DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Drone

The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ is really the first drone to hit the market with everything ready to go out of the box, including the camera. No more mounting GoPros or anything like that, the custom DJI onboard camera is really good.

The onboard camera is a true 3-axis gimbal camera that shoots 1080p video and raw-format (dng) photos through a super wide angle lens. No matter how jerky the wind is, the camera locks in with buttery smoothness. The video quality is about on par with a GoPro and same with the photos. I’ve flown mine at night and unfortunately there is too much noise introduced in nighttime video, so I’ll be sticking to about an hour after sunset at the latest before packing things up for the night.

San Francisco can be a challenging place to learn a new drone, thanks to the relentless afternoon summer winds. I found the only way to launch in high winds is full-throttle takeoffs to get the props out of reach of the ground before the drone blows over. With landing, I get her a few feet over the ground, then block the wind with my body for a smooth touchdown.

I’ve only had one bad crash so far and my lesson learned was to reverse the throttle lever. It happened while doing a full-speed, low-altitude pass. I was ready to ascend back up so my pilot instincts led me to “pull back” on the stick which drove the drone right into the concrete. It feels much more natural to me to reverse that stick so up is down and down is up. That way, pulling back lifts the drone upward, just like an airplane.

Unlike my Parrot drone, this one is shouldn’t be considered a “toy,” although it really is the greatest toy ever. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily do great bodily harm, or at the very least, end up with a hunk of mangled $1500 techno guts. Think of it as sending four weed eaters into the sky because those propellers can do some serious damage.

There’s an incredible amount of technology packed into this little guy. I think there are about seven different parts all with their own firmware that needs to be kept up to date. I clip my Nexus 5 into the remote arm and the whole setup works flawlessly. The camera control is awesome and I’m getting some amazing footage.

The drone draws a crowd wherever I go. People have tons of questions and want to see it fly. I haven’t run into any anti-drone people yet here in San Francisco, where it can seem like everyone is against every techno-gadget made if you read the papers. But the little drone puts smiles on people faces and the one comment I hear more than any is “I’ve got to get me one of those.”

Get One (Amazon)