DJI Ground Station Pro
A few years ago, DJI offered an app called Ground Station which allowed Phantom users the ability to design missions on the ground and then fly them autonomously. Even though it lacked a lot of functionality compared to today's standards, it was handy and it gave remote pilots the freedom to set waypoints before the aircraft ever left the ground, among other things. When DJI hit its growth spurt and came out with the Phantom 3 and 4 platforms, as well as other professional and industrial platforms, support for Ground Station faded and did not grow with the product line. DJI stopped updating the app in late 2015. A lack of support for the new platforms created a vacuum which was filled by products such as AutoPilot and Litchi. Consumers were happy to learn that DJI released an updated version called GS Pro in January that offered support for all of their major platforms!
I had an opportunity to try out some of the features in GS Pro recently, which offers three mission types: Virtual Fence, 3DMap Area, and WayPoint Route. Virtual Fence mode is great for beginning flyers or training. It allows the creation of a geofence around the flight area, as well as restricting speed and altitude. This can be especially useful even for the seasoned remote pilot who is operating within very tight airspace requirements, such as near an airport when clearance is only given to a specific altitude and area.
The mission type I was most interested in was the 3DMap Area, which allows you to set a very specific custom grid for capturing orthomosaic imagery. This mission type essentially uses the same basic components as waypoint mode, so I assumed it would be a good trial mission to test the software. The most notable thing that caught my eye was that the software allowed very low altitudes, down to 16 feet, for shooting extremely high-definition orthomosaics, which is great for crime and accident scene photography where detail on or close to the ground is a necessity. Another great feature is the highly configurable interface which allows for nearly infinite options such as different capture modes, gimbal pitch, and overlap ratio. When I setup a grid to fly, I did immediately notice that the maximum number of waypoints was 100, which was somewhat problematic for my use because most crime scenes that I shoot require many more, around 300+ in most cases. The app does allow for pausing flights and swapping batteries though, which is a very nice feature! One small drawback is that the map doesn’t allow zooming in very far during mission planning, but using a stylus on the ipad allowed more precise control.
Overall though I was very pleased that DJI has released this new version of Ground Station Pro and I've heard great things about it as well in the field from other remote pilots. As the product matures, I'm sure we will be seeing a lot of improvements and new features from DJI!
Quick Tip: Search for 'DJI GS Pro' in the app store, it doesn't seem to show up under a search for 'Ground Station Pro'