Drones are being used more widely today for various video and aerial photography purposes such as real estate, land survey, weddings, hobbyist and special outdoor events. If you have purchased a DJI Phantom 4 Pro, and want to learn how to get started being a drone pilot, this article will provide a lot of information.
Visit our “which drone to buy” page for more information on purchasing a drone for your needs. I will be adding more models in the near future.
The Phantom 4 drone comes with a remote controller (use with your cell phone or tablet), one battery, 4 propeller blades, charger, USB cable and one 16GB micro SD card. On a fully charged battery you’ll get around 25 minutes flight time but don’t wait until the battery is almost fully discharged before you bring it home or it will drop from the sky like a rock. I usually bring it back home at around 20% battery and more if the drone is a long distance from me. You might want to get a bigger capacity SD card because HD video consumes memory fast and you don’t want to be a bad pilot and run out of memory during that fantastic aerial photography and video shot.
Actually before you purchase a drone in Columbus GA, check the DJI Geo Map for local no-fly zones in your area. This is something I didn’t do and found out later when I tried to first pilot my new drone in my own yard. Couldn’t even start the motors and there was a red “no fly zone” in the upper left corner of the DJI app. Needless to say, I was pissed! My home is in a rural area and I’m at least 11 miles from the nearest airport and more from any government buildings. All of Columbus, GA up to Hwy 315 in Harris County GA and part of Phenix City AL is a red no-fly zone. If I want to pilot my drone, I have to fill out online with DJI an unlocking request with my flight controller serial number, latitude and longitude of the area I want to fly, identification and document from whoever is hiring me. Wait, I'm not being hired I just want to fly my drone. So if you’re a hobbyist and want to fly in a no-fly zone in Columbus GA, get another hobby.
Download and install the free DJI Go 4 app from the Google Play Store for Android devices and ITune for Apple devices. Setup an account at the DJI website, charge the battery, controller and your mobile device. Install the 4 propeller blades ( 2 have a gray circle and 2 have a black circle.) On the drone you will 2 arm connectors with black dots and 2 with gray dots. (see below pic) Obviously only propellers with black circles attach to drone arm connector with black dots only. Lightly position (don’t push all the way down) black ring propeller over the drone arm with black circle dots and turn slowly until you feel it seat, then push all the way down and turn counter-clockwise until it stops turning. Same for the gray circle propeller but clockwise. Insert the micro SD card and the fully charged battery in the drone.
Next, attach the provided USB cable between your mobile device and the controller. Power up the mobile device and run the DJI app. On the controller push the left power button once for a second then again holding down for about 3 seconds. Right button is for return to home and we’ll talk about this later. Wait until you see a green “go fly” at the bottom right of the screen and tap it. While you’re waiting for the drone to lock into several satellites, format the SD card and perform a compass and IMU calibration (see the video below).
Under settings make sure your return to home altitude is set at around 1km (300 feet) so the drone has no obstacles to avoid returning to home. Also make sure all your obstacle avoidance sensors are enabled and set drone to automatically return home at about 20% battery power. You can set the maximum altitude to .5km (1600 feet) but you should keep it legal at 400 feet. Stay above trees especially if there are a lot of them.
There are several automated flight programs in the DJI GO 4 app and my favorite one is “point of interest”. which basically circles a point of interest with the camera always pointing to the point of interest. Another one is “draw” which allows you to draw a path on the screen and tap go. “Active track” mode allows your drone to automatically follow a moving object such as a car, someone walking or running, etc.