FlightZoomer Innovation Preview 2 and 3

In my first post in February I presented the Terrain Map and Vertical Situation Display of the upcoming Release 3 of FlightZoomer. This time, I’d like to present two other new innovations of FlightZoomer Version 3 in one post…

First the synthetic outside view:

The highlight in the video above is the synthetic camera, that offers an FPV experience without many of the disadvantages of a classic FPV approach. In the video 10 advantages of the synthetic camera are listed and demonstrated:

  1. No video data transmission needed -> less hardware, less complexity
  2. Truly worldwide range if there is nothing more than 2.5G cellular connectivity
  3. Highly improved reliability
  4. Cut the Gordian knot of zero cost Full HD FPV
  5. Principally no yello, no shaking
  6. No fog, no clouds, no twilight, never night
  7. Adjust the viewing angle during the flight
  8. Adjust the camera tilt and yaw angle during the flight
  9. Manual snap back view direction control (MSBVDC :-))
  10. Integrated optional zero lag gimbal

Of course there are limitations too:

  1. Close to the ground the synthetic view lacks accuracy.
  2. 3D cities are limited, 100% world wide coverage is only offered as aerial image laid upon an 3D elevation model (which offers still remarkably stunning views, especially when cruising a bit higher)
  3. The scenery stays static. You cant observe non-static objects, like traffic, cars,…

The solution is implemented using the MapControl of the UWP programming stack. It offers a comprehensive API to place a camera over the 3D landscape at any place and specify all the parameter, that we need (including pitch and bank angle). B.t.w. this is also the reason, why this solution is not easily portable from Windows to Android or IOS (in fact not doable at all): the Android or IOS map API do simply not offer the needed capabilities for this feature. Google does not support to place a camera at all at a particular position and altitude and Apple does not support the combination of setting pitch & bank while using 3D maps with an aerial image.
An important detail is the possibility, to additionally feed the video from a real FPV camera into the app. The real camera view can be placed on top of everything else as a small, moveable and resizable overlay. This feature perfectly complements the overall package, FlightZoomer offers.

Second, control the autopilot with a single, radial controller:

When Microsoft announced the Surface Dial last October, I immediately knew, that no better application could be developed for this controller than controlling the flight path of drones. The dial literally cries to be integrated in FlightZoomer. It is a perfect fit as an efficient, yet simplistic man-machine interface, to control the FlightZoomer autopilot.

For weeks I checked availability in Europe, only to order an overpriced device from the US Ebay finally. As it arrived I probably got one of the first Surface Dials in Europe…

But it was worth the effort: Changing modes by pressing it and selecting target values by turning it - how more simple could flying be? One man - one hand - one controller!

In the video above, you can see how the controller perfectly supports relaxed flying as well as street canyon hunting


Very cool!

Somewhat sceptical though about precision especially in urban canyons. Do you have a mechanism that allows to have an idea of the map vs actual FPV accuracy?

Thanks for sharing!

Hello, I watched the video where you show using the dial. But I do not understand in what whay this is a better man machine interface than a simple mouse with a scroll wheel ? With a mouse it is even quicker to click on the control you need to modify it seems, no ?

Thanks guys for the replies!

That part of the video shall basically demonstrate, that you can fly very fluently and intuitively. Its almost like having a steering wheel. But you are right, for safety reasons I would indeed not recommend flying like that in a city other than with the in-built simulator (beside that for legal reasons it would be strictly forbidden in most places anyway).

The map based 3D view is extremely accurate. The only error would come from latency. The API is based on a MapCamera, that allows to specify the location of the camera (lat, long, altitude), the heading-, pitch- and roll-angle:
Map Camera.
In the first video, you can see real & synthetic view in sync at about 4:15.
There is one limitation, and this is ground proximity. Close to the ground, the MapCamera does apply heading, pitch and bank angle, but the camera keeps floating at an approximate altitude of up to 60m over ground. In this condition FlightZoomer does provide distinct visual hints, as shown on this screenshot:

On the top, an indication shows, how much lower the actual position is compared to the visual representation. The diagonal soft stripes indicate, that the view is not 100% correct. Nevertheless the yellow ground indication in the Primary Display show, that we are on the earth surface. Likewise on the terrain map we are between yellow and red, that means the terrain matches the current altitude at our current position.

Fair point, in many ways the mouse would be comparable. There are four reasons, why I would prefer the dial:

  1. The dial is larger, allows more precise user input
  2. Chosing the right direction is instinctively supported by the dial. What would be the correct mouse wheel direction, in order to “turn right”?
  3. Real, full scale cockpits/autopilot are also built with rotary controllers.
  4. The mouse is loose and needs space to be moved. This makes it harder, to built a groundstation that supports it. The dial on the other hand can be fixated at one spot. Neither the controller nor the hand are moving.