General Posts

First experience with Ground Station

Ground Station is the incredible waypoint system that comes with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (and as far as I know most other DJI quadcopter models). When activated in the DJI Vision app, you can swipe left from the camera screen to access the map screen. Maps for the area you want to fly in have to be downloaded/cached in advance which is as easy as zooming in on your area of choice directly in the app while connected to wifi.

Once outside, turn on your quadcopter and enter the Ground Station page of the app. This is where the magic happens! You can place waypoints directly on the map and set the height you want the quadcopter to reach at each waypoint. Keep in mind that the quadcopter will gradually reach the selected height, not go straight up and then horizontally. Therefore you have to leave enough clear space from the start point to the first waypoint for it to ascend.

I tried Ground Station for the first time the other day. What I most like is the fact that you can send the quadcopter way out of radio range. Up to 5km away and maximum 200m up. Lost vision because you’re behind a building? Not an issue! If you lose signal, it will still continue on it’s mission and if you set it to film it will keep filming. Of course, with no signal you’ll eventually also lose the on-screen view, although I noticed the image signal seem to have a longer range than the radio controller has.

On my first try I sent the quadcopter out of range and it it was a truly nerve wrecking experience! For a few minutes I had only a general idea of which direction my hovercraft was in, but I couldn’t see it and the thought of it flying on its own was scary. It’s something you have to get used to I guess. I was surprised by how reliable the app seems to be and minutes later I could hear the motors up in the sky, and the Phantom was soon hovering right above me.

I didn’t figure out how to include the landing in the program. I set the last waypoint to where I started and I’ve read that if it hovers in one place during a Ground Station mission it will “go home” after one minute. What I did in this case was press the “go home” button.

Another challenge I found was to figure out what height to set each waypoint to. I played it safe at around 80 meters, but for cooler footage I’d love to fly closer to the ground. Obviously you can’t see height obstacles on Google Maps (yes, Ground Station uses Google Maps), so unless you fly over open ground it’s up to you what height feels right. If out of range, there’s no way to manually take control and avoid a collision.

But then again, of course you should always be safe and legal and not fly close to buildings in the first place 🙂

After my initial test round it started raining and I had no chance for a second flight. I’ve yet to review the footage but I’m hoping I have some cool aerial videos waiting for me. I’ll definitely use Ground Station again to capture areas otherwise tricky to reach with only the controller.

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