As easy as it is to operate a drone, perfecting some of the more subtle flight techniques can be more complicated than they seem. It would seem that DJI figured out a few key things about us as humans – we like technology, we like photography, we like drones, we love those awesome aerial videos, and we do not want to practice to become great.
Instant gratification is in the palm of your hand with the DJI Mavic series of drones, plus the Spark and some of the Phantom drones, with these self-piloted flight features called Quickshot. Four autonomous flight modes started it off by being just a tap away, more have been added since, getting you those epic selfie drone videos without having to learn how to fly.
When you are all done recording Quickshot has a super easy editing tool that will automatically create short, shareable video clips, including music.
Drone Law: You must keep your drone within line-of-site, even if it’s flying itself.
From a relatively low hover with the camera facing straight down, the drone simply flies straight up. This is absolutely the easiest mode to perform manually, at least with a quality drone. The resulting video offers a great sense of environment, slowly revealing the area around the subject.
Offering the same idea, focusing on a subject and pulling away to reveal the world around it. In this case, you are supposed to be the subject, ‘Dronie’ playing on the word ‘selfie,’ of course, the Spark is a great addition to our Selfie drones list, after all. The drone starts near you, facing horizontally at you, it then flies backward and slowly upward. You remain the center of the frame, but the world is revealed around you, including the horizon and sky this time.
A familiar mode to anyone that’s watched a Bad Boys movie. Keeping the subject in the center of the frame, the camera slowly circles around, hence the name. This is a very difficult flight to perform manually, balancing just the right amount of yaw with the right amount of ‘strafing’ sideways.
Where the other modes thus far benefit from a starting point close to you and/or the ground, Circle can be successfully performed from most starting points. Whether you are going for that epic close up with the camera circling you, or from afar so that you are but a speck in your environment, Circle will look great.
Ready for something a little more complex? Helix, in a way, combines above flight modes into one impressive movement. Think of Helix as an upgraded Dronie, start close to yourself, the drone will back away from you, slowly rising upward, but it also begins to circle you. This is as close to that epic Hollywood helicopter shot as you’ll get.
Let’s see some of that in action:
The Mavic Air has a new software trick it uses to capture a 32MP panoramic image, it can turn this image into what looks like was captured by a 360 degree camera. Combining this sphere with a a swoop into yourself, the resulting video is really slick. Stay tuned to the site for coverage of how this works, we’ll have our review unit soon.
As the name implies, Boomerang is an extension of the Circle flight mode above. Instead of just circling you, however, it starts close, works its way out and brings it back in. Seriously, if you’ve seen how a boomerang flies, you have a pretty good idea how Boomerang works in the Quickshot flight mode.
Let’s see those in action through this video:
DJI has equipped nearly all of their drones with forward facing object detection sensors, some have more sensors, but not all. Most of these new automated modes fly the drone backward or sideways, which means you may not be protected from backing into a tree or wall. Keep your controller at the ready, and an eye on the machine, just in case.
Also, please note that under normal rules, these drones are heavy enough that they need to be registered with the FAA. Even if you grab the Mavic Mini, or other that do not need to be registered, they are still aircraft, you must still follow the rules of the sky! You still cannot fly over top of people, near airports and stuff like that.
Editing and sharing your video
Quickshot makes your final product super simple. For each Quickshot flight you take, the app will produce a short video, including fun music. All you have to do is click Share, and your friends and family on your favorite social network will get to enjoy your production.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sadly, no, the only way to initiate the Quickshot modes is within the DJI GO 4 or DJI Fly apps. They are treated as advanced camera modes, although they do maneuver the drone a little. Some of the modes are not one-click actions, requiring you to choose options or highlight an object to track on the screen.
In terms of piloting the drone, you can probably fly the same patterns just as well, if not better, than Quickshots can do. However, positioning the drone perfectly to gather the frames for a panoramic shot, as is done in the Asteroid mode, if nothing else, is not something you’ll be able to do manually, as the system is not designed to stitch your shots together like that. Aside from that, I encourage you to try manually flying the same routes, it’s great to see pilots develop their skills in the sky!
Many drone manufacturers offer some automated flight modes on some of their drones, each are different, and each has strengths and weaknesses, but most are similar actions. DJI’s Asteroid mode is quite unique, and the vision-sensor based hand-gesture controls of the Spark and Mavic Air were two of a kind when they first launched. The number of tools available in DJI’s Quickshots exceeds the offerings of many of the competitors, if that matters to you.
The FAA does not explicitly say that you have to be holding your controller while your drone is in the air, however, if anything goes wrong up there, you could face fines and be charged with reckless endangerment. Think of a car on the road, in many states it is not illegal to remove your hands from the steering wheel, but you are still 100% responsible for what the car does on the road.