There’s good news for first time drone users or drone hobbyists. Flying a drone and capturing pictures simultaneously is going to become a much easier and enjoyable thanks to the FlyCam a touch screen enabled drone developed by Bedrich Benes, a professor of computer graphics technology, and doctoral student Hao Kang at the Purdue University in collaboration with corporate researchers.
Drone operators won’t have to struggle flying the multi-propeller device and taking pictures simultaneously. With dual joysticks for the drone navigation plus an additional joystick and a gimbal to control the camera, conventional drone controls are cumbersome to use sometimes.
“So the user doesn’t have to think about multiple controls for the drone and the camera,” Benes said. “He or she can think about the drone as a simple three-dimensional flying camera that is being controlled by simple gestures on a touch-screen device.” Benes said that their approach abstracts the camera and the drone into a single flying camera object so that the user does not need to think about the drone movement and camera control as two separate actions. The camera is controlled from a single mobile device with six simple touch gestures such as rotate, move forward, yaw, and pitch. The gestures are implemented as seamless commands that combine the gimbal motion with the drone movement. Additionally, a sigmoidal motion response compensates for abrupt drone swinging when moving horizontally.
FlyCam uses one- and two-finger drags across a touch screen to control the drone as it accelerates or turns and takes images. The drone moves forward or backward along the camera’s axis with single or double taps to the screen. Kang said, “It is easier to use just a single simple mobile device compared to combination of cumbersome remote controls.”
Benes revealed that for the research, they assessed the ability of licensed drone pilots with a remote control and compared it with novices- people who picked up a drone for the first time using FlyCam. “And the people who have picked up a drone for the first time were equal or better than those who are licensed to fly,” Benes said. “That is what actually impressed us the most.”
FlyCam was tested using an Android system and clearly the use of a tablet allowed for larger movements and better control proving fliers worked better with Flycam than with traditional dual joysticks. The smooth and simple camera movement were evaluated by user study- a group of 20 people who were asked to mimic a photograph taken from a certain location. The users used both the methods. The results showed that the new interaction performed better in both intuitiveness and ease of navigation. The users spent less time on task. The System Usability Scale index of FlyCam method was 75.13, which is higher than the traditional dual joystick method that scored at 67.38.
Benes and Kang intend continuing work on the research, which will include automated photos from the camera.