In control: Advanced ways to fly drones on the horizon

By Diego Marcano
BU News Service

LAS VEGAS – A cutting-edge single-handed joystick controller developed by former NASA astronaut and physician Scott Parazynski, DJI’s new controller with an integrated 5.5-inch 1080p touchscreen and AEE’s heavy duty controller that provides full, live information about the drone’s integrity, as well as setting waypoints for it to fly automatically are set to change the way drone owners fly.

Here’s a roundup of how what’s new in drone controllers.

The FT Aviator

  • FT Aviator controller developed by former NASA astronaut, Scott Parazynski. Photo courtesy of Fluidity Technologies.

The FT Aviator was developed by former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski with the goal of creating a single-handed controller capable of giving tactile feedback to the user as it moves the drone through the landscape.

“There’s been very miniscule incremental innovation in flight control really for 82 years,” said Scott Parazynski, founder and CEO of Fluidity Technologies. “We’ve had the same technology for almost eight decades. So we took a clean slate approach to flight control and put all the controls in just one hand.”

The controller also has dedicated buttons to control the rate of tilt on-the-fly, as well as buttons to set camera settings such a shutter speed, exposure and zoom.

“Working with everything from the Space Shuttle robotic arm to surgical robotics in labs, I found controllers clunky, inaccurate and in no way related to the dynamics of movement through space,” said Parazynski. “Our patented technology changes that – for the first time providing highly-intuitive, precision movement to UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).”

Fluidity’s drone controller is compatible with DJI drones, a company which has 80 percent of the drone market. The company says it will be compatible with other products such as those by the American drone company and Autel Technologies. The FT Aviator being offered for $225 on kickstarter and it is expected to retail for $449. The company expects to start shipping late february or early march this year.  

The FT Aviator was named CES® 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree at the annual program  that celebrates outstanding design. CES Innovation Awards recognize honorees across 28 product categories.

DJI Smart Controller

DJI’s Smart Controller next to the new Mavic 2. (Photo courtesy of DJI.)

DJI’s Smart Controller, with a 5.5-inch built-in touchscreen, has support for Bluetooh and Wi-Fi and a customized Android system that facilitates content sharing.

Equipped with DJI’s OcuSync 2.0 Full-HD video transmission technology, the DJI Smart Controller automatically shifts between radio frequencies to avoid interferences and maintain contact with the drone up to a distance of 4.97 miles.

The Smart Controller includes an optimized version of DJI GO 4 app, which allows it to transfer photos and video to a mobile phone. Through its Android operating system, the controller also supports third-party apps that allow sharing and editing photos and videos on the go.

One of DJI’s biggest improvements on the Smart Controller is its 1000cd/m2 screen, which offers an ultra-bright display about twice as bright as conventional smart devices’ screens. For users, this feature will allow them to view aerial footage and control the drone even in direct sunlight.

DJI’s Smart Controller features resistance to harsh temperatures: it can function in environments ranging from -4 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Its 5000mAh battery supports Quick Charging and gives the controller a life of up to two-and-a-half hours of continuous operation.

DJI is selling the Smart Controller for $650, a rather expensive price for an accessory. Given that the amount is around two thirds of the price of a state-of-the-art-drone, it could be a deterrent for prospective buyers.    

AEE’s controller for first responders and industrial inspections

  • Mach 4 controller at CES 2019 on Jan 9, 2019. Photo by Diego Marcano / BU News Service.

This massive controller weighs almost two pounds and it is equipped with 18 buttons and two joysticks. It is capable of controlling the camera, checking altitude and longitude, calibrating the drone and can plan its flight path with Bing maps, directly from the screen.

The heavy controller with an integrated screen was crafted for first responders, security, industrial inspection and construction site surveillance, and it sells along with the Mach 4 drone at a starting price of $5,000.

“It’s quite efficient. You know, if you send a person to check something at a construction site, it can take a lot of hours to get to a specific point if it’s above the ground. With this drone you can rapidly make your inspections,” said Simon Wu, Account Manager at AEE Technology Inc.

AEE’s controller pairs with a 4k video, two-foot drone, the Mach 4, capable of flying at a speed of 30 miles per hour. The drone can travel a distance of two miles away from the controller. The controller has a 1.4 gigahertz processor and two antennas that support 5.8 GHz video transmission.  

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