I’ve recently got a DJI Phantom 3 Standard mainly to get nice shots of places I visit.

I’ve made some research about how to improve the drone in order to get the best experience possible. Also, being a geek/dev, I checked out the software hack on the drone/controller which is quite interesting.

I’ve grouped all what I found in this post. Enjoy.

Improving Controller-Drone Connection

Windsurfer solutions

Windsurfer solutions are basically made to help direct the Wifi signal to a specific direction, improving the distance it can travel. However, the antenna needs to be correctly oriented to the drone, because the beam is much more concentrated (instead of going in all directions).

Free Windsurfer solution

dji-p3s-controller-and-windsurfer-cd-mount

You can use a CD to direct the signal. There are also cardboard ones that are even easier and cheaper to build (here is a template you can print).

“Cleaner” Windsurfer solution : plastic parabolic mount

dji-p3s-controller-and-parabolic-mount

Parabolic shaped plastic piece that mounts onto the antenna.

DIY model with cardboard and aluminum foil : http://forum.dji.com/thread-23565-1-1.html

3D print models :
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1443796http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1096728/ or http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1815930

AliExpress has very cheap models, but you can find some everywhere (Amazon, Ebay) for different prices.

Replacing the antenna

This is another level and requires much more changes to the controller. Also, good antennas are not cheap.

Kit for sale: http://dbsmods.com/phantom-3-standard-solution/

Installing requires open up the controller, unplug the 3 antenna cables and plug new cables instead. 3 holes need to be drilled in the controller too.

FPVLR has some interesting equipment too : https://fpvlr.com/store/

It’s more expensive but it seems to work better.

Here are some data found on forums:

Unmodified DJI I attained about 8600 ft
FPVLR with amps I attained a little more than 15000 ft
FPVLR without amps I attained about 12000 ft
DBS without amps I attained a about 10000

 

FPVLR with amps I attained a little more than 15000 ft, a 74% increase
FPVLR without amps I attained about 12000 ft, a 39% increase
DBS without amps I attained a about 10000 ft, a 16% increase

 

Stock -> 3000-5000 Feet
FPVLR -> 4000-6000 Feet
FPVLR with Amps -> 8000-13000 feet
DBS Mod without Amps -> 9000 – 12000
DBS Mod on Amps -> 9000 – 13000

Boosters/Amps

You can install boosters between the controller output and the antenna. They require an external battery to power them up. It’s one of the most effective way to increase the range.

Of course, adding a booster requires quite the same modification as the custom antenna (DBS, FPVLR…) as you need custom cables/connectors. This mod is always used with custom antennas (there’s no point of adding a booster and using the stock antennas).

Software Hack

It appears that the remote is working with a light version of Linux. Once connected to the remote Wifi, the remote itself, the drone and the drone camera are accessible via IPs, as devices on the network.

Controller (FTP only):

IP: 192.168.1.1
User : root
Pass : Big~9China

Drone (FTP only):

IP: 192.168.1.2
User : root
Pass : Big~9China

Camera SD card (FTP & telnet):

IP: 192.168.1.3
User: default
Pass:
(no password)

rcS files in /etc/init.d/ are setup files executed on boot. Careful with manipulating those over FTP, as some people have bricked their remote with wrong edition… See that topic (it’s possible to unbrick them, but that’s not easy).

Enabling telnet “safely”

/sbin/djiled.sh can be modified to add telnetd -l /bin/ash & before the loop, in order to enable telnet on each boot. If that file got messed up, the controller and drone will boot anyway, so you can eventually fix the file and try again. This post is very useful, I’ve added it in my Gist for easy access.

If you enable telnet on drone and remote, then you can enter those commands to mess around with Wifi 2.4Ghz settings. The network power is limited in Europe and can be increased to match the US (FCC) ones.

/sbin/chansel is setting the Wifi channel to use. It can be interesting to change it if the area is full of Wifi networks. By default, the script is only choosing between 2, 6 or 10. A guy created a script that will check the environment and set the best channel possible on your drone and controller via telnet. I’ve put the code online on Github for easy access.

Use a Windows app to do everything automatically

PapaTita from PhantomPilots has created a windows program that does all the changes automatically, in djiled.sh file for security. You can find the specific topic there.

Use an Android app to do everything automatically

This is pretty balsy as I guess it uses code freely given by the other members of PhantomPilots. But anyway, it’s called Icarus for Phantom 3s/4K, it’s on the Play Store and it’s easy to use.

Log Files Interpreters

It is possible to grab important and useful information from the log files generated by the drone or the app.

Check:
http://www.djilogs.com
https://healthydrones.com/

DJI Go app replacement

If you don’t like the official remote app DJI Go, there are some other ones that you can use. The most famous is probably Litchi, which has interesting features, it’s worth a look.

  • Plan waypoint missions anywhere (planner is available on all platforms including PC/Mac with seamless mission syncing across all your devices)
  • VR – Watch your autonomous mission in VR mode, or fly manually for added thrills
  • Focus mode – Litchi assists you by taking control of both the gimbal and the drone’s yaw axis, so you can concentrate on horizontal movements
  • Litchi’s Track mode – your DJI drone now understands what it sees (start an autonomous Orbit or Follow and watch Litchi take care of everything)

Where to fly ?

Well, it depends on the country you’re in. In Canada, the biggest deal is to avoid no fly zones. There’s a map for that : Canadian Airspace. In the left hand column, filter the zones with “at or below” “SFC“. And that gives you the no fly zones for your drone.

Other than that, the best areas are flat lands with no trees. This is where you’ll get the best conditions possible. Check for antennas though (especially mobile phone antennas) as you can get a lot of interference.