How to Plan Your Drone Routes in Litchi App

Master the art of drone route planning with our expert tips. Learn to optimize your flights for efficiency and safety.

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Introduction

In this tutorial, we will guide you through the process of planning professional-level drone routes using Google Earth and the Litchi Application. This method will allow you to scout and visualize potential filming locations in 3D, save specific viewpoints and gimbal angles, and then seamlessly execute these shots on site using automated flight paths.

Overview

  • Importance of Planning Drone Routes: Planning your drone routes in advance can save time, improve safety, and ensure you capture the best footage possible.
  • Benefits of Using Google Earth and the Litchi Application: These tools allow for precise, efficient planning and visualization of your drone flights in a virtual 3D environment.
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Objective

By the end of this tutorial, you will be able to:

  • Navigate and use Google Earth for scouting and visualizing shooting locations.
  • Save viewpoints and gimbal settings for future reference.
  • Plan detailed flight paths and waypoint parameters.
  • Import these plans into the Litchi Application and execute them with your drone.

Required Tools and Software

  • Google Earth (Desktop version recommended)
  • Litchi Application for your mobile device or tablet
  • A compatible drone (DJI models recommended)
  • Necessary cables or accessories for your drone and controller

Getting Started with Google Earth

Installing Google Earth

To get started, Google Earth Pro is your window to a richer, more detailed view of the potential drone filming locations. Here’s how to get it up and running on your computer:

  1. Download Google Earth Pro:
  1. Install the Application:
  • Once the download is complete, open the installer and follow the on-screen instructions. This process should be straightforward, but if you hit a snag, make sure your operating system is up to date.
  1. Troubleshooting Common Installation Issues:
  • If you encounter issues, check if your computer meets the minimum system requirements. For persistent problems, temporarily disable any firewall or antivirus software during installation, as these can occasionally interfere with the setup.

Basic Navigation in Google Earth

Mastering navigation in Google Earth is like becoming a virtual helicopter pilot – minus the risk of vertigo. Here’s how to get a bird’s eye view:

  1. Exploring the Interface:
  • The main features to focus on are the Search, Layers, and Places panels. Use Search to jump to specific locations.
  • The navigation controls are your best friends here; use the zoom slider to get closer to earth or pull back to see a broader view. The tilt and rotate tools let you view landscapes from various angles, simulating a drone’s camera view.
  1. Customizing View Settings:
  • To get the most out of your scouting, turn on 3D buildings and terrain in the Layers panel to visualize the area as you would see it from your drone. This step is crucial for planning shots in urban areas or near complex topographies.
  • The “Sun” feature is particularly useful for photographers and filmmakers. It allows you to simulate lighting conditions at different times of the day, which is perfect for planning golden hour shots.

By the end of this section, you should be comfortable flying through virtual skies and scouting your filming locations with ease. Remember, the goal is to use Google Earth not just as a map, but as a dynamic planning tool that gives you a comprehensive view of your potential shooting environment.

Scouting Locations Using Google Earth

Identifying Potential Locations

Finding the perfect spot for your drone shoot is akin to discovering a hidden gem among ordinary rocks. Here’s how to unearth those gems:

  1. Finding Interesting Locations:
  • Use the Search function to explore potential areas. Target urban landscapes, scenic vistas, and unique terrains that can add dramatic flair to your footage.
  • For urban explorers, searching for downtown areas of major cities can reveal stunning skyline shots, while nature enthusiasts might search for “national parks” to find breathtaking natural scenery.
  • If you have specific locations in mind, use coordinates. This approach is particularly useful for pinpointing remote or lesser-known areas where the most captivating shots are often hidden.
  1. Using 3D View:
  • Activate 3D view by clicking the “3D” button on the toolbar. This mode lets you experience the terrain and buildings as your drone would, aiding in visualizing potential shots.
  • Navigate the area by clicking and dragging the mouse. Adjust zoom and tilt to explore different perspectives and angles, helping identify obstacles like trees, buildings, and hills that could affect your flight.
  1. Checking Views and Angles:
  • Once you’ve pinpointed a promising spot, experiment with various angles. Rotate and tilt the view to find the most cinematic angles for your shots.
  • Utilize the time slider to simulate the sun’s position at different times of the day. This is crucial for planning how natural light will influence your scene, especially during golden hour or sunrise/sunset.

Using 3D View

To maximize the potential of 3D scouting, here’s how to optimize your virtual recon missions:

  1. Navigating and Exploring Terrain in 3D:
  • As you explore, focus on the texture and contours of the terrain. High-resolution areas offer a more accurate feel for the landscape, essential for identifying features like footpaths, clearings, or other nuances that flat maps overlook.
  • Look for natural features like cliffs, rivers, or forests that can add depth and intrigue to your shots or pose challenges for your flight.
  1. Evaluating Potential Obstacles:
  • In urban areas, carefully examine the 3D buildings layer. Note the height and proximity of buildings, as these can affect both your flight plan and the drone’s GPS signal.
  • In natural settings, be aware of elements like tall trees, cliffs, or steep slopes. These features can be both a hazard and an opportunity for dramatic footage.
  1. Using the Sun Feature to Plan Lighting:
  • The “Sun” feature in Google Earth is a game-changer for filmmakers and photographers. This tool allows you to change the date and time to see how sunlight and shadows fall on different elements of your chosen location.
  • By adjusting this feature, you can determine if specific elements receive side, front, or backlight at various hours, enabling you to plan the exact time for optimal lighting for your shots. This insight is invaluable for ensuring that your footage has the desired aesthetic impact, with shadows and highlights in just the right places.

By the end of your scouting session in Google Earth, you should have a detailed list of top-notch locations, complete with notes on the best angles, optimal times for shooting, and any potential obstacles. This preparation ensures that when you arrive on-site, you’re ready to capture footage rather than scout, making your field time highly productive and efficient.

Saving Viewpoints and Gimbal Angles

Creating and Saving Viewpoints

To capture the essence of your location with precision, saving viewpoints in Google Earth is like marking treasure on a pirate map. Here’s how to secure your visual booty:

  1. How to Create Viewpoints:
  • Navigate to your desired shot location and adjust the view to your preferred angle in Google Earth.
  • Right-click on “My Places” in the sidebar, select “Add” -> “Placemark”. A dialog box appears where you can position this placemark precisely where you want it.
  • Move the placemark to the exact point you want to mark and adjust the view until it matches the camera angle you plan to use with your drone.
  1. Naming and Organizing Viewpoints:
  • Give each viewpoint a clear, descriptive name that reflects the shot or location, such as “Downtown Skyline at Sunset” or “Mountain Ridge Overlook.”
  • Organize your viewpoints into folders within “My Places” for easy access. For instance, create separate folders for different locations or types of shots like “Urban Landscapes” and “Nature Shots.”

Adjusting and Saving Gimbal Angles

Simulating your drone’s gimbal movements in Google Earth allows you to plan your shots with cinematic precision. Here’s how to fine-tune and save these settings:

  1. Simulating Gimbal Movements:
  • As you adjust your viewpoint, note the tilt and rotation angles. These mimic your drone’s gimbal settings and will be crucial for replicating the same shot in the field.
  • Use the tilt (up and down) and compass (rotation) features in Google Earth to simulate the gimbal’s pitch and yaw. This helps you visualize what the camera will capture during the actual flight.
  1. Saving Gimbal Settings:
  • Once you’ve set the perfect camera angle, document the gimbal pitch, yaw, and roll along with the viewpoint. You can note these in a separate document or use the description field of the placemark for quick reference.
  • Include details like the exact tilt angle and compass direction. For instance, you might save a note like “Pitch: -30°, Yaw: 45°” to replicate this angle later with your drone.

By now, you should have a comprehensive set of saved viewpoints and corresponding gimbal settings. This collection will act as your blueprint when you’re on location, allowing you to quickly and accurately set up your drone for the perfect shot. This method significantly reduces on-site setup time and lets you focus on capturing stunning, high-quality footage.

Planning Routes and Waypoints

Creating a Flight Path

Designing a flight path in Google Earth is akin to sketching out your cinematic vision in the sky. Here’s how to draw and save these aerial blueprints:

  1. Drawing Paths in Google Earth:
  • Select the “Add Path” tool from the toolbar or right-click in the “Places” panel and choose “Add” -> “Path”.
  • Click on the map to set waypoints that outline your desired flight path. Each click adds a new point, and dragging these points adjusts their position.
  • As you create the path, adjust the view to ensure the flight path matches the visual narrative you want to capture with your drone.
  1. Setting Flight Path Parameters:
  • After drawing the path, a dialog box appears where you can name and describe the path. Here, input parameters like altitude, speed, and behavior at waypoints:
    • Altitude: Set this based on the terrain and any obstacles in the area. A consistent altitude is good for flat terrains, while varying altitudes might be needed for more complex landscapes.
    • Speed: Determine how fast the drone should fly along each segment of the path. Slower speeds are better for detailed, high-quality shots, while faster speeds are useful for transitions.
    • Behavior at Waypoints: Decide if the drone should pause at each waypoint (useful for static shots) or continue seamlessly (for smooth, dynamic footage).

Adding Waypoints

Waypoints are the critical steps in your flight path, each marking a key position or action for your drone. Here’s how to refine these to match your vision:

  1. How to Add Waypoints:
  • If you need to add additional waypoints post-path creation, right-click on the path and choose “Edit Path”.
  • Click on the path line between existing waypoints to add new ones. Adjust these new points by dragging them to the desired location.
  1. Setting Parameters for Each Waypoint:
  • For each waypoint, you can set individual parameters such as altitude, speed, gimbal pitch, and time to stay:
    • Altitude: Adjust this to avoid obstacles or change perspective. Use varying altitudes to create more dynamic and engaging footage.
    • Speed: Set the speed to maintain cinematic pacing. Use slower speeds for detailed shots and faster for transitions.
    • Gimbal Pitch: This is where your pre-saved gimbal settings come into play. Set the gimbal pitch for each waypoint to ensure the camera is always aimed as planned, capturing the perfect angle.
    • Time to Stay: Decide how long the drone should hover at each waypoint. A longer hover can be used to capture steady footage or time-lapses.

By finalizing your flight path and waypoint parameters, you’re crafting a precise, automated flight plan that will guide your drone along the exact trajectory needed to capture your envisioned shots. This meticulous planning ensures that every second of flight time is used efficiently, reducing battery waste and maximizing your creative output.

Advanced Tips

Bracketing during a mission

To set your drone to take bracketing photos during a mission in the Litchi app, you need to configure the camera settings within the Litchi app and set up the waypoint actions accordingly. Bracketing involves taking multiple photos at different exposure levels to combine them later for HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. Here’s how you can do it:

Steps to Set Up Bracketing Photos in Litchi

Open the Litchi App:

    • Connect your mobile device to the drone and launch the Litchi app.

    Configure Camera Settings:

    • Ensure your drone is connected and ready.
    • Tap on the camera settings icon (usually a camera or gear icon) to open the camera settings menu.
    • Select the photo mode and choose the bracketing option (AEB – Auto Exposure Bracketing). This option may be labeled differently depending on your drone model but typically involves selecting a setting like AEB3, AEB5, or AEB7, which indicates the number of bracketed shots (e.g., 3, 5, or 7 photos).

    Create a Waypoint Mission:

    • Tap on the “Missions” icon and create a new waypoint mission.
    • Add waypoints to the mission by tapping on the map. Configure each waypoint as needed (altitude, speed, etc.).

    Set Camera Actions at Waypoints:

    • For each waypoint where you want to take bracketed photos, tap on the waypoint to edit its settings.
    • In the waypoint settings menu, select “Actions.”
    • Add a new action by selecting “Take Photo.” Since you’ve already set the camera to bracketing mode, this action will trigger the camera to take bracketed photos.
    • You can add multiple actions if you want to perform other tasks at the same waypoint, such as adjusting the gimbal pitch or hovering for a certain duration.

    Save and Start the Mission:

      • Once you have configured all the waypoints and actions, save your mission.
      • Start the mission, and the drone will execute the waypoint actions, taking bracketed photos at the specified waypoints.

      Important Considerations

      • Camera Mode: Ensure that the camera mode is set to bracketing before starting the mission.
      • Memory Card: Verify that the memory card has enough space to store multiple photos, as bracketing will generate several images for each shot.
      • Battery Life: Ensure the drone has sufficient battery life to complete the mission, especially if it involves taking numerous photos.
      • GPS Signal: Make sure you have a strong GPS signal for accurate waypoint navigation.

      Taking a 360 panorama photo during a mission 

      You can take a 360-degree panorama photo during a mission using the Litchi app. This involves setting up specific actions at a waypoint to instruct the drone to capture a panorama. Here’s how you can do it:

      Steps to Take a 360 Panorama Photo During a Litchi Mission

      1. Open the Litchi App: Connect your mobile device to the drone and launch the Litchi app.

      2. Create a Waypoint Mission:

      • Tap on the “Missions” icon and create a new waypoint mission.
      • Add waypoints to the mission by tapping on the map. Configure each waypoint as needed (altitude, speed, etc.).

      3. Set Camera Actions at Waypoints:

      • For the waypoint where you want to take the 360 panorama, tap on the waypoint to edit its settings.
      • In the waypoint settings menu, select “Actions.”

      4. Add Panorama Action:

      • Add a new action and select “Pano.”
      • Configure the pano action to specify the type of panorama you want to capture (e.g., 360-degree panorama).
      • You can adjust settings such as the number of photos to be taken and the interval between shots.

      5. Additional Actions (Optional):

      • Add other actions if needed, such as “Hover” to ensure the drone remains stable while taking the panorama.

      6. Save and Start the Mission:

      • Once you have configured all the waypoints and actions, save your mission.
      • Start the mission, and the drone will execute the waypoint actions, including taking the 360 panorama photo at the specified waypoint.

      Safety Awareness

      What happen in case of loss of connection during a mission ?

      When using the Litchi app for your drone missions, if your drone loses connection to the remote controller during a mission, it will generally follow the predefined behavior set in the Litchi app and the drone’s firmware. Typically, the drone will complete its mission before attempting to return home. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what happens:

      Waypoint Missions:

      • Loss of Connection: If the drone loses connection to the remote controller while executing a waypoint mission, it will continue to fly the mission as programmed in the Litchi app.
      • Completion of Mission: Upon completing the waypoint mission, the drone will follow the “End of Mission” action set in the mission settings. The common options are:
      • Return to Home (RTH): The drone will fly back to the home point.
      • Hover: The drone will hover in place.
      • Land: The drone will land at the final waypoint.
      • None: The drone will stop and hover at the last waypoint.

      Failsafe Settings

      Most drones have failsafe settings that can be configured within their respective apps (DJI GO, DJI Fly, etc.). These settings determine what the drone does when it loses connection to the remote controller. The typical options are:

      • Return to Home (RTH): The drone will return to the home point.
      • Hover: The drone will hover in place, waiting for reconnection.
      • Land: The drone will land at its current location.

      Battery Levels

      • If the drone’s battery gets low during the mission, it will initiate a Return to Home (RTH) based on its low battery failsafe settings, even if it hasn’t completed the mission.

      In most scenarios, if the drone loses connection during a Litchi waypoint mission, it will continue the mission until completion and then perform the action set at the end of the mission (such as returning home). However, it is crucial to check and configure both the mission settings in Litchi and the failsafe settings in the drone’s native app to ensure the desired behavior in case of connection loss.

      Yes, in the Litchi app, you can set the Return to Home (RTH) location to be either the home point (where the drone took off) or the location of the remote controller. This can be particularly useful if you are moving while the drone is flying its mission, as the drone will return to your current location instead of the initial takeoff point.

      In litchi, can we set the return home to be the controller and not the RTH ?

      How to Set RTH to the Controller’s Location in Litchi:

      • Open Litchi App: Ensure your drone is connected to the Litchi app.
      • Go to Settings: Tap on the settings icon to open the settings menu.
      • Flight Settings: Navigate to the “Flight Settings” section.
      • Return to Home (RTH) Settings:
        • In the RTH settings, you will find an option for setting the Dynamic RTH location.
        • Select the option to set the RTH to the current location of the remote controller.
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      litchi dynamic rth

      By selecting this option, your drone will return to the location of the remote controller if it loses connection or if the RTH function is triggered.

      Important Considerations:

      • GPS Signal: Ensure that your remote controller has a strong GPS signal so the drone can accurately determine its location.
      • Movement: If you are moving, make sure the remote controller’s location is updated regularly to reflect your current position.

      This feature provides flexibility and added safety, especially when you are on the move and need the drone to return to your current location rather than the takeoff point.

      Conclusion

      By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you have equipped yourself with the knowledge and tools to plan drone routes like a pro. From installing and navigating Google Earth to planning precise flight paths and executing them with the Litchi Application, you are now ready to transform your creative vision into reality with efficiency and precision.

      The journey through identifying potential locations, adjusting viewpoints, and meticulously setting up waypoints highlights the importance of preparation in aerial photography. Your ability to simulate and visualize every aspect of the flight beforehand ensures that when you’re on location, you can focus on capturing the perfect shot rather than worrying about navigation and technical adjustments.

      Remember, the key to successful drone operation lies in continuous learning and adapting. Each flight is an opportunity to refine your skills and push the boundaries of what you can achieve with your drone. So, take these insights, apply them to your next project, and watch as your footage rises to new heights of professionalism and beauty. Keep exploring, keep planning, and most importantly, keep flying!