Getting a DJI Phantom 3 Pro back to life

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This drone has been sitting around for a year, so now it’s time to see how to get it back to life. It isn’t super easy as all the firmware is out of date, so here’s goes a long evening of fixing things:

  1. Getting the batteries charged, there is a charger with two outputs, pop the battery out of the drone by pressing the tab and connect to the charger, then plug the controller in as well.
  2. After all is charged, put the battery into the drone, connect your iOS or Android device to the USB port of the controller.
  3. Now turn the controller on, all DJI devices have the same safety, you have to quick press the power and then press and hold for two seconds and the controller should come on.
  4. If you plug it into an IOS 10 device, it will throw up a monstrous list of applications that work with DJI, look for your model. Note that there is a DJI Go and DJI Go 4 (for Phantom 4 and later). So make sure to pick the right one.
  5. If your firmware is super old, the application will tell you (and give you a terribly wrong URL referring to the Inspire 1 and not your Phantom 3 Pro) you have to start with your controller. Find a USB key and then download the latest firmware onto it. You have to make sure it is the only thing on the USB key. Confusingly, it does not want you to install the latest one (1.10), but the older (1.3) and if you put the wrong in, it will not work.
  6. The only debugging is to take the USB key out and look at the TXT files that are left. It will actually get confused and tell you the latest firmware is already in the controller. Ignore that and just load 1.3.20.
  7. Now power plug the USB key into the USB port of the controller and the red light will turn blue and it will beep really loudly. After a couple of minutes, the light goes green.
  8. Now make sure to power cycle the controller and get back to that ominous red. Plug your phone in and turn on the drone (use the same double press).
  9. Now when you connect, it will start to download firmware. The older firmware required you to use the USB key, but getting to 1.3.20
  10. The next time you plug it in, the remote controller will update through the application itself.
  11. If you want to see what version your controller is on, this is pretty confusing, you click on the top menu bar the application then click on status. If you get a blank screen then this means it is up to date. You can look at the About menu to see what version controller you have. Right now that is 1.8.
  12. As an aside, the software load is asymmetric, the new drones (Mavic) have a Mac application called DJI Assistant, but not the older drones
  13. To update the drone, camera and battery firmware. Yes, they all have separate firmware, you go to the download site.
  14. First make sure to have a fan pointed at your Phantom 3 Professional, the gimble will actually overheat during updates?!
  15. Now insert the microSD into the side of the camera, put the battery in and then do the quick click and hold for two seconds. You will see a tiny LED on the camera which flashes red, it is actually flashing red and green, but you can only see this looking head on. It also kind of chirps every half second or so and there are lots of lights.

At this point I’m in a weird state:

  1. The Phantom flies. if you click on the status bar, you can see it is all connected
  2. If you click on the right side three dots, you can scroll down to About and you can see the firmware is updated.
  3. However, there is no image transmissions. The gimbal works and you can even try to take photos and videos and when you pull the MicroSD, you do get images

There are lots of folklore about this but it seems as if it is the video transmission that is broken.

  1. If the memory card isn’t formatted correctly, then remove it and see if you can see the image.
  2. The cable connecting the drone to the gimbal could come loose. To remove the gimbal, you have to push the plastic parts. You can actually swap out the ribbon cable as well.

So how do you get this fixed:

  1. You could just buy a new Gimbal for $300 and install it yourself, but what if it is in the drone itself?
  2. If you are lucky there is a DJI authorized repair place, then you don’t have to send it all the way back to DJI. There are even DJI Factory Stores now, so you might be lucky enough to find one of those.
  3. You can also drop a note to DJI and see if they can debug it. They have chat and email (quite a change from two years ago, where you waited on the phone for hours).

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