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Review of Autoflight Logic's "Autopilot" app for iOS
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i_anderson
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Hey,

Prompted by Jerrys request for comments on this app, here we go;

A truly wonderful addition for any DJI Phantom V2+ pilot who wants solid Autopilot functions for their bird. The documentation (mainly the “Flight School” information) is well written and very thorough as long as you take your time to read & understand the different modes available. They suggest running thru the different modes in order as they are progressively "more advanced".

Starting at the beginning;

There are two modes under "human flight control" - "Black Box" & "Focus".

Black Box is certainly the place to start to gain some confidence in what it's doing. Which is "simply" displaying the telemetry - Battery level, altitude, distance, speed & heading. It also shows # of sats, but that's a little small and will be changed in an upcoming release - I really like to be able to quickly confirm the # of sats she's seeing, and while it's there, it's in a tiny font. [The same applies to heading, and I'm hopeful this "status" screen will get a slightly different layout soon.] Unfortunately, it cannot display "space left on SD card" and "RE battery level" due to a bug in the DJI SDK.

Next up is "Gimbal control". You're still flying the bird, but it will do it's best to keep the camera pointed at "you" (The iPhone/iPad running the app.) - You remain responsible for getting it pointed at you, but if you can do that the camera will tilt further down as you fly closer to overhead. Then, as it passes, yaw the bird 180 degrees and it will tilt towards horizontal as it goes away. Works flawlessly.

Next up is "Computer flight control", and here we have three modes:

1. "Hover" - Specify the altitude for the hover and Autopilot takes control of yaw to keep it pointing at you.  Very nice, and again works great.
2. "Follow" - Specify the bearing angle (either absolute or course), altitude & distance and she'll follow you. One note here is that due to the way the iPhone works your "phone" must be moving at more than 3mph or the bird will drift around as the data from the phone is "unreliable" at such low speeds. I haven't tested this mode as I haven't been moving at more than 3mph when using the app! I'm hoping to hijack a golf cart "soon" to test this mode.
3. "Orbit" - This is the mode that really attracted me to this app. Again, specify altitude, distance (the radius) and leading angle relative to the phone. The bird will then orbit around "you" (or whoever has the phone running the app) at the specified alt & distance. The default lead angle is 5degs, which seemed to result in a pretty slow orbit. Next flight I uppped it to 15degs and it was going too fast for me! 10degs seemed about right for my (100/150ft) radius. I need to do some more testing on the relationship between radius & lead angle, but again, it worked flawlessly keeping "me" in the middle of the frame. Very, very, nice IMO.

Finally, it offers "Combined flight control", two modes:

1. "Intercept" - Paraphrasing their Flight School; "Point your iOS device in any direction as if it were a laser pointer. The bird will intersect the imaginary laser created by your device." Specify min altitude (so it will fly above your laser if you point too low), direct distance (how far along the laser to the intercept point) and whether you want it track subsequent movements. Note that you can pause at any time. I haven't tested this mode yet, but am thinking it should be a great way to get the bird to wherever you want - Kind of an "advanced" orbit function where you can specify where she goes at any time.

2. "Mimic" - Another I haven't yet tested. Again, from the flight school; "Tilt your iOS device in any direction. The bird will mimic the tilting motion of the iOS device to the directed pitch & roll. The yaw strategy determines if it will match your iOS devices heading or point at your iOS device." Another mode that I think will be very useful in specific circumstances that I haven't thought of yet......

In summary, I've found this app to be doing *exactly* what it claims without any glitches at all. It has simply done what I asked it to.

Downsides? None that I've found so far - it just flat out works. It would be nice if it allowed me to initiate the compass dance prior to flight as the DJI Vision app does - I hate the idea of toggling switches like a lunatic and always initiate the dance from the DJI app.

No "Ground Station" style mission planning. If you want that, the DJI app is (currently) the way to go - Although I don't like that I can't plan (and save) missions ahead of time. I guess the developer is thinking "why duplicate the work DJI have already done?" Only that I'd prefer to use just one app rather than starting one (for the compass dance) then shut that down and start Autopilot.

All in all, a *very* satisifed customer that hasn't experienced any problems with it.

HTH, Cheers,
Ian

2015-4-10
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trsmith18
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definitely interested in this app, waiting to pull the trigger until I get some more experience flying, but love the follow and orbit functions
2015-4-10
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jtrjr
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Ian,

Thank you very much for your detailed analysis. I may just give it a try and will only do so because of your willingness to share your experiences. Do you know if they are using Alpa or Beta groups. I'm only asking because I haven't seen anything about them doing such. Personally, I like knowing that a developer is working very closely with the community.

Thanks again, I owe you one!

Jerry
2015-4-10
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autoflightlogic
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-11 11:21
Ian,

Thank you very much for your detailed analysis. I may just give it a try and will only do so b ...

Jerry-

We have almost 70 people in our beta group at this time. Would you like to join? Send an email  to support@autoflightlogic.com with your Apple ID email address. We would love your feedback on future versions.

-Jim
2015-4-11
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agrasso9
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Autoflight-

I would be very interested in beta tests. I basically and for a few other reasons bought my phantom 2v+ because I had seen your app and the features it allowed.

2015-4-11
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jtrjr
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autoflightlogic Posted at 2015-4-11 20:29
Jerry-

We have almost 70 people in our beta group at this time. Would you like to join? Send an e ...

Jim,

I may be interested in the Beta after I've at least put the bird in the air with it. If the wind doesn't blow me out, I may get an opportunity or two this weekend. Is there a place to see more input from the beta group or somewhere I can view more from actual consumers using AutoPilot? I know the beta may be a closed forum for those that are signed up and participating. I haven't been able to find much info from people who have actually deployed the product. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places? Obviously, I've seen many of Ian's postings on this site regarding other facets of The Phantom so his willingness to provide positive feedback on your product gives me some comfort.

Jerry
2015-4-11
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i_anderson
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-11 11:21
Ian,

Thank you very much for your detailed analysis. I may just give it a try and will only do so b ...

Whoa!.... "Don't blame me", "YMMV", "Use at your own risk", "must be over 18", etc, etc! [ J/K - I think you'll love it!]

Full disclosure (Should probably have mentioned this in the OP) I purchased the app and then contacted Jim with some feedback/questions which he answered really quickly and I copied into the "other" thread.

He subsequently asked if I'd like to join the beta team, and I said "sure!" Reminds me that I've still owe him a review in the app store - 5 stars & some positive comments coming soon.

One thing to remember when you do try it; In all the "computer assisted" modes (ie, everything except "Black Box") after you tap "Disengage" you must remember to toggle S1 to ATTI for a moment, then back to GPS/ATTI to regain complete control. It is in the docs, just a friendly reminder! [Don't ask me how I know this!..... ;) ]

Actually, Jim, I guess this is a "limitation" in the SDK? Would be nice if "we" didn't need to remember that - Once disengaged, it's, well, disengaged....

Cheers,
Ian
PS -
2015-4-11
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autoflightlogic
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agrasso9- Email support@autoflightlogic.com and we will add you.

Jerry- Most of the communication is happening via Facebook, Twitter and email. For example, when we have users posting new videos or comments, we try to share them on our Facebook group and Twitter account. We are considering setting up a forum on our website, but then it will be another forum to keep track of. Any suggestions?

Ian- Yes, its actually a limitation of the firmware on the Phantom. Any time something starts sending commands to the drone, such as the failsafe fly/home function, you have to switch to atti and back to regain control
2015-4-11
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i_anderson
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Jim,

I think your own, dedicated, forum on your site would be a great idea!  [And *please* use VBulletin, not whatever this crap is here! ;) ]

I may be a dinosaur, but shutdown my FB page long ago (too much BS for me!) and have never tweeted in my life!

I understand your comment about keeping track of many forums, but having your own dedicated to Autopilot would become the "go to" resource for the app with "dense", high quality information. This forum in particular has so much traffic (noise? ;)) and a crappy search function that much useful stuff simply gets lost. You could (obviously) also have "private" sub forum(s) for testing information etc that you don't want to be public too.
Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-11
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jtrjr
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autoflightlogic Posted at 2015-4-12 00:00
agrasso9- Email  and we will add you.

Jerry- Most of the communication is happening via Facebook, T ...


Agree with Ian. No Facestuff, no twitting, Instapicing, Chatting with Snappers around here either. The good old forum works for me. Heck it reminds of the old days, remember? MS-DOS and the green texted BBS's! Has worked since then just evolved a bit more. I would love to read more from some of your users before becoming a test pilot for another app. I'm feeling like a lost pilot popping around from squadron to squadron on TAD.

Jim, I do however, thank you for your quick and informative responses. That's what I was speaking about in some of my previous posts.

Thank you,

Jerry
2015-4-11
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jtrjr
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i_anderson@iclo Posted at 2015-4-12 00:22
Jim,

I think your own, dedicated, forum on your site would be a great idea!  [And *please* use VBul ...

Ian,

It just hit me! Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull! Couldn't put a finger on it, just hit me.

Jerry
2015-4-11
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i_anderson
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-12 04:32
Ian,

It just hit me! Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull! Couldn't put a finger on it, just hit me.



Unfortunately, not one-and-the-same..... Would be cool though - he owns an awesome castle and trout farm up in Scotland that I guess would be a *great* location to shoot at!

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-13
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jtrjr
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i_anderson@iclo Posted at 2015-4-14 00:56
Unfortunately, not one-and-the-same..... Would be cool though - he owns an awesome castle and  ...

Ian,

No, I wasn't suggesting that I thought it was you! Just that the name seemed oddly familiar to me and I couldn't put my finger on it until Tull came into my mind.

Jerry
2015-4-13
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info
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In orbit mode, can you make it orbit around a specified POI rather than the remote control?
In follow-me mode, what happens if the target moves downhill / uphill? Will the Phantom match the new altitudes?
2015-4-13
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i_anderson
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info@dronealps. Posted at 2015-4-14 01:37
In orbit mode, can you make it orbit around a specified POI rather than the remote control?
In follo ...

Short answer, as of now, "no".

However, a "mode" is described under the "advanced" section in their flightschool where you detach the RE and phone - Put those wherever you want the POI to be and it will orbit around them. Obviously, you as the pilot can't "see" any telemetry or battery levels etc, so you've got to be "careful" that RTH is set properly and so on.

As noted above, I'm planning on stashing them under the "altar" (it's not, but you get the idea) at my sons upcoming wedding in France next month. I stay deep in the background, at the home point and trust it to come back when the battery gets low. Am actually planning to test this in the next day or so.

As for your second Q, good one - I honestly don't know, sorry! However, he strongly recommends the "latest" iPhone/Pads as they have a barometer that is much more accurate than that from the GPS  - *Maybe* (just a WAG), that AGL data is indeed used to maintain the specified height.

Hopefully Jim will be along soon to clarify.

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-13
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i_anderson
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-14 01:05
Ian,

No, I wasn't suggesting that I thought it was you! Just that the name seemed oddly familiar  ...

Understood.

Somewhat surprisingly, I still get a couple of messages per year thanking me for my music, from my "#1 fans"!.... Used to be on the pager (remember those? ;)) but still sometimes on the voice mail!

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-13
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Raybro
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-12 04:16
Agree with Ian. No Facestuff, no twitting, Instapicing, Chatting with Snappers around here either. ...

Heehee....had to laugh Jerry. Bet you had a Commodore 64 too. No tweeting, snappers, Facebook for me either. Got too much else to keep track of. I'm glad to be an old fart.

Sorry I was not on topic..Jerry's comment got me laughing.
2015-4-13
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jtrjr
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Raybro Posted at 2015-4-14 07:45
Heehee....had to laugh Jerry. Bet you had a Commodore 64 too. No tweeting, snappers, Facebook for  ...

Speak for yourself Ray...

"I'm glad to be an old fart."

Ya see, I'm still a Coooool Cat!!!

Jerry

2015-4-13
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i_anderson
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Original DEC VT100 here. Connected to a 300baud modem and the POTS line.....

Thence to Usenet.

Those were the days! ;)

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-13
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Raybro
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-14 09:46
Speak for yourself Ray...

"I'm glad to be an old fart."

Right on Jerry!
2015-4-13
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jtrjr
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i_anderson@iclo Posted at 2015-4-14 09:50
Original DEC VT100 here. Connected to a 300baud modem and the POTS line.....

Thence to Usenet.

Ian,

Now your talking! How 'bout the Compaq Portable with the mini crt built into it with dual floppies and a 10MB hard drive! Wordstar and VisiCalc! Carried that sucker through many an airport!

Jerry
2015-4-14
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kirk2579
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i_anderson@iclo Posted at 2015-4-14 01:57
Short answer, as of now, "no".

However, a "mode" is described under the "advanced" section in the ...

please let us know how the video of this event turns out etc.

I have my daughters beach wedding I hope to do the same or similar in July.

I have been figuring at the rate of improvements with the apps like Kens and this , by then should be easy. I hope.

have fun flying
2015-4-14
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i_anderson
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-14 21:42
Ian,

Now your talking! How 'bout the Compaq Portable with the mini crt built into it with dual fl ...

Dude! I had one those too - Put Interactive (and/or SCO) Unix on it to demo our stuff at customer sites - Jack in to their network and freak 'em out with their lack of security!..... Man, that sucker got to be *heavy* by about the second airport!

Anyway, I'm trying to post my very first YT vid to demo "orbit" mode. It's about 2:28 (double speed) and I believe I exported it from iMovie on the iPad at 720p. Was originally shot in 1080p, before I'd read the wisdom of Rod & his cat.

It (claims to have!) been uploading for over an hour. The "slider" seems all complete, but it's still there as if it's tidying up or something? I saw the slider moving for about an hour, but it's been static for about 15 minutes now - Is this "normal"?

First time, it got to about 25% and I tried to do "other things" on the pad - Seems it didn't like that at all and I had to start the upload again - So this time, I'm leaving it alone - But for how long? I 'm kinda "scared" to touch it, but this seems silly....... Comments?
2015-4-15
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jtrjr
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Ian,

It should complete, show completed and have a blue button in the upper right hand corner that say's DONE. Before you mess with it and have to start over just bring up another (separate) instance of your YouTube page. It should show there if it's done. I've had that happen to me before only to find out it had completed and the original page had just timed out of froze. SCO/Unix, been there and done that!

Jerry
2015-4-15
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i_anderson
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Yeah, that's pretty much what I figured. Thanks!

Logged in to my YT Channel (& found something it appears I uploaded 5 years back!....)

But, unfortunately, no "orbit" video.

It's now been over an hour since the slider stopped..... Only option is the dreaded "x" to cancel out of it.

Anyone know what the chances are that it can "pick up where it left off"?

I still haven't stopped it, but this is getting silly!

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-15
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jtrjr
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Ian,

No, I just can't tell you for sure. I don't know if it's necessary but I always turn off the hibernation and screen saver when I upload to YouTube. If the file is large, I've had issues similar to what you're having. I also leave the computer alone while it's uploading. I don't use it for anything else until it's done. I've started just doing the uploads late in the evening so that it has time to upload without the whole family doing things on the Wifi. I've only got bout 10mbs download and 1mbs upload speed so uploading takes a while. Wish I had a better answer for you.

Jerry
2015-4-15
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i_anderson
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-16 07:45
Ian,

No, I just can't tell you for sure. I don't know if it's necessary but I always turn off the h ...

No problem - Appreciate the efforts

My wifi is currently just my Mac & the iPad running iMovie.... I'm at the G/F's, so aren't a 100% on speed, but all else seems good. Darn! ***Stamps***feet***.

It's not the most "riveting" video - Unless you're interested in orbit mode. ;)

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-15
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i_anderson
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Also meant to note - Good call on disabling screen lock - Having said that, it locked ( & recovered) a few times in the first hour!.....

If it's not done when I visit it next, it's the big 'x".....

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-15
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i_anderson
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Seems the G/F may be an ex-G/F soon unless she can get her broadband fixed!

Moved elsewhere, and tried again - the export & upload took maybe 5 minutes!.....

Some notes;
- it's at 2x speed
- I * think* I was at 100' alt, and initially at 100' radius, then increased to 150'. But I'm not 100%....
- The 'early' shot (thru about 1min) was at 15deg leading. At 2x, this is obviously too fast! Sorry if it makes you sick!
- around that time I increased the radius and slowed it down to 10degs. Much less puke inducing. (The default is 5, but that seemed really slow)
- iMovie added the Muzak. I guess it could be worse.

Enjoy!..... Drum roll....

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=I93j79j7GEA

Jim - Dunno if you're reading, but before I forget, would be nice if the 'settings' (in this case, lead angle, height & radius) remained after app shutdown rather than (I think?) returning to defaults. I'd at least have had a record of how I finished. ;)

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-15
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jtrjr
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Ian,

Glad you got it! Yeah, you might need a better GF, at least 8-10Mbs I think. The video is sharp, picture looks great. I really like these concepts but I think maybe I'm looking for too much from them. You're right, the 2x was a bit much but what it did do was accentuate the kind of jerkiness that the mode has. Obviously much less pronounced when at 1x. Overall really cool but I don't know if it's prime-time yet. Then again, like I said earlier, maybe the expectation is too high at this point. Is that the regular purchased version or a beta? No GS yet, right? I've got the regular version installed on my iPad Mini and my iPhone 6, I'm just wrapping up all my packing so I can spend most of the day tomorrow traveling around a bit and flying. I've got to see how everything works bouncing around from place to place with the car before I give the Motorcycle a go. Maybe I'll try to play around with some of it when I'm out and about. I really like some of the things it's intending to do but whether it will really be able to do them is another story. Ian, Thanks so much for doing some testing and providing some feedback. I'll do the same if I break it out.

Jerry
2015-4-15
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jtrjr
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Getting failure to register with DJI message. Any quick help? I'm back to a my wifi but still won't work. Today's flight day and I don't have the time to read the manual again right now. Any help would be appreciated.

Jerry
2015-4-16
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jtrjr
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Still a no go on the registration. I read the flight school stuff and am doing as instructed. Rebooted iPad Mini. Restarted app, same thing. Any thoughts? Going to give it up in about half an hour and go back to flying with different app. Can't waste the good weather.

Jerry
2015-4-16
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autoflightlogic
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-17 02:42
Still a no go on the registration. I read the flight school stuff and am doing as instructed. Reboot ...

Jerry- Sometimes a delete/reinstall of the app can get you out of a registration failure loop.

-Jim
2015-4-16
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jtrjr
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Might have been a bad idea to try this today. Uninstalled app, reinstalled app, apparently working now. I get the black box and the engage/disengage button. No sat maps. Put on wifi network can't even get to black box screen to view maps. Going on the road and want to cache maps. Doesn't look like I can do. Going to try a few more things then give up for today. Maybe try again another day.

Jerry
2015-4-16
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jtrjr
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Bagging it for today.

Jerry
2015-4-16
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i_anderson
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jtrjr@yahoo.com Posted at 2015-4-16 11:49
Ian,

Glad you got it! Yeah, you might need a better GF, at least 8-10Mbs I think.  The video is s ...

Agreed on her bandwidth needs! ;)

Never had any app registration issues, but I've only installed it twice (V1.0 closely followed by v1.1. Yes, the released version btw.)

As for 'expectations', looking at it again, I certainly didn't do it any favors by making the vid 2x speed. Also, and you can't really see it in the vid, it was pretty windy. I think she was struggling a little to keep the nose pointed in on occasion. Although I was in GPS mode, I could tell the 'upwind' from the 'downwind' legs of the flight.

I'm hoping to have another go real soon without wind. In a spot where I can keep her a little lower & with a larger radius. I'm not sure, but reckon all factors will help with 'steadiness'.

Cheers,
Ian
2015-4-17
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jtrjr
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i_anderson@iclo Posted at 2015-4-17 22:36
Agreed on her bandwidth needs! ;)

Never had any app registration issues, but I've only installed  ...

Ian,

Yeah, perfect weather here yesterday. No wind! Still as could be. At the last minute I figured I'd give it a go so I wasn't really properly prepared. I had packed everything up in my ATV and headed out to an empty pasture. Got everything set-up and flew the DJI app for a few minutes just to make sure all was good. Brought her in and tried to bring up AutoPilot and got the registration error message. I figured between my iPhone 6 and my iPad mini I should be able to get some kind of connection even if it was with cellular. Fumbled around for a bit. No luck, couldn't get it to do anything. Loaded everything back up and came back to the house, connected to wifi, same message. Fumbled around with it in the house for a while (the weather is perfect!), dropped a few posts here hoping someone might be hanging around. Did the uninstall/ reinstall thing and got past the error. Had everything going on my table here and thought I was good to go. My friend (1 of 2) showed up and we took off. Got to a good location, Flew in Black Box for a few minutes without any sat maps. For me, a bit funky. Maybe just because I'm so used to the more "traditional" view of the other apps. Decided to bring her down and try the orbit thing, switched to orbit and got a similar message about having to get authorization. Tried mimic, same thing. Maybe because they were add-on purchases. Anyway, just decided to heck with it. Too nice a day to waste trying to figure it out. That in itself should be a bit of concern for the AutoPilot guys. IMO, even though I should have prepared better it shouldn't have been that much of a hassle. I mean it was $30, the high-end of the spectrum at this point. Also a question, when I was flying with Black Box I tried to figure out a way to expand the camera/FPV screen. Is there a way to do it or is that the only way it can be viewed? If that's the only view it won't work for me anyway. I bought this iPad Mini so I could get a good FPV of the camera. I want to be able to fly by the camera view if I get a ways out or if I'm trying to get in close on something. 1/4 of my iPad screen for FPV won't cut it for me. Anyway, thanks for all the juice.

As you say "Cheers",

Jerry
2015-4-17
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autoflightlogic
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Decided to bring her down and try the orbit thing, switched to orbit and got a similar message about having to get authorization. Tried mimic, same thing. Maybe because they were add-on purchases.

As you say, this is a different issue than the DJI registration error. However, both issues can be caused by a lack of network connectivity. Apple requires that you are connected to the internet to complete in-app purchases, so there isn't much we can do to fix it. We chose to go with in-app upgrades in order to offer the base app for a lower entry price. Many people just want follow-me, and making them pay for modes they don't need doesn't feel right.

Is there a way to do it or is that the only way it can be viewed?

We are looking at redesigning some of the screens for the next version. The main request we have been receiving is for the telemetry overlay on all parts of the engaged screen. The original idea behind the engaged screen design was that, most of the time, the app is in autonomous mode, so the camera is less relevant than telemetry and flight controls. We wanted these to be big, bold numbers with no distractions - the idea being that you would want to know exactly what Autopilot is trying to do with your Phantom, trusting that it was handling the framing. Obviously, this assumption makes less sense in the Black Box and Focus modes, so it may make sense to provide more than one engaged screen layout, depending on the mode or your preference. If you are looking for something specific, please let us know soon as we will be working on this in the next few weeks.
2015-4-21
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autoflightlogic
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autoflightlogic Posted at 2015-4-21 21:58
As you say, this is a different issue than the DJI registration error. However, both issues can be  ...

Check out the redesigned Flight Dashboard here: http://autoflightlogic.com/beta/ ... ol#flight-dashboard
2015-6-27
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JtrJr-UAV Pilot
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Flight distance : 4341 ft
United States
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autoflightlogic Posted at 2015-6-28 02:57
Check out the redesigned Flight Dashboard here: http://autoflightlogic.com/beta/autopilotphantom/f ...

Who might I ask is this now? Long time, no hear nothing! I may be willing to take another look but you need to provide some highlights first. Give me the lowdown before I take the time to test it. What's new? How is it better? who's running the show over there? I'm not wasting a day of flying without some promo's again. I'm very glad for all of the insight that Ian was so willing to provide but for me it was an absolute waste of a good flying day. A one line response after a valiant attempt on my part ain't gonna cut it. Especially after all of this time. You guys are really slow to the plate. I shelled out $30 and get a one line "check it out" response after all I did to help. You're gonna have to do way better than that. Get someone else to fly a perfect weather day and show the results. Then maybe, just maybe, I'll reinvest myself. Until you do so, as the NY and Jersey guys would say, forgetaboutit!

No disrespect intended,

Jerry
2015-6-27
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