By Bob Hammell
Quadcopters have evolved with the implementation of GPS to track their whereabouts, follow pre-determined routes, and find their way back to their takeoff point in the event that the connection between drone and the controller is lost.
Typically you will find medium-sized drones such as the DJI Phantom or Parrot Bebop with GPS installed and additional features that take full advantage of what it has to offer. Adding GPS has redefined the way that quadcopters move and in doing so it has made them safer to operate and easier to locate.
The majority of quadcopters target hobbyists and takes a little bit of experience to assemble along with some skill with flying remote controlled aircrafts. The DJI Phantom is a quadcopter that has begun to bridge the gap between starter and experienced pilot and has now developed to the point where somebody without any experience can fly it.
Phantom quadcopters are mostly pre-assembled when received and very easy to fly thanks to its built-in GPS module and compass. Since the GPS is built in, the drone is always aware of where it is in relation to the pilot. So depending on what type of mode you are flying in, the input you give the quadcopter will be interpreted in relation to you and not in relation to the actual front of the aircraft.
One other neat thing about the GPS mode is that even if it’s windy the quadcopter can just hover in place. This works by the quadcopter just auto correcting for the wind since it has built in autopilot, which you will likely want to turn off whenever you are trying to record a video since the constant corrections will also appear in your videos.
The autopilot mode also kicks in if the DJI Phantom somehow loses its connection with the remote control such as if it exceeds the range of the controller, the drone has very low battery, the battery in your remote dies or if you turn it off to check out if the autopilot function really works. When the failsafe mode starts up, the drone will fly 60 feet high (or whatever height you set in the app. Make sure it’s more than the tallest obstacle around). and hover back to the location it first took off from and land safely. This works amazingly well and the drone will usually touch down within a few feet of where you launch it. When you spend several hundred dollars on the drone itself in addition to good money on a camera, you realize how valuable this feature really is.
The DJI Phantom is a significant step up from other quadcopters in the market. The distance at which it can communicate is up to 3.1 miles (5km) and it has a maximum horizontal speed of around 45mph (72kph). It actually moves quickly and if you are just learning how to pilot the quadcopter it will feel even faster.
The specs and GPS are proof that the DJI Phantom is more than just a toy and there have been many people who used the quadcopter to showcase impressive aerial photography and cinematography. Since the DJI Phantom 4’s battery only lasts around 20-23 minutes in normal flight (28 when hovering in ideal conditions) it would probably be a good idea for you to purchase a second one since the DJI Phantom only come with a single battery.
The DJI Phantom 4 is a quadcopter that comes equipped with a 4k camera and it uses GPS to enhance its flight features. The integrated GPS autopilot system offers altitude lock, provides position holding and also provides stable hovering so you can have consistent stable flights that allow you to focus on getting shots instead of maneuvering the quadcopter constantly.
The DJI Phantom 4 also uses GPS for its radar positioning and return home feature. The flight radar displays the current position of the Phantom 4 in relation to the location of the pilot. As mentioned earlier, exceeding the control range of the remote control will trigger the Return to Home function which will result in the Phantom 4 automatically flying back and safely landing within a few feet of its takeoff point.
Additionally, it has a No Fly Zones feature that is used in order to prevent accidental flights in restricted areas and increase flight safety. This feature works by utilizing new firmware to detect when the quadcopter is getting close to an airport and landing it or lowering its altitude. The zones have been divided into two categories which are A and B. Category A zones are large international airports that have a large no-fly zone and Category B zones are smaller airports with no fly zones that aren’t as big.
So this GPS feature is great because all unmanned aerial vehicle operates are required to abide by all regulations from their own national airspace regulations and organizations such as the ICAO or International Civil Aviation Organization. In order to prevent accidental flights in restricted areas and increase flight safety, the Phantom 4 series utilizes the No Fly Zones feature to help users use the quadcopter legally and safely. Airports worldwide are included in the No Fly Zones.
The DJI Phantom 4 has some additional features that make it easy for pilots to frame their shots ,all while the Phantom 4 flies autonomously. You can read more about that in our review of the DJI Phantom 4 and in our DJI Phantom 4- top 100 questions answered post.
Without GPS quadcopters wouldn’t be able to perform the technologically advanced functions they can such as track their location in relation to the pilot, fly back to their takeoff point when the battery gets low or enable pilots to set up waypoints on a digital map. Additionally, GPS has enabled safer flight particularly in DJI Phantoms with the implementation of No Fly Zones which help pilots abide by the aerial flight laws of their nation. This takes much of the worry out of the pilots hands and is taken care of automatically thanks to GPS tracking systems and built-in compasses.
You can see our review of the DJI Phantom 4 here or you can find reviews of other quadcopters on the market here. Before you leave, subscribe to our newsletter (in the right sidebar) and we will inform you when we publish new reviews and articles.