I recently reviewed the AR.Drone Qaudcopter, and had so much fun doing so I spent the next evening testing other applications on the iPhone/iPad for the device. One of the Apps is called Flight Record that put simply, turns your Drone into a ﬂying black box Flight Recorder.
During my second ﬂight testing Flight Record, everything went horribly wrong. The App allows you to record a ﬂight and take photos, whilst the Drone is in action. The user interface is very similar to Free Flight, but with a couple of extra buttons on the main screen, one to start recording video and a second to take a snapshot from the camera. During the disastrous ﬂight, video record was enabled and and a full instrument panel for pitch, roll and bearing on display.
During the ﬂight, a slight gust of wind lifted our Drone higher and higher, across neighboring rooftops, so high you can see the lights of Melbourne City. The recording stops as the wiﬁ connection cuts out. We spent the next hour searching for the Drone in nearby streets, holding up the iPhone desperately trying to locate a wiﬁ signal before the battery ran dry. All we had was the footage, recorded using Flight Record and no Drone.
The next day in the b2cloud ofﬁce as I shared the story with the team, Will had the idea to use another AR.Drone, iPad and a copy of Flight Record to conduct a search and rescue mission.
This time we tied 80 meters of string to the rescue Drone, and a coat hanger in order to catch and recover the lost Drone. Using Google Maps we did some basic calculations on the trajectory when we lost contact, and selected 6 points to launch and record footage to locate the lost Drone on surrounding rooftops.
With Will (an iOS programmer at the controls, and me holding the string wrapped around a rolling pin, we were ready to commence our search and rescue mission. We used Flight Record to capture the video and off we ﬂew.
The App is very good for its intended task, we were able to set it to record, use it to control the Drone, and quickly review our footage all within the App. The pictures captured were clear and fast to load on review which is important when the Drone has such short battery life. Typically when the Drone is out of sight, controlling it with Free Flight can be tricky as it lacks visual indicators on screen. Flight Record provides an excellent set of on screen dials including a pitch and roll indicator as well as compass to identify bearing. This means the craft can be operated without any direct visual contact.
After 30 minutes of ﬂight time, hours reviewing footage and a lot of hope in ﬁnding our precious Drone, our mission failed. Although we were sure it was not stuck on a roof, the likely conclusion was some lucky kid found it on the street and is having just as much fun as we had with it.
To sum up Flight Record, it is a simple application and really a must if you own the AR.Drone. In fact it should be the default App when piloting the Quadcopter to capture great video of the world from above.