AutoPilot and the Spark

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by Tom Croley, Mar 21, 2018.

  1. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    I recently purchased Autopilot (AP) for use with my Spark. I'll be learning how to use AP over the next few weeks. I wondering how many other people use AP with the Spark and what issues they have. I usually fly using an Ipad Mini 4 (IM4), but sometimes use and Iphone SE (SE). I will update this synopsis as I experiment. These comments only pertain to the use of AP with the Spark. Other drones may have better results.

    Time passes.... I have been experimenting

    Works GREAT (WG)

    1. Waypoint mode WG. You can select a subject on the gps map or use the joystick to select subjects on the fly.

    2. Target mode WG. You can select a subject on the gps map or use the joystick to select subjects on the fly. You can select new targets by touching the gps map and the AC will fly to them.

    3 Orbit mode WG. You can select a subject on the gps map or use the joystick to select subjects on the fly. You can move the center of the orbit and change the POI on the fly. If you select "joystick" for the focus method, you can use the right stick to move the camera around without changing the path of the AC. Today I got the obit mode to follow me where ever I went!!

    4. Black Box mode WG - but I don't really see the point.

    5. Zip Line mode WG. You can select a subject on the gps map or use the joystick to select subjects on the fly. You can change the beginning and end points of the zip line on the fly or you can move the whole plan around on the gps screen. If you click the "Advanced" button during the flight, a slider appears. You can slide the button on the slider and the AC will fly to that point along the zip line.

    6. Cruise Mode WG with some reservations. Scroll down to my post about cruise mode down below. After some practice, I am really liking the Cruise Mode.

    7. Follow Mode - WG. At first I could not get the focus mode to work. I think my difficulties sprang from my use of the IM4. I switch to using the SE and now the focus mode works GREAT. I walked up and down the street trying all the options and everything I tried worked well. You can get "follow" to work with other modes as well. Unlike DJI, you can get the AC to follow you from any angle even in front.

    Does not work... no joy NJ

    1. Focus mode NJ - but you can use the "Cruise mode" to iimprovise.

    2. Pano mode NJ (so far). Progress has been made, read below in the posts. Still no cigar.

    3. There is no way to review you pictures and video right in the program. I always review my stuff at the end of a flying session. With AP, you have to download the material. This is a little annoying but it is not a deal breaker since you can see what you are doing live as you do it.

    Not Impressed

    Focus methods - I like using "Subject" and "Joystick" as focus methods. I am not impressed at all with the other focus methods. So far I have not gotten the other methods to work well...but... the subject and joystick method is more than sufficient.

    By the way, "Focus" does not mean "clear vs blurry" as in a SLR camera. It simply means "where the camera is pointing". When you focus on a POI you do not make it clear, you keep the camera pointing at it.

    Super Cool - If your mobile device is connected to the internet, you can sit in your living room, or wherever, and set up flight missions that are miles away and you can do this with out having the AC or RC turned on. Just start the AP app and select a mission type. Go to map view and scroll to the place that you want to log a mission. Set up your waypoints, or obits, or zip lines and save the mission. Later, you can drive to the area, crank up your AC and AP app, load the mission and fly. This is super cool.
     
    #1 Tom Croley, Mar 21, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2018
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  2. AndyN

    AndyN Active Member

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    Nice, Thanks for sharing! In zip line mode can you pre program the gimbal to point in a specific direction or on a specific target/gps point?
     
  3. Lastrexking

    Lastrexking Well-Known Member

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    Had this months and still not used it.
     
  4. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    Yes you can and that feature work very good with the spark.
     
  5. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    You need to get into it. It is fun. I think it appeals to me because of my background in computer programming and geocaching. I really like using the waypoint mode.

    The Orbit mode is way better than DJI. More versatile and more accurate. You can pre-program a flight and then send it off. For example..... say you want to orbit a building but the building is on the other side of a field. No problem... set up a mission using the gps map and send it off. It will fly over and do the job. Way cool.

    For pano's I still use the DJI program. AP seems to lack an instant photo viewer too...or at least I have not found it yet.
     
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  6. AndyN

    AndyN Active Member

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    Thank you for the info!

    So basically if point A is at say 20m altitude and point B is on 120m altitude 200m away and the zip line goes from 50m left of target to say 50m right of target it will still keep target in focus/middle of frame?

    Also, is there a “panic” RTH option on screen and what happens if the craft looses contact, say going behind a building, will it engage some kind of RTH similar to GO 4?

    Really appreciate a review from someone who actually used it. A lot of people mention it but has not actually used it!

    Andy

    Edit: I actually bought it today, lets see how this works :)
     
    #6 AndyN, Mar 23, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
  7. MannyCAM2001

    MannyCAM2001 Well-Known Member

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    Please keep us advised. Nothing like a hands on review.
     
  8. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    Yes, the camera will stay on target and will vary only with the normal gps drifting. If you have really good gps reception, then there is no drifting.

    Each flight mode has 3 difficulty settings, Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. You get more features as you increase the difficulty. For zip line, I like to fly advanced. You can use an on screen slider to slide the position of the AC to any point along the zipline.... slide it back and forth...whatever. Basic is more automatic. Intermediate is sort of "either or"....Fly to A or Fly to B. Regardless...the camera stays on target and as a bonus... you can easily change the target on the fly. You can also change the Point A and Point B locations on the fly without stopping the mission. There are several ways to focus the camera... I prefer using either Subject mode or Joystick mode, with joystick mode, you control the camera with the Joystick while the AC flys itself according to your settings. Zipline is actually a "waypoint" mission with only two waypoints.

    RTH.....
    I looked really carefully for a RTH button on the screen and found NONE.... maybe there is an option for it in the settings. I always use the RC controller with my mini 4 attached in a mount on top. I have one custom RC button programmed to "disengage" the mission....this is important because it is easier to hit the button then it is to hit the "disengage" word on the screen. It disengages instantly and then hovers. (I think there is an option to have it RTH as soon as you disengage...I have that turned off) If you have that option ON, then yes there is a RTH button on the screen that says "Disengage". It is easier to find and hit the C1 button on the RC controller.

    I rarely use RTH because I don't trust it fully. (bad experience) Should I want to use it.... I would first hit the C1 button to disengage the mission (or his the button on the screen) and then I would push the RTH button on the RC controller. Always disengage before attempting to control the AC manually or RTH.

    BEWARE....
    When flying any mission, start your engines manually and fly out to a save area and low altitude. Then start the engage sequence. When it engages, it really takes off and the RC controller no longer works the way you are used to (depending on the type of mission). You can start the mission from the ground if you like, but if there is something in the way that you did not figure on....then you might hit it. It is also wise to adjust the speed of the drone down until you get used to the mission and the overall function of the system.

    I still have a lot to learn having logged 54 autopilot flights now.
     
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  9. AndyN

    AndyN Active Member

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    Thanks! I am reading the tutorial, going to be interesting to see what works and what doesn’t. In theory (I have not yet had the time to test anything at all in practice) it looks promising and main goal to play around with would be to go easy here and get to learn the software and how the AC behaves. Counting on a weird journey to get used to trusting that the AC and software knows what it’s doing by telling it what to do! Really interesting software, with both basic and advanced features. I would assume some movements would not be physically possible to do (360 camera gimbal rotation, waypoints beyond what the RC can “see” etc) I only have 2h flight time in total with the spark so I’m a newbie. I agree, a hardware disengage option would be the best solution to keep the stress on a nice level ;)
     
  10. rufftop

    rufftop Member

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    Great review.. I Just bought an iPhone for this.
     
  11. guest992

    guest992 Guest

    What autopilot program? I want to check it out. Is it Apple only?
     
  12. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it is Apple app only. Sorry.
     
  13. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    Taking photos is a littler different. With DJI, I have gotten so used to press the right button (on the RC) to snap a picture or press the left button to take a video. When flying around with AP, those convenient button do not work!! To take a picture or start a video you must touch a tiny button on the screen.

    This is a little a little annoying until you get used to it. I guess the main point of the App is to have videos and pictures pre-programmed into your missions using the various camera control markers. Maybe there is some technical reason why they have to have them turned off.
     
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  14. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    Before you jump into using AP, make sure you practice a lot using DJI, just flying around manually so you really know how to handle the aircraft well.
     
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  15. mywalter

    mywalter Member

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    Hi Tom, greetings from Germany.

    Your report sounds really exciting - thanks for your detailed descriptions!

    One question, maybe I missed that. Will the waypoint mission be executed by the spark itself and independently? Or is it the AP app that calculates a huge set of interpolated points and angles and then transmits step by step the coordinates to the AC in order to fly the defined track?

    Stefan
     
  16. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    The Spark does not really support waypoint flying at present (from what I can gather.) So the mission is controlled by the AP.... if you were to turn off the AP in the middle of a waypoint mission, I think the mission would stop, the AC would disengage and just hover in place until you flew it home or hit RTH. I have not really tried this but I think I gleaned this from the flight school info.
     
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  17. Loudn

    Loudn New Member

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    Thank you Tom for all the detailed info you have wrote concerning the Spark & Autopilot!
    I am new to these forums and was searching for the compatibility of those two.
    Has anyone used an iPad 2 with the Autopilot software? I would rather not purchase that app only to find it buggy or incomparable with my older tablet.

    Thanks for your time!
     
  18. AndyN

    AndyN Active Member

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    Check compability here: Autopilot - Hangar

    If you check “flight school” it says:

    2.14 Network Connectivity
    The DJI SDK uses wifi to communicate with some aircraft types such as the Phantom 3 Standard. This means that if your iOS device does not have a cellular connection, it will not be connected to the internet while it is connected to these aircraft types. Because of this, functions that require a network connection, such as loading maps or tutorials, may be unavailable.

    I plan to use an iPad Air 2 with cellular 4g possibility, but will not use a SIM card at all. From what I understand that will not enable gps option. I don’t know the gps specs of my iPad. It could mean assisted gps won’t work or gps at all won’t work. for my setup I need to figure out it will work with autopilot.
     
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  19. Loudn

    Loudn New Member

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    Thanks for the reply, I have read that but was wondering if it could be done without the network connection. I was hoping someone here may have experienced using an iPad 2 with that app. I don’t plan on reading tutorials when my drone is in the air.
     
  20. Tom Croley

    Tom Croley Well-Known Member

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    I normally fly using the Ipad Mini 4. I do possess an Ipad 2, so to answer your question, I tried to download the program into it. 1st problem was version incompatibility...the app store required me to download an older version of the program, Version 4.4. The Mini 4 runs version 4.5. My Ipad 2 is using IOS vers 9.3.5 and there is no further upgrade.

    When I tried to actually run the program, it crashed withing one minute, right after viewing the 1st option screen. Several more tries resulted in the same.

    I will not try to fly using the Ipad 2. I think the processor is too slow and the IOS version is too old.
     
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