A Two-Thumbed Gamer’s Perspective on Drone Flight Control • Fluidity

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A Two-Thumbed Gamer’s Perspective on Drone Flight Control

You could say I’m relatively new to the drone world, but in terms of “flying” with 2-thumb controllers in the gaming universe, I count myself among the oldest living examples.

Since the first day I opened my Christmas present almost 40 years ago to find an Atari 2600, I became an instant gamer. I very quickly learned that the key to supremacy and dominating the kids in my neighborhood was mastery of the controller. Through the years, I’ve owned practically every major game console, from Intellivision to NES, from Sega Genesis to Nintendo 64, and more recently to the Xbox line of consoles. Throughout my 20’s and mid 30’s I played every chance I had, often starting Friday night marathons that ended late into the night on Sundays. In my late 30’s, I still dominated in online arena play, but then came kids, when my passion for gaming had to be put on very low heat (as I wouldn’t ever concede relegating it completely to the back burner).

With this much experience with two-thumbed controllers, my first flight experience with a +$1K drone might have been very different from many other first-time drone pilots. For me it was like riding a bike, and I was able to work out the rust with a few minutes of live flight. However, I know from my 4 decades of experience in gaming that unless I’m spending dozens (and yes, even hundreds) of hours on the two-thumbed drone controller every month, I won’t be proficient at moving in 3-axes, much less moving in all 4-axes, plus the additional camera control.

In gaming, you can quickly spot the novice in arena play because s/he enters the room with their gun pointed at the floor or at the sky, as a result of being task saturated: most handle 2-axis movement really well (left-right and forward-backward), but adding the gun reticle and other controls is overwhelming. Becoming proficient in three or more axes of control requires a lot of training on a 2-thumbed controller, and it’s a perishable skill: if you don’t play often, you end up the prey rather than the hunter. In drone flight, the same generalizations apply. For example, you can get any novice DJI drone pilot to hold altitude and only move forward-backward and in combination with left-right. You can teach them to fly a circle or ellipse with only a few minutes training. Add a 3rd axis and they slow down their movements significantly. Add a 4th axis and camera tilt and you better be ready to take over controls.

One of the first glimpses we had into the many benefits of our drone flight controller came when we asked my wife to take our second generation prototype for a spin 18 months ago. I married for love and not as a chance to gain a lifelong gaming buddy. Despite my failed attempts to teach her many years ago, the two-thumbed controller just wasn’t her thing. 

For the flight test, we launched the Phantom 3 into the air and gave my wife a 30-second lesson on how to operate the controls. My wife was aware that the DJI drone we were flying was worth more than my monthly tech start-up salary. So, with trembling hands and hesitation, she took our prototype in her hands and took over controls. At first, she moved the drone slowly in single axes: up-down, left-right, forward-backward, and yaw. Once she understood the pure motion of her actions along each axis, she began to move in multiple axes. Within 5 minutes, she started to move in more than 2 axes and within 10 minutes, she moved into more complex 3-axis & 4-axis flight. She was flying figure 8’s, ascending and descending spirals and circles while changing altitude. She couldn’t do more than 2-axis movement with a traditional controller, and here she was now doing very complex maneuvers with just 30 seconds of instruction and 10 minutes of total lifetime flight time.

Our tests during the summer of 2017 also allowed us to see proficient commercial drone pilots demonstrate advanced flight skills in all 4-axes of flight. We’re confident that the FT Aviator will help you elevate your flight control skills with minimal training, and also give you more intuitive access to camera controls. Whether you are a novice, on the fence about buying a $800+ DJI drone for fear of crashing it, or an advanced drone pilot, the FT Aviator is your solution for accelerating proficiency while minimizing training time.

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