One of the companies that makes multirotor R/C aircraft and parts released a spectacular new accessory. Called Ground Station, it’s a small set of hardware parts and software that truly permits autonomous flight of their aircraft. With Ground Station, the pilot can sit down with a map display and determine a course to fly for the mission, simply by tapping the screen each place he or she wants a GPS waypoint. Then you can set what altitude the aircraft should be when it reaches the waypoint, the speed it travels from waypoint to waypoint, and allows certain functions to take place at or between the waypoints. For instance, you could fly it over to a particular place and have it circle a set number of times, taking video or still images as it orbits. Very sexy stuff.
Of course, this is not truly autonomous flight. For that to happen would require the aircraft to have a larger group of sensors, the means to identify categories of items, and be able to determine what actions, if any, to take in response. That’s one of the reasons that the worries about recreational spying are ill founded. For the next eight or more years, we simply won’t have the technology to operate drones outside of our line of sight and considering the cost of these puppies, no one is going to risk a mission where its a 90 percent chance the drone won’t make it back but will crash along the way. That, and we don’t have batteries that permit any real length of flight. Still, within our direct vision, it’s kind of cool to be able to have a kind of 3D train set where we can change the track layout at will and watch our little engine chug around. It’s especially nifty for those who through disability of ineptitude struggle with flying the aircraft. The little internal computer inside keeps it stable, pointed the right way, and at the right height for us. We get to bask in the admiration of our audience as we look good. Wink. Wink.
The only drawback to this awe inspiring breakthrough in recreational flight is that the Ground Station requires an Apple iPad. For some reason the engineers are DJI decided to go with a smaller marketplace than offered by Android and a device six times as expensive. Considering the absolute genius of the Ground Station accessory, it must be a savant kind of thing because choosing the iPad was a totally cognition challenged thinking. I don’t mean to be impolite, but the word ‘retard’ comes to mind.
It was thinking about the high price tag that decided me that I should get more value out of my iPad than just a controller for the Ground Station. Since Apple is supposed to have such nifty video abilities, I decided that I would use these features to process the no doubt spectacular video I would generate with my aerial video platform. Thus armed with iMovie, I set about to make some super nifty videos with footage I’d already taken over the summer. And ran into an absolute stone wall. Even though I was supposed to be able to import video from iTunes and Dropbox into my iPad, I was damned if I could find away. I searched the forums and knowledge bases, the Genius Bars and other sources of Apple wisdom and totally failed. Oh, I could create the shared folders just fine, it’s just that the clips I put into them were only visible to the device that put them there. Thus the files from my PC were available to the PC but not the iPad. The clips I put there with the iPad were invisible to the PC. I kept getting the message that the format I was trying to use was not compatible. Hrmmmm. So I made copies of the clips as MOV, AVI, WMV, MP4, MPEG and more but apparently every single standard video format in use was not compatible.
It’s too bad too. Both iMovie and an app I purchased called Vizzywig offered some very excellent and cool features. I mean, super professional. But they weren’t very useful without being able to import clips. I figure that once I am using Ground Station and the video and stills I generate will be sourced i the iPad that I might get some use out of the video abilities, but still, I have to say that creating a system so restrictive as to be useless hardly meets with the supposed legendary mind of Steve Jobs. I can just picture him sitting at his desk, wearing his black turtleneck and he strokes his chin and says “What the people want, and I mean truly want, is a device so elitist and effete that it would not deign to accept the riff-raff of standard formats.” And his circle of admirer’s would all applaud and mumble to one another how their guru’s intellect was so off the charts that no one could possibly understand his genius.
To the vast unwashed, those poor slobs like me who think that the things we buy should work, and the more expensive things we buy should work better,could not possible stand in the shadow of such out of the box and non-intuitive thinking so pervasive in Apple-land. While it labels me as totally declasse’, I would prefer to buy the less expensive technology of Android and demonstrate my low IQ demands of compatibility by experiencing success rather than trying to accept the ego stroking of owning a members only product that doesn’t allow members.