Servers by jDrones

Mission Planner "Makeover"

(Fnoop) #12

Eh? Welcome to the 21st century. Windows is no longer the dominant platform, thankfully.

I actually think that’s one of the things that is holding this project back. Fewer and fewer people have windows these days - Macs, phones and tablets are the order of the day. apm_planner2 sadly seems to have been put to bed, and qgroundcontrol is a really nice cross platform GCS but it still needs work particularly with ardupilot. I keep a windows VM around literally for the sole purpose of running Mission Planner when I absolutely have to. Particularly as this project is more likely to attract technically competent/interested people, who are much more likely to be using Mac or Linux.

(Fnoop) #13

Totally agree with you here. There are for sure ways to make it easier, and it should be a priority to do so. As an example, I recently set up my Taranis controller from scratch for Arduplane. r/c controllers have always been this horrendously complex black box to me, but the most recent firmware they’ve added a nice friendly wizard to get you going, complete with pretty pictures and simple questions that walk you through the process of setting things up. We need more of that here.

(Nathan E) #14

I think a big step to make the steps easier would be making the user interface more aligned with other software. For example use a “ribbon” at the top and keep almost all of the buttons there. Microsoft has spent years studying UX, and so many users are familiar with the ribbon concept. I believe the current Mission Planner is boxy, confusing, and outdated. A few examples of things that don’t make sense to me are the following:

  1. Typing Ctrl-F opens a giant list of extra features accessible nowhere else.
  2. Double-clicking certain tabs makes them into their own window, but no documentation/direction for users to know that.
  3. The numerous buttons, lists, and tabs in the window under the HUD that are completely unrelated to the flight portion of the mission.
  4. The data analysis buttons that are below the HUD (implying some relation to live flight… IMO).
  5. The visual layout that cannot really be customized, and there is a lot of wasted screen real estate for gauges, etc.
  6. The inconsistency between wizards and setting changers.
  7. The parameter manager (and this has been brought up many times by others)

I think before Mission Planner gets a bunch of additional features, it needs to be organized appropriately. Only then should features change/be added. Build a sold backbone and then build on that. That structure isn’t there in my opinion. The independent study above proves that the features aren’t easy to use, and some features weren’t even known to users (they exist, but weren’t found for the study).

(mike kelly) #15

I don’t think that a few changes to the cosmetics is going to change the learning curve steepness. The ctrl-F is an example of trying to hide advanced features from beginners. The bottom line is there are a lot of things to learn. Your changes might make it easier for some to approach it but it is not going to stop having to learn those things.

I hardly think that poll is a valid survey of users.

(Nathan E) #16

I agree 100%, but that’s what the Wiki is for.

This isn’t about learning curve steepness or teaching new users. It’s about users wanting a cosmetic makeover. Not making anything easier. Not creating more features. They want a “makeover.”

Just because the polled users are not advanced users or active here doesn’t make the results any less valid. If anything, I think one of the more public polls to a great and large sample of users. I think that efforts should be made to do what users want, and I think this is what users want.

I understand and respect if you lead you to believe nothing needs to change.

(mike kelly) #17

With a project with very limited resources I am thankful that Michael as done such an outstanding job on creating a very usable and beneficial product for us that I did not have to pay to use. I am not concerned that the GUI is not up-to-date with whatever is fashionable at the moment. I will gladly spend the time to study and get to know it and how to take advantage of the features.

(Steven A) #18

The “95% use windows” doesn’t seem like a fair argument, when the program is for Windows - it’s a bit like saying there is no reason for a Tower app on iOS, because 100% of Tower users are on Android. People who normally use another platform are either keeping an old/cheap Windows laptop around, or running Windows in a VM on their Mac/Linux machine (I’m doing the latter).

I’d rather be able to fire it up natively, than have a ribbon top bar or another layout of the tools. Easy cross-platform use would bring in more users IMO, whereas rejigging the UI immediately makes the existing MP documentation out of date.

(mike kelly) #19

Then you can use APM Planner which is multi-platform.

(ptegler) #20

As with an UI, clutter is the first ‘organization’ needed.
‘In the field’ these days many using tablets and touch screen interfaces
of single letter commands to set way points, draw ‘circle’ mode with a finger and/or map touch to set way points etc. Even though screen res varies, circles on screen with letters for the keyboard are a great start.
Consider ‘grouping’ functions better in pop up windows that come up front and center for main function groups etc. The screen can have a lot more functionality built in.

The REAL trick to this is not adding controls, but adding controls that follow the minds way of viewing and doing what they want the qaud to do. As an automation (factory manufacturing and test automation) engineer (design the electronics AND writing the software to run it) for the last 30 years, has taught me well, we know what the software needs to do, but designing for the end user is almost another science altogether.


(Nathan E) #21

What really needs to happen to improve Mission Planner? I’m passionate about it and would help in any way that I can, but I am not a programmer. Does payment help? Anything?

Just like the hardware running ardupilot has changed/improved over the last few years, I really believe that Mission Planner can do the same. I also think that improving the UI of Mission Planner is the easiest way to attract more ardupilot users while keeping advanced users satisfied.

(Jerry Ginn) #22

From the point of view of an unsophisticated user, MP does the job. It lets me make and evaluate changes to the Ardupilot parameters. It lets me fine tune the responses to control input and to create detailed flight plans. I do not use most of the MP capability because I either don’t need them or don’t know that I need them but I don’t mind learning. One of the things really don’t like is constant change. It really sucks to learn something and then learn it again because it changes, particularly if there was little documentation of the original and less documentation of the change.
As a software developer in the very distant past when an 80 column text screen was the common user interface, I know first hand how difficult and boring it is to create really useful documentation but without it, the software doesn’t meet it’s need. I used the Unix ‘vi’ to write documentation which was printed on a line printer. Laser printers came later.

I would recommend that a full evaluation of the documentation be the first step in any makeover of MP. A common user interface is no substitute for good documentation.

Good for $0.02

(James Elkins) #23

Just stumbled across this thread and thought I would show something I have been working on…
I am a programmer full time and part time I fly drones for a military contractor, we use MP and PX to fly all sizes/types of drones and exclusively on Windows based PCs.
Because of the part 107 requirement and the military flight plans are more aviation based… and because I can, I have been working on a new HUD.

I am using the FAA DOF (daily obstacle file) for obstacles and for adsb data. Also created a synthetic type vision to put these on the hud. Added some touch friendly buttons for when we are using touch enabled devices. It also uses the terrain data + obstacle data to provide an elevation guide. You can tell I got a lot of my ideas from the G1000 MFD.

This proves to be very helpful as most of our flights are way beyond LOS.

I haven’t got these changes ready for submission but eventually I plan to try to get them added to the main fork of MP. I wasn’t aware of the FB page and have submit a request to join so I can also get feedback there.

(mike kelly) #24

…Nice work! .

(Nathan E) #25

@jelkins, that is incredible! I recognize that from G1000 manned aircraft cockpits. Does Garmin have any patents or IP protection that this could violate though?

Thank you for the contribution, and I look forward to seeing more.

( .) #26

I know these are drones and not human flown, but being that they “might” fly in commercial airspace do you intend to get this interface DO178C Level A certified as a Primary Flight Display for the operators?

If you do, I understand that MP can’t take advantage of the certification, but without question, the commit you fork back into the master could certainly be tagged “DO178C Level A certifiable”. That’s a GREAT selling point…just a thought.

There are a lot of other questions I have (as a former Airworthiness person) but i’ll restrain myself. I’m really interested whether if you’re using this for real time flight how you can make latency garauntees.

(James Elkins) #27

@Naterater Actually hadn’t thought of that… I wouldn’t think so… but I am no lawyer :slight_smile:
I just liked the hud of the G1000 and decided it would be cool if MP displayed the data in a similar fashion.
And frankly, Easier to use.
When you send an aircraft on a mission sometimes 50+ miles away and MP is the only thing letting you know what the state of the aircraft is… it gets tedious looking over all the raw data and it makes better sense to me to be able to see the important info at a glance.

(ptegler) #28

Very nice James.
I’m assuming you primarily manually op your craft?..and this is your active GC?
Do you use the MP available live video feed behind that HUD?
great objective great effort

(wkf94025) #29

Agree that’s a good looking HUD, and with FPV video feed behind it, great situational awareness for RC pilots. Happy to test when you’re ready.


(James Elkins) #30

For anyone wanting to give it a try.

(bisenberger) #31

I like to see Michael keep adding updates that improve the functionality of Mission Planner rather than giving it a face lift. A face lift is what software companies do to their apps for marketing purposes when they run out of innovative ideas.