On Wednesday the 8th of April, we were invited along to the Guildhall in Central London for the launch of an all new Phantom 3 range. Rumours aside we were unsure what exactly to expect, but were happy to see our favourite quad copters maturing with some impressive upgrades.
Core to the experience, the pilot software has come on hugely. This is integral to improving flight control and increasing accessibility to the Phantom range; However that will be covered in depth in another article. This particular blog concerns the physical changes that have taken place from 2 to 3 and is full of photos/initial observations from our first hands on with the new craft. The images all link through to higher resolution photos so feel free to click/press for a better view.
Frame Differences And Electronic Upgrades
The quadcopters have had a few cosmetic changes from their previous iteration. The arm stickers are now either in gold to denote the Professional model, or silver for the Advanced edition.
This palette continues with the new relief name placards attached above the USB ports on the front.
Predictably much of the inspire 1 technology has filtered down to the Phantom 3. Up top and as per the Inspire 1, the Phantom 3’s now are now able to receive data from GLONASS satellites alongside GPS ones which aids with location accuracy.
On the underside, the Phantom 3’s now come with optical flow and ultrasonic sensors. Mounted on a panel on the rear-belly of the quad, the sensors operate at 300cm or below to help stabilise the craft. Like on the Inspire 1, these are especially useful when flying indoors or when no satellite fix is available.
The test pilots’ discussed a new ‘braking’ feature during flight that automatically flares the craft to slow horizontal movement by actively slowing specific motors. This would suggest that the ESC’s have been updated, and potentially the motors too.
The Phantom 3 has a broader and deeper ‘footprint’ than the Phantom 2, apparently due to thenew landing legs. I lined up the older chassis over the inverted new chassis, aligning one of the corners of the landing gear to demonstrate this. This likely helps keep the legs out of the way of the camera and will also assist in landings.
As a result it might not be compatible with some of the current ‘tighter fitting’ carry cases available on the market. DJI did show what appeared to be a branded Phantom backpack in their slides but as of yet we have no details on it.
Note that the on-board electronics require 4 patch antenna and these now clip into the inside edge of the landing legs. Torx screws replace the cross-head screws holding these legs on.
Internally the craft appears to have been modified with dividers alongside the battery compartment.
Despite these new additions, the craft has barely gained any weight. We measured the demo unit (with battery and props) at 1292g.
Compare that against the outgoing Phantom Vision 2+ model, quoted by DJI at 1242g.
Image Capture And Stabilisation
The Advanced edition has an all new HD camera allowing 1080p/60fps footage to be captured. Both models feature Sony’s EXMOR 12MP sensors, sat behind 20mm f/2.8 lens FOV 94°. This new lens setup gives a more ‘natural’ view rather than savage ‘fish eye’ view of the older cameras.
The 3-axis gimbal is of a similar design to the Phantom Vision 2+, with three brushless motors allowing the camera to hang from its metal mounting plate. The design (separating the lens and sensor from the other camera electronics) allow the stabilised ‘camera body ‘ to be as lightweight as possible and therefore allowing it to respond very quickly and efficiently with minimal work from the motors. The camera can be pitched up and down remotely from the transmitter .The gimbal base is larger and now features a passive heatsink.
The Professional edition has the quality edge with its camera capable of 4K/30fps footage. Both models are capable of 12MP still photos.
The demonstration units were hooked up to large flat screen TV’s and the live video feed back to the transmitters was of impressive quality.
All-New Lightbridge-Enabled Transmitter
The new controller is a step up from the standard transmitters bundled with Phantoms of the past. Based on the Inspire 1 transmitter this new GL300A unit has a self-contained battery with (rubber-bung covered) charging port and features Lightbridge electronics for a greater range of control and HD video downlink. Finished in white with silver accents, it’s a little different in spec and colour scheme from the Inspire 1 controller.
The demonstration unit at launch was noticeably heavier than the outgoing unit, DJI employing higher-quality plastics and including a large mobile/tablet mounting bracket on the front.
The twin 2.4Ghz antennas are much more robust than the last ones and can still be angled and rotated as before.
The new transmitter is slightly smaller in overall dimensions and has soft rubber pads that will doubtless make it more comfortable in prolonged use.
There are many more switches and buttons on the unit, for instance a dedicated return to home button, ‘FAP’ flight mode three position toggle switch (more on these in another post) dedicated recording and playback buttons, camera settings dial and more.
C1 & C2 rear buttons are retained, doubtless with the similar customisability found on the inspire setup. However the Can-bus and HDMI ports have been dropped from the rear panel.
Revised Intelligent Battery
The Phantom 3’s both come with the new 4480mAh (68Wh) 15.2V (4S) intelligent battery. Despite the visual similarities, this is unlikely to be backwards compatible which may upset current Phantom 2 owners.
The new four-cell unit has a slightly lower capacity but weighs around the same as the outgoing battery.
Internally, the Phantom 3 has a new contact setup to match up to the new battery.
DJI appear to have made some subtle adjustments to the battery casing to ensure it cannot be inserted into the older craft, it not inserting all the way into the Phantom 2 we brought along for comparison.
Its worth noting that the advanced comes bundled with a 57w charger whereas the Professional comes with a 100w model that promises shorter recharge times.
We were really excited to see the two new Phantom 3 models in the flesh, we thank DJI for inviting us along and look forward to stocking (and more importantly flying!) them both in the near future.
Hopefully this gives you some new details or angles on the upcoming craft, if you have any specific questions please ask away with the comments form below.
Like with all new DJI releases, we expect huge demand, so when should you expect your Phantom 3? Well the good news is that DJI have put all their resources in to manufacturing the Phantom 3 as it is replacing the Phantom 2 Vision+. Stock is expected in the next couple of weeks but we are unsure of numbers at this time. RC Geeks as a premium DJI dealer will likely receive a large proportion of the first units in the UK and we are taking pre-orders now.