Safely taking video at sporting events is hard for many reasons:
- The subject is constantly in motion with no pre-determined path
- We must avoid flying over people
- We need to avoid obstacles such as trees and flood lights which can be very inconveniently placed
If you are watching where you are flying then you really can’t keep an eye on the action and tend to lose sight of the ball. This does not make for interesting footage.
The alternative is to hover in place and hope that the action comes to you. Murphy’s Law is very clear on this last option. “Only once you move from a location will the action on the field move to the location you were just at.” I can personally attest to the validity of this law.
This has meant that taking video of sports is a two person job and requires a drone with dual controls. Until now…
Creating a pre-defined flight path to contain the drone
I use Litchi as my main flight application. This allows me to create a pre-determined path (“mission”) for the UAV to fly. This works great for creating buttery smooth footage around things that don’t move and for flying at a constant speed.
But something special happens if you set the cruising speed of the mission to zero!
Setting the cruising speed of the mission to zero causes the UAV to wait for you to take control. Pushing forward on the right stick causes the UAV to fly along the pre-set flight path. Pulling back makes it follow the same path in the other direction. At either end of the flight path, it will stop even if you are still pushing the sticks.
What is important is that it doesn’t matter which direction the drone is facing, it still flies the same path. This allows you to control the location and speed of the drone using just forward and backward on the right stick, leaving you to focus on keeping the action in the frame.
To create a path for to drone to fly, I fly to each position and Press C1 on the controller which I have set to create a waypoint. I then move to the next position and do the same until all the waypoints have been created. Make sure that the path stays clear of people and obstacles.
Once you have the path setup you need to change some of the parameters to allow you to control the position of the drone with just the right stick. To do this go into the mission settings and set the following:
- Set the cruising speed to zero
- Set the max flight speed to something suitable.
I used 13.9 mph, which worked but there were few times I could have used more speed so I might increase that a little in the future
- Set the Finish Action to Reverse
- Set Heading Mode to User Controlled
Once you have a route around the field carefully set up and you have run the mission through once all the way to make sure it is good there is practically no chance of crashing into anything.
Your drone will now stay away from people, go around obstacles and never stray past the set end points . Since GPS isn’t 100% accurate you need to allow some room for error, as you can see in the actual flight path recorded and shown here. But, other than that, flying around the pitch is so much easier!
Some additional notes with thanks to Litchi App User Andy Cortez
1. Upon hitting Start Mission the drone will not fly to the 1st waypoint and then wait for input. You have complete control from the moment the mission is uploaded to the drone.
2. Any manual change in altitude is not possible whilst the mission is active.
3. Should you stop the mission at any point to change altitude and restart it, it won’t continue from the point you stopped it at.
The following video goes over this in more detail.