Not too long ago, aerial photography was only possible for wealthy people who could afford the use of full-sized helicopters. Today, technology has gone a long way. The photography enthusiast now has several options at their disposal, all of which are fairly affordable (especially compared to owning a helicopter!). Quadcopters are the obvious choice, with prices starting at just a few hundred dollars for entry-level models. There are already quite a few different quadcopter models on the market, but the two that seem to get the most attention are the DJI Phantom and the Parrot AR Drone. Both of these devices are pretty slick, but the DJI Phantom beats the Parrot AR Drone in a variety of important tests.
Ease of Use
When quadcopters first came out, they were aimed mostly at hobbyists and RC enthusiasts. Today, companies like DJI are taking steps to gear their devices more towards the average consumer. DJI reigns superior over Parrot when it comes to ease of use. First of all, the DJI Phantom comes mostly pre-assembled, whereas the Parrot AR Drone (and the 2.0 version as well) require quite a bit of assembly. The controls on the Phantom are also much simpler than the controls on the AR Drone.
The DJI Phantom comes with built-in intelligent, extremely useful GPS capabilities. For example, if you want the Phantom to stay in location for a shot or series of shots, it can automatically adjust its position to fight the wind. So even in strong winds, the Phantom is intelligent enough to accelerate in just the right direction to keep the device virtually in the exact same place. Plus, the Phantom will always know where it is in relation to you, which allows for precision controlling and increased accuracy of photo/video shots, as well as a quicker learning curve for new pilots.
The DJI Phantom has an incredibly intelligent Autopilot system. Autopilot will kick in if your remote battery is getting low, if you are getting too far away from the device, or if the device’s battery is getting too low. Basically, the Phantom will use GPS markers to remember precisely where it took off from, and when Autopilot kicks in, it will navigate back to the launch site without any help from you or the remote control. Considering the cost of this device (roughly $700), plus the cost of any video/photography equipment (easily $200-$500+), Autopilot is an incredibly useful feature. Essentially, this fail-safe allows you to feel comfortable flying almost anywhere, without the fear of losing or damaging your devices.
The DJI Phantom is quickly gaining massive popularity. Because of this, more and more companies and individuals are making aftermarket parts and upgrades for the Phantom, such as upgraded propellers, stabilization devices, waterproof cases, etc. While DJI makes certain upgrades already, nothing quite beats the creativity and ingenuity of 3rd-party creators, most of whom are Phantom users themselves.
In conclusion, we truly believe that the DJI Phantom is the best consumer-level (i.e. not ridiculously expensive) quadcopter on the market today. It is simple enough for beginners, and it has enough advanced features to keep professional aerial photographers content. DJI has proved themselves to be a truly innovative company – and personally, I can’t wait to see what they’ll be bringing us in the future!