New app lets drone pilots customize flight path and camera movement before takeoff

Capturing cinema-quality aerial footage with a drone takes more than just an eye for photography and a few hours of flight training. More often than not, it takes an expert pilot, sometimes along with a professional photographer, to control the camera and avoid crashing the drone into its subject. There’s a bit of a learning curve, so to help bridge the gap between novices and experts, a team of computer graphics PhD students at Stanford University have developed an algorithm that levels the playing field by combining flight planning and camera control in one package.

Similar to existing 3D animation apps that provide smart camera controls to help position a virtual camera in an animation scene, the drone software Horus provides pilots with tools that allow them to plan a flight and position the camera before lift-off. The interactive app allows users to control the motion of a camera during fight by specifying key frames in a video and assigning the proper camera orientation for each frame. The app also takes the physical limitations of the drone into account when it plans a flight, allowing the user to capture the best shot while still keeping the drone in the air.

Unlike existing flight planning tools that use a map-based view, the Stanford app provides a 3D camera preview of the footage and a 2D map of the flight to help users preview their video in Google Earth.”The real video footage is faithful to the virtual preview shown in our app,” said app co-creator Mike Roberts to Engadget. “The workflow is similar to how an animator at Pixar might set up a camera path for an animated movie.”

Drone photography professionals may disagree, but the Stanford team believes the tool has the potential to make pre-scripted aerial cinematography available to novice drone operators. “There are a hundred problems that our app doesn’t solve,” says Roberts. “But for the domain of pre-scripted aerial cinematography, we’ve made a step forward. You can use our app to express yourself and you don’t have to know how to fly a drone to do it.”

Emerging Tech

Delivery drones: NASA to test advanced traffic control system for cities

Delivery drone services are edging closer as NASA prepares to demonstrate its advanced drone traffic management system, which it claims offers safe and effective control of autonomous aircraft in urban areas.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in February, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Photography

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Touchdown! Japan successfully lands its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency has just completed the latest stage of its extraordinarily complex mission, successfully landing its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on an asteroid millions of miles from Earth.
Emerging Tech

Kickstarter campaign aims to help make 3D-printed space habitats for Mars

Mars X-House is an ambitious project that's intended to create a prototype future Mars habitat using 3D printing. And, thanks to a new Kickstarter campaign, you can be a part of it.
Emerging Tech

Engineer turns his old Apple lle into an wheeled robot, and even gives it a sword

How do you give new life to a 30-year-old computer? Software engineer Mike Kohn found a way by transforming his old Apple IIe into a wheeled robot. Check it out in all its 1980s glory.