FPV Smart Modes?

Is it imaginable where everyone can, with a tap of a few buttons and settings?

All argument of it being not real FPV flying aside, just not too long ago, soldering, selecting the right ESC to go with the right RPM motors were part and parcel of building a drone. DJI has disrupted the whole market making it easier and objectively safer than ever to fly a drone.

It has been easier to get the shots you want automatically. During commercial shoot, we have encountered Directors who do not care how you get the shots, they just envision the shots in their head and want us to “do it”. Smart modes were used sparsely but at times, it is one of the easiest to get repeated shots without having to pull our hair out.

Smart modes are easy to use one tap, set and go modes that are predefined flight paths and/ or gimbal movement(s) like the following:

Vision sensors already exists on a few drones. It can easily be used to measure the facade of the building distance to the drone, making sure the distance is enough for say…a vertical dive.

Or a power loop.

It can and will happen, waiting for innovations like these soon.

Aerial 3D Mapping

Our goto 3D Aerial mapping died in Oct 2020. So, what do you use then? All embedded 3D aerial maps in our past article have also gone dead with their site going down. We were just wondering if they were brought into DJI and is now the DJI Terra….anyway…

We went back on DroneDeploy and tested a new one, MapsMadeEasy. Here’s what we found. We tried a couple of local installable one too so you are not being slaved to any of these cloud-based service. If they abruptly closed down, you’re left high and dry with all models lost.

DroneDeploy

We used a 14 day trial license and test out 2 missions.

  • The compare function is awesome
  • Hosting provided
  • High price

DroneDeploy Comparison Tool

MapsMadeEasy

The same images taken using the DD app was fed into the MapsMadeEasy cloud engine.

Generation of the model isn’t as good or accurate but it could be that there were lesser images allowed.

Agisoft MetaShape

  • Fairly Priced
  • PDF 3D model export is useful for clients who has minimal knowledge on photogrammetry

There are a lot more options out there but from entry to market to professional views with hosting to local ones that do not tie you to any cloud based application AND do not cost you the cost of a few drones, we hope the above covered them all.

Self hosted allows more control but of course, will need some technical setup. See this  and this for the above self hosted.

If you’re interested, you can find a list of more.

  • Pix4D Mapper photogrammetry
  • AutoDesk ReCap photogrammetry
  • SimActive Correlator3D™ software
  • Maps Made Easy orthophoto and 3D models
  • 3DF Zephyr photogrammetry software
  • PrecisionHawk 3D map software
  • Open Drone Map photogrammetry
  • ESRI Drone2Map for ArcGIS
  • OpenDroneMap

We took the DJI Mavic Air out

After unboxing, we really didn’t like the charger… nor the battery. Since the Phantom 3 to Phantom 4, the Inspire 1 to Inspire 2 and maybe the Mavic Pro to the Maciv Pro 2, the batteries have always been redesigned. Nothing is usable after an upgrade. Upgrading your DSLR from a Canon 60D to 70D or upwards to a 6D, 7D or 5DMK2 or MK3 do not require you to change the battery. It all uses the same LP-E6.

Come on DJI. It’s something that’s adding costs to users who upgrade. Reasons of profit or trying to squeeze it into a newly designed body of the drone are simply too expensive for end-users.

We didn’t like the charger either. It has to unfold, batteies stand vertical. The cube charger for the Mavic was better.


the mavic cube charger.
The new mavic air charger where the battery have to stand.

Option of the transmitter stick to be removed is good for those longer haul transport/ trip. Careful of dropping them onto grass in the field. A pair of spare is provided but we’ve installed it and has never removed it since.

Wind

It doesn’t handle wind well. Simple as that. We saw it drifting as we were flying near waters and usually what the Mavic Pro can handle, the Air could not. It wasn’t even huge gust of wind to begin with but we have trouble bring it back, lowered it to behind some trees and flew back behind trees.

Asteroid Mode

It is cool but if you were to get the Mavic Air to do one thing, this is about it.

Can you do car chase with it?

In 1 word. Yes, albeit a slow car.

Conclude

It’s small, it’s compact so you have to know the battery life is affected. The Mavic Pro seems to still have hit the balance better of weight vs flight time.

The build quality isn’t fantastic but you pay for what you get. It feels plastic and not as sturdy. We don’t think it’s meant to replace the Mavic Pro. It sits squarely between the Spark and Mavic Pro. Distance wasn’t great but we hit 1.8km easily before getting video signal lost but when back at our regaulr flying field, we can’t manage anything more than 400 meters.

We did some slow 8 to 12 meters/ Sec, car chases shots at 4K. Front and back obstacle avoidance is a great feature. If you don’t own one yet, get a Mavic Air, if not go for the Mavic Pro. By real commercial work, don’t get Mavic anything, look at the Phantom 4 or the Phantom 4 Pro.

The DJI Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 and Phantom 4 Pro are available from Camera Rental Centre at a limit rental price. Check them out.

This is another DJI Spark post

The DJI Spark has been covered quite a bit by many many reviewers. Here’s our favourite ones. Here and here.

But of course, nothing beats trying it out ourselves.

Intro
While flying the Spark, you must first and foremost understand, this is not a photography or videography drone like the DJI Phantom or even the DJI Mavic. The Spark is in the selfie range of drones. It can’t do shots like:

Or fly out to sea and take this:

Or video chases like

Or “Fly Away Shots”:

 

Camera

Image and video at full resolution are: 12 megapixel/3968 x 2976/, 1080p/ 30 fps videos.

Photography and videography with the Spark is so-so. You’re better off finding a high point, climb it and take a pic with your handphone. You’ll save more time. Gentle breeze causes it to moves around quite a bit. It’s very hard to track subjects when using the transmitter, if that’s what you are taking videos of.

Can you get shots like the above? yes you can. It won’t be easy considering battery life, it’s size that it moves around in gentle breeze… and it may not have the range needed to go where you want it to.

Resolution

  • Note the resolution is already quite low and it’s lower if you do not have a SD card, the photos will be saved to your phone at 1024 x 768 and videos will be 1280 x 720
  • The resolution drops to 1440 x 1080 or 1.5 Megapixel, no not a typo it is 1.5 (instead of 12 megapixel/3968 x 2976) when you are in Gesture Mode.

Compare –

Spark Image | EXIF Only

Phantom 4 Image

Sports Mode
Kinda useless when the camera can’t keep up. You get tilted videos the second you need to change directions. Useful for getting back to landing point, quicker. Normal non sports mode is slow.

Range
The spark transmitter connects to your phone via wifi and the usual RC channels 2.4ghz or 5.8ghz to the Spark. We used 5.8ghz, we managed to fly 300 meters and it’s really pushing it. It keep dropping video while we have full control of the Spark but if you can’t compose shots, it’s as good as useless to us.

On the way back to land from 300 meters, at 105 meters, we tried flying over trees to take some shots, RC link lost, video feed lost. Only trees and leaves made us lost connection.

GESTURES
TL;DR version – DO NOT USE IT.

But we’re very sure, people won’t listen till they try it. So try it in a big field with no obstacles.

It worked half the time. We get 50/50 success rates. First don’t do this indoors, it’s so unpredictable but of course, we had to try.  We thought it’s the lighting, so a sunny bright day, we went flying the Spark and tested it again.

During 1 take-off indoors, the spark refuses to land on our palm and keep moving around ever so slightly. We had the transmitter on at all times so we took over using the transmitter and landed in manually.

Sometimes it takes off after double tapping the battery button, the camera scans up and down for a face, most times it does not and goes back to waiting. When it works, gesture controls will make your arm ache trying to get it to obey your palm. Waving at it worked once from the 5 times we tried it. Y arms to bring it back and land worked when waving worked. At all times, the transmitter can be used to take over the Spark to manual flying. You’ll have to land the sparky with the transmitter once you fly it around for a while.

Battery/ Flight Time
15 mins. A mixture of sports mode and normal flying but mostly, we get around 10 mins playing with gesture mode and a little manual flying. Landing and taking off again and again tends to drain battery quicker.

The transmitter now connects to your phone via wifi and not cable, then the transmitter to the drone with the 2.4 or 5.8ghz RC connection. So your phone batt is constantly drained.

Conclude
As a selfie drone, this is quite fun to have. Small and dandy, easy to bring around. For shots like the below, 30 to 50 meters, it’s not bad to remember a holiday, a trip.

Taking selfie from a height of 5 to 10 meters showing the surrounding with you and your loved ones, not too bad but could be easier to setup a tripod or place your camera on a ledge or in a tree.

Filename – DJI_0005.JPG – Exif here.

Low altitude flying on grass fields is quite fun, we can imagine using this on a calm day flying over padi or tea leaves fields. See video below.

BUT, If you want to take some shots of a building from 50 meters height, do not use this.

The DJI Spark is available for rental at Camera Rental Centre Singapore. Check them out.

 

Build: 650X6

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It’s been a while since we built a hexacopter. We’ve chosen the Hobbyking 650X6 for it’s affordable price. This will be more for use to lift heavier loads with redundancies.

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When folded this hex is 9250mm with 10 inch prop from center motor to opposite center motor.

680mm motor center to motor center and width 340mm when folded.

When opened and ready to fly, it’s 680mm than the named 650mm X6.

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Above: No love for the 650X6, not even a box. It comes in plastic bags. You pay for what you get. It’s only USD $29…

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One page instruction.

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Tubes are 15mm x 15mm

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Above: Design of the motor mounts. Cumbersome and hard to install thus we only installed only 2 of them…it lead to bad choices. See flight video at the end.

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Motors fitted, Emax 2213 with 10 inch prop. Going to run 4S on this.

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Above: Note the mounting of the horizontal bars under the hex for these are about 71mm center to center of hole on the rubber.

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Above: Messy cabling, get it flying first. Tidy up later.

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Build:

– Hobbyking 650X6
– Emax 2213 motors
– Gemfan 10 inch propellers
– 4S 5200mha Multistar
– DJI Naza M V2 with GPS, miniOSD
– Frsky D4R II

Flight:

Nothing broken but one motor came off during flight. We did hear some wierd sound thus the really low flying and came close to take a look…then flew out and the motor came off. Time to install more of those cumbersome nylon poles.