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Ground Station Pro, not for us

March 27, 2018

Ground Station Pro:

DJI’s own mapping and industrial application app packs a punch of features in a DJI typical interface. Naturally, it connects only to DJI sUAV. It is available in version 1.8.1 for iOS only (version >9.3) and is free of charge. Well, there is some in app purchase for the addition of points of interest (POI, one time use 0.99$ or life time 9.99$) and a 49.99$ for import of Google earth files (.kml, .kmz, .shp, and others). The functionality of Ground Station Pro (GS Pro) proved to be rock solid. However, there is a lack of features that renders the software unusable for us, but more about that later. Because GS Pro is more of a mapping software, unlike Litchi, we compare it here with the other mapping tools. Let’s jump right into it.

 

What is GS Pro:

GS Pro is DJI’s answer for all commercial and industrial applications executed with sUAV. Here DJI is making up for the lack of advanced waypoint missions as compared to their Go4 app. On top, it features grid style missions indispensable for mapping and photogrammetry, where it offers adjustment of all critical parameters. Because GS Pro is capable of both, waypoints and grid missions, we will take a look at each of these features. We never purchased the POI package and hence cannot say anything about it. 

 

Advantages:

The biggest advantage in our opinion is that it is very stable and there were no shocking moments during our test flights, unlike with other apps. Another great thing is, that many of the settings regarding the aircraft that can be found in DJI’s Go4 app are also available in GS Pro. That makes it very convenient to set up the camera and adjust flight behaviour. Additionally, the FPV view closely resembles the view of the Go4 app. This makes it very comfortable to fly the drone manually and have an eye on all important telemetry data, like battery life, distance, and altitude. GS Pro also does a great job in calculating mission parameters, like duration, number of batteries, estimated number of pictures, and so on.

 

Disadvantages:

GS Pro is a great app, but there are many small things that just do not work out for us. So this list is going to be a little longer.

 

Setting up a mission can be challenging. That is because there is no direct numerical entry for a lot of the parameters. For example, if you wanted to set the flight altitude to exactly 100m you can either use the slider (good luck to enter a precise value that way!!) or tap on the number. You would expect the keyboard to pop up and to enter the desired value directly, right? Wrong! Instead, you are presented with a tiny plus and minus icon to increase or decrease the value in steps of 0.1 meters or 10 cm. That means, it will take about 10 valuable seconds to cycle from 80 m to the desired 100 m setting. Unfortunately DJI also does not offer a desktop application, which would make planning and setting up easier and more convenient.

 

Waypoints: Aircraft orientation and gimbal angle can be set manually for each waypoint, which is great. But unlike its competitors it is not possible in GS Pro to automatically orient the camera towards a POI in a waypoint mission. That makes it very cumbersome to have the camera shoot at something that is not directly on the flight path, not even talking about several POIs at different altitudes on the path. The in-app purchase of the POI package does not seem to salvage that problem. As said before, we never bought this package, but it seems to only allow circling around one POI at a time.

 

Grid missions: There is a minor downside to GS Pro’s grid missions, because there is no preset for double grid missions! However, this could be easily created with two grids setup perpendicular to each other (which the parameters allow for). We feel this is too cumbersome and the precision we require is hard to achieve.

The second problem with grid missions is that the aircraft flies the mission differently than it does with the other apps. That is, when the craft reaches a turning point, it won’t turn, but fly sideways to the next leg of the grid. Here, it won’t turn either, but fly backwards through this leg of the grid. This can create rolling shutter problems when stitching the pictures. There might be workarounds for this  as well, like just flying sideways through the legs, or choose your shutter speed accordingly, but at that point we gave up.

 

The verdict:

DJI Ground Station Pro is a sturdy piece of software, as you would expect from the company that also provides the hardware and has access to all the technology behind it.  The integration of a Go4 like FPV screen is very welcome and makes manual flying as easy as possible. However, all the downsides regarding waypoint and grid missions render this piece unusable for us. We know that DJI is aware of a lot of these points but does not bother to fix it. There are also rumours that GS Pro will be discontinued, but we could not find any proof of this.

 

But, if you can live with these limitations, it is a recommended app for its stability.

 

DJI, if you are reading this, and you care, you could easily make GS Pro a top-notch mapping app catering to most, if not all, requirements out there in the real world.

 

- We edited this post as we learned from Wyatt Ferguson about the repeat and copy button

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