I don’t need as mine is already modified), a set of tools and a battery charger together with 2 x 3.7v batteries.

The initial thoughts on the product are quite mixed. First I have ordered the white version and the plastic that it’s made of looks like it’s dirty. The build quality doesn’t seem to be that great either, as an example the battery lid is very difficult to close and there was some hot glue residue in some places. The design and the layout is quite good and should be convenient to use, plus the booster is much lighter than I expected even with batteries inside.

All of which won’t matter if the product lives or doesn’t live to its expectations. Now, my records with “Cool Making” antennas is just over 3 km in semi-rural area. If I get anything above 5km I will be impressed

The device is essentially 2 x 2.4GHz 4 Watt amplifiers paired with 2 x 7dBi directional antennas.

Hopefully I get to test the device sometime next week. I will post a detailed flight log and map annotated with signal quality plus tons of pictures of the booster and a recording of the video from the controller.

Cool Making antenna – update

So today I tried the new antenna, gosh it is so convenient to use, very small footprint and very light.

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Now to the important things. I managed slightly over 3km (remember we have CE over here in the UK) which is my all-time record!

Flight Overview

I could have gone farther but as I predicted the battery let me down. Actually, the winds were also very strong.

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I was below the return to home mark few times during the flight, making the flight ever so interesting.

So the final judgement on the antenna: 4/5

Here is the link I bought it from: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/16DBI-2-4-5-8GHz-Extended-Range-Antenna-Wifi-Signal-Booster-For-DJI-Series-Drone/162612783776?_trkparms=aid%3D555018%26algo%3DPL.SIM%26ao%3D2%26asc%3D49138%26meid%3Db78f97acb53e4ff78db4ba1ce32b3043%26pid%3D100005%26rk%3D3%26rkt%3D12%26sd%3D232604156093%26itm%3D162612783776&_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851

Hope it helps!

Don’t buy these Chinese patch antennas!

My constant pursuit of finding the best antenna for the drone got me to buy a bunch of these antennas. Initially I did not understand why the drone would lose its signal even before 300 metres.

Well I have decided to disassemble the antenna and the reason why is staring you in the face. Its made from tin foil and a bunch of wires

Bear in mind that I paid around £15 for each. If I remember correctly the antenna is rated as 8 dbi for 2.4ghz and 11 for 5.4ghz.

Stay clear of this junk

“Cool Making” Helical Antenna – 16 Dbi – Updated!

Today I have received an antenna under the brand name – “Cool Making”. I have purchased it from eBay a few weeks ago for £38, which is nothing compared to Fpvlr which sell a comparative antenna for £117 with lower dbi rating (which in reality means nothing) .

On eBay, they sell several variants of the antenna in either black or white and for DJI Mavic, Phantom 3 Adv/Pro, Inspire 1 and for Phantom 4 Pro.

The build quality looks quite good and according to my measurements, it should fit perfectly to my modified GL300A controller.

They promise the range of over 7km range unboosted. My previous best distance was 2.6 km using Alpha directional antennas (could have gone more but I chickened out having never flown that far. PS: I’m flying in the UK so the CE limitations apply in my case)

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If you’re wondering where the reflector is, it’s embedded within plastic casing and is made from aluminium. Unfortunately I couldn’t open the antenna without breaking it to take the pictures of the internals.

Overall the build quality is surprisingly good for the Chinese clone of the more expensive options.

I will wake up very early tomorrow to perform the same test I did for alpha patch antennas. I will fly the same route and altitude as I did before. If I get close to 4km I will be very happy and I will stop searching for new antennas. I never fly that far, always within VLOS, but I hope that the video quality will improve

On paper, these offer 16 Dbi so they should take my drone much farther and I hope the battery will be the limiting factor.

Argtek Phantom 3 Controller Mod

Finally, I had some time yesterday to perform the mod. Together with all the recording, it took me around one hour and it’s actually quite easy. You just have to take your time when removing the glue around the existing connectors and it’s a bit tricky to connect the new wires.

Here is how the controller looks when open

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When hooking up new connectors you have to make sure that they are absolutely parallel to the board, then apply pressure and you would hear a click. I have also used a glue gun, which I picked up for around £7 and I think it’s a must.

I have also removed the old 2.4 GHz antennas, which are actually very small. No surprises here, in my case the video feed would cut out after 100 metres.

The kit comes with two directional 2.4 GHz 7dBi antennas for the video feed and one 10 dBi 5.4 GHz antenna for controlling the drone.

The mod promises significantly longer range – up to x4 times! I’m hoping to have the video feed up to 0.5km and control range of around 1km.

The best thing about the mod is that it allows using any standard WiFi antennas and further extend the range by using WiFi amplifiers.

Here is the recording of the job, compressed into 5 mins

Functions of Phantom 3 Standard Controller

Return to Home

If you are finished flying and want the drone to land itself from where it took off, you need to activate the return to home function (RTH).

To activate the RTH, quickly toggle the S2 switch back and forth. The controller would then start beeping and the return to home procedure will be initiated.

To cancel RTH toggle the S1 switch back and forth and move the S2 switch to the uppermost position. The controller should then stop beeping and the drone will simply hover until you take over.

Continue reading Functions of Phantom 3 Standard Controller