I tested the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Ground Station today and it worked perfectly. The Phantom flew exactly as it should in each test. Here is a description of the tests and some tips for anyone considering trying this for themselves.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Ground Station here is a post published in June describing the upgrade. It’s an app upgrade for the Vision and Vision+ that enables waypoint flying on auto pilot.
Please Note: This is not a guide. If you intend to carry out your own tests please read the relevant sections of the manual and make sure you’re software and firmware is up to date.
Pre Flight Planning
A local farmer had kindly agreed to let me test fly the Phantom Vision in a 64 acre field of stubble. With the field harvested and ploughing yet to start this made an ideal location. The field has woods on each border but it’s so big that the tests could be conducted well clear of them. The weather was clear and sunny after morning showers but the wind was a little breezy. However, the breezes were not too strong and frequently dropped to none at all.
As with all new locations compass calibration is essential and it’s vital that you have good satellite lock, never more so when waypoint flying as it relies on GPS information completely in order to find its way. You need to keep an eye on the satellite icon and be prepared to take over manually if it loses connection, just like any other time.
So with the location established, batteries charged, and all other pref flight checks complete I was ready for the tests.
Before setting waypoints and pressing the ‘GO’ button I tested the Phantom in normal GPS flight and Home Lock just to make sure it was flying as it should and to test its stability in the breeze which picked up now and then and which was probably a little stronger at 200ft than it was on the ground.
Once I was certain that the Phantom was responding to all inputs I began the tests. To begin with I set just one waypoint at the default height of 98ft, put the Phantom on the ground (rotors off) and pressed the GO icon. It powered up, rose vertically to about 10ft, and flew to the waypoint. It flies ‘forwards’ i.e. in the direction that the camera points and on reaching the waypoint it hovers there.
Tip: You can regain GPS control at any time by flicking Switch 1 from position 1 to 3 and back to 1 just once. That breaks it out of auto pilot and puts it back into GPS mode.
The next test was a triangle i.e. two waypoints and return to the starting point. This time I varied the height of each waypoint and chose the slow speed setting. Again, it flew exactly as programmed. I checked that the pause mission and resume mission button worked and they did so. I let it complete the triangle and it returned to hover over the Home Point. I flicked Switch 1 to regain GPS control and landed it.
Tip: Make your first waypoints really short. Prove to yourself that it works. You don’t need to fly long distances to prove that it’s working as programmed.
Two Waypoints and Mission Abort
I used the previous settings and pressed the GO icon. The battery was by now at 49% to the app warned me to fly with caution or abort the mission. I chose to change the battery, then restarted the mission. I let it fly passed the first waypoint then pressed the Return To Home icon to abort the mission. It flew straight back and began its descent to land. As the stubble in the field was quite high I opted to take hold of one of the skids and power down.
For the last test I chose to fly a rough oblong. I set some low heights for the waypoints and chose the fast speed setting. This was the longest test and a certain amount of confidence was required as the Phantom flew off quite a way! However, there was no need to panic and it did exactly as programmed and returned to base.
Tip: Distances can be deceptive. From where I was standing the Phantom appeared to be flying over the distant trees and I was worried that a low height setting for one waypoint could cause it to fly into trees, but it was an optical illusion. It was nowhere near the trees as the snapshot of the app settings shows and the film itself proves. You can see the app snapshot embedded in the film.