Martin Rüedi's Posts (19)

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ILS for copter

The recently released Version 3.2 of my GCS FlightZoomer offers an automatic approach system, that is similar to the ILS for manned aviation. For plane it was working since last year but since copters can't just slip down the glideslope and then touch down with a lot of forward speed, the implemented procedure had to be changed as follows for copter:
❶ At first, Copters will stay in GUIDED mode and will descend on the glideslope towards the runway.
❷ The moment, when an altitude of 7m above ground will be reached, the descend will stop and the copter will continue in level flight until the begin of the runway is reached.
❸ At that point, forward speed will be cut to zero, and FlightZoomer will put the flight controller automatically in LAND mode.
❹ The ArduCopter LAND mode will then simply perform a straight down descend.

As you can see in the examples in the video (towards the end), the whole procedure works nicely and supports rather fast descends.

For what purpose could ILS approaches for copters be useful?

  • As any number of runways and glideslopes can be defined upfront in the FlightZoomer navigation database, the airspace can be structured to support flexible flight operations in changing conditions (different for plane vs copter, have runways for different wind directions).
  • The final descend can start in a controlled manner at a rather high altitude. There is no need to for a long descend in LAND mode.
  • Solution picks up terms and procedures of manned aviation.

More details can be found in the FlightZoomer User documentation:

Read more…

These days FlightZoomer 3.2 has been released which offers a number of new features:

  • Full stop ILS landings for copter.
  • Support for the affordable RTF drone Sky Viper.
  • Enhanced ROI handling with staged ROI's.
  • Predefined sweep times for gentle movements from one ROI to the next.
  • FlightZoomer own 3G telemetry depreciated. Support of Andruav for 3G telemetry instead.
  • And the most outstanding feature: ROI sequences

ROI sequences work like this

  • Like missions have waypoints, a ROI sequence has ROI's. The camera pans in one steady movement from the first ROI to the last ROI.
  • The trick is, that flown missions (flightplans in FlightZoomer terminology) are executed in synchronization with the ROI sequence. At each waypoint the camera will be pointing to the next ROI in the sequence!
  • ROI sequences can be planned and simulated with the in-built simulation feature (using the huge synthetic FPV screen).
  • ROI sequences can be stored so they can easily be repeated in the future.
  • As an alternative to the waypoint synchronization, ROI sequences can also be defined time based. For time-based ROI sequences, the sweep time in seconds is simply defined per ROI.
  • Get an impression in the video above, how precise the same footage can be repeated and how seamless you can blend between different shots of the same ROI sequence.
  • Documentation of ROI sequences


 Staged ROI’s work like this

  • Up to four ROI’s can be pre-defined as staged ROI’s
  • The user can trigger flexible camera movements by activating one of the staged ROI’s at any time.
  • The duration of the sweep to the triggered staged ROI can be defined by the user.
  • Additionally, an altitude offset can be applied to any ROI, which is targeted for a sweep.
  • The two parameter sweep time and altitude offset can simply be reused or freshly defined prior any sweep.
  • Documentation of staged ROI's


Copter full stop ILS landings work like this

  • After the glideslope has been captured, the copter descends on the final approach down to 7 Meter above runway elevation.
  • At that point, the descend stops and the copter continues to the runway at constant altitude.
  • Precisely over the runway threshold, the horizontal movement stops and ArduCopters LAND mode is activated.
  • Documentation of FlightZoomer ILS approaches


New pricing

A significant change in the price model makes FlightZoomer much more attractive: the full functional scope as a GCS up to version 3.1 is now free. Only selected new features will be added as in-app purchases. Up to now, the only feature that has a price are ROI sequences. Even using the staged ROI’s is free.


Some links:

FlightZoomer Homepage

FlightZoomer Documentation

The app in the MS Store


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Today FlightZoomer Cockpit 3.1 has been released (in the MS store the name is still FlightZoomer Cockpit 3). The app offers a number of nice improvements over the big version 3 release from August.

The most notable one are interactive checklists, which are demonstrated in this video:

This features supports entirely customizable checklists for each flight phase, for different aircraft and/or different hardware configurations.

With the voice synthetization and recognition, the pilot gets an efficient and safe method to work with checklists while the impact on the workload stays almost zero. It is therefore even realistic to work through checklists during the flight and without taking the eyes from the aircraft or the most crucial instruments.

See in this fascinating video, how real pilots handle the checklist part (if you are in a hurry, go to 5:41 to directly jump into the checklist action; besides that the rest of the video is also a great resource to find similarities between full scale and FlightZoomer operations):

More details about the FlightZoomer checklist feature can be found on this fresh documentation page:

Other new features in the FlightZoomer Cockpit 3.1 app are these:

  • Support for the RTF quadcopter 3DR Solo has been added
  • FPV Video from Solo in HD integrated in the cockpit app (with various layouts, among others also the only correct one: the FPV view appears above the glareshield!)
  • RTSP video feed can be integrated
  • UDP connectivity added (which enables e.g. Andruav connectivity -> Android 3G)
  • Screen recording of the Cockpit app
  • Much more detailed documentation under 1
  • Small improvements and bug fixes

The FlightZoomer Cockpit 3.1 app is still on sale for some days (100% discount!) so install it from the MS store!

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FlightZoomer 3 is released!

Finally, after a long development time, I am happy to announce that FlightZoomer 3 is released!
To celebrate the launch of the FlightZoomer apps, the FlightZoomer 3 Cockpit-app is available at no cost from the Windows 10 Store. Be sure to get the app for free before the price goes up.
For those who don’t know FlightZoomer yet, get an impression of the capabilities in the video above.

What is FlightZoomer?
FlightZoomer is a special kind of a cockpit app (aka GCS), which runs on any Windows 10 tablet, notebook, or desktop PC.
The app, which is called FlightZoomer Cockpit 3, is connected with an ArduPilot flight controller either through 3rd party radio telemetry or through 3G and an onboard smartphone, that acts a companion computer and runs the FlightZoomer 3 Companion app.
As the name "cockpit" implies, FlightZoomer is a man-machine interface for pilots. The system supports flying and controlling an aircraft remotely probably better than any other hobby grade GCS. In fact, FlightZoomer offers FPV on a system and procedure level (besides being great for classical FPV too).
Unprecedented innovations are:
Autopilot modes
The autopilot offers more than a dozen modes, which are common on Boeing aircraft, but which have not been available for remotely controlled aircraft before. The Mode Control Panel allows to control intuitively the flight direction, turns, climbs, or descends in real time. The modes are:

TRK - track over ground
HDG - Heading
Turnrate - Turn radius
SPD - Speed
VS - Vertical Speed
FPA - Flight Path Angle
FLCH - Flight Level Change
ALT - Altitude
APP - ILS Approach
LOC - Radio Navigation Localizer
LNAV - Lateral Navigation (follow route laterally)
VNAV - Vertical Navigation (execute climbs, descends, cruise phases of planned route)

Control the flight using the Microsoft Surface Dial
In a real cockpit, autopilot target values are dialed in using rotary controllers. FlightZoomer offers this behavior by supporting the Microsoft Surface Dial. Using this nice rotary controller, you can select target values by turning the knob and jump from mode to mode by pressing the knob.
If you e.g. command a turn, the aircraft does not wait to start turning until the target value has been locked in. Instead it starts banking the moment you start rotating the dial. At the time you have intuitively and precisely set the desired new target direction, the turning aircraft will already be close to that direction so that the autopilot can gently terminate the turn.
Flying like that is hard to describe, you have to experience it! It is like setting the flight direction with a steering wheel.
See in this video, how this works.

Control the flight by voice recognition
Even another method, how the autopilot can efficiently and safely be operated, is by voice recognition. Hands-free flying becomes reality if you simply tell the FlightZoomer autopilot, what it shall do. By voice instructions, which follow a simple grammar, all the autopilot modes can be set. This feature offers the shortest intention-to-machine distance…
See in this video, how this works.

ILS - Instrument Landing System
In full scale aviation the procedure to fly ILS approaches is to capture first the direction (= localizer) to the runway, then capture the glideslope from below. With FlightZoomer, you fly approaches exactly the same. First you set a course, that will intersect the extended runway center line with 30° - 60° (e.g. assume a runway direction of 78°. To capture the localizer from the south, you would select 40° as target value for the TRK mode). At the intersection point (and with armed APP mode), the aircraft then gently and automatically would turn toward the runway. If you began the procedure at a suitable altitude, the glideslope should soon settle in from above, so your ILS approach would be fully established and the automatic descend would start.

Terrain map and Vertical Situation Display
Real glass cockpits usually provide excellent feedback about the elevation of the surrounding terrain. As an absolute novelty, this feature has been made available in FlightZoomer too. On the Navigation Display, you get a terrain map, which shows you areas that are sufficiently below the aircraft (colored in green), areas which are close to the aircraft altitude (colored in yellow) and areas which are higher than the aircraft currently is flying (colored in red).
This capability is very useful especially for drones and RC aircraft operations, as these types of vehicles typically fly rather low all the time.
It is fascinating to see, how your surrounding terrain slowly turns from red to yellow and then to green, while climbing out of a valley.
See in this video, how this works.

Real and synthetic FPV camera side-by-side
The FlightZoomer 3 Cockpit app offers a synthetic outside view, which is based on a 3D map, with aerial imagery and a correct representation of the pitch and bank angle. The synthetic FPV camera requires no video transmission and is working with telemetry data only. Enjoy the unrivaled experience when looking at the FullHD scenery even at times, when real FPV cameras run into serious limitations (e.g. at night, in fog).
Beside the synthetic camera, a classical (real) video feed can be embedded seamlessly or as an overlay in the FlightZoomer cockpit app too.
See in this video, how this works.

Layout, functionality, procedures, and terminology are borrowed from full scale aviation
Wherever possible, FlightZoomer is modeled after the cockpit of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This applies not only to the look&feel, but also to features and the handling.

In-built simulator
Using the in-built simulator, you can start exploring FlightZoomer right after installation. Flying with the simulator, the handling of all the mentioned features above works exactly the same, as if you would fly a real vehicle.
See in this video, how the simulator works.

Fresh from the press, you can also consult the new online documentation, which describes the installation and usage of FlightZoomer very detailed. Directly enter the documentation under this link.

General information can be found under

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Use speech recognition to control a flight

In this video I present the voice recognition feature in my GCS/Companion-app-combo FlightZoomer. The feature allows to control the flight of an RC aircraft (or multicopter) using simple voice commands. In order to get an additional safety level against wrongly recognized commands, the engine does read back whatever sentence it understood. By affirming the readback, the command is then activated. Just check out the video to see how this works.


On this image you can see the flown route. At point 1 I activated the autopilot (which b.t.w. is a copy of the Boeing 787 autopilot), then I commanded some left turns: first to a western course of 270° (point 2), then south 180° (point 3), then 50° (point 4), 270° again (point 5) followed by a right turn to 50° into the downwind (point 6). At point 7 a descend to 470 meters is initiated. Finally there is a turn to 150° into the base (point 8) and at point 9 the ILS approach is activated. The turn into the final approach (point 10) and the subsequent landing (point 11) was then performed fully automatic.

As you can see on the video, the voice engine really performs nicely and understands my commands well. You can also see how it misunderstands me in once case (and how the misunderstanding is resolved) when I pronounce a number wrongly (I am not a native English speaker).

FlightZoomer is a software solution, that runs on off-the-shelf devices and offers all you need for instrument flight and much more (e.g. a cellular network databus between gcs and companion computer, the companion computer is a smartphone, optional usage of 3rd party radio telemetry, embedding of the FPV camera feed in the cockpit app, synthetic FPV view based on telemetry alone).

The solution runs on top of the Ardupilot stack and will be released shortly. More information on

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While beta testing for Flightzoomer 3 a spectacular test flight has been done with intercontinental contributions:

- The location of the flight was in Switzerland.

- The pilot in command (Andrew Stanley) using the FlightZoomer autopilot was sitting on his desk in New York.

- My role was the copilot/spotter/air traffic control giving Andrew instructions (vectors) how to fly the manual part of the flight (the video shows the approach).

- During the flight we communicated using a Skype call.

See in the video how nicely this all worked!

More info on my homepage

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The first FlightZoomer Version 3 app has been released!

Anybody, who has access to a Windows 10 computer, is invited to visit the MS store and install "FlightZoomer Cockpit 3 - Simulation Edition" for free!

The simulation edition is perfect to try out, evaluate or even train FlightZoomer at no cost and without needing any additional hardware!

The walkthrough video gives you a first impression about the app and shows all steps to finish a simple flight.

For more details about FlightZoomer Version 3 please refer to my earlier blogposts:

What is FlightZoomer?

FlightZoomer is a groundstation coupled with a companion computer (in essence a distributed companion computer), that runs on-top of ArduPilot and offers unparalleled navigation and autoflight features for drones and RC aircraft. The system closely recreates the look&feel and features of a real Boeing 787 cockpit. If you want to actually fly you need the regular FlightZoomer Cockpit 3 app (to be released in Q3 2017). Additionally you need a smartphone, that runs the app FlightZoomer Companion 3, which will be attached to the aircraft or drone.

Read more…

The Wearable Groundstation

Have a look at the wearable groundstation, that I have built as cockpit for my Boeing 787-like drones avionics suite FlightZoomer...

The wearable groundstation has these features:

  • A solid carrying bracket allows to put on the whole groundstation without neckstrap
  • Perfect symbiosis between man and machine
  • You can sit, walk or drive with the groundstation put on
  • The tablet screen sits 30cm/12" in front of the eyes, which gives a very realistic feeling of sitting in a real cockpit
  • Like you step into a real cockpit, you can put on this groundstation
  • The RC transmitter is a Graupner MX16
  • All the utilities to handle the FPV video signal are built in (RC832 receiver, UVC USB capture, battery)
  • Weights less than 6kg (= you hardly notice the weight when put on)
  • Formidable sunshade solution, the gap between eyes and screen is almost entirely covered, the angle of the sunshade can be adjusted
  • There is a Microsoft Surface dial to control all relevant modes of the autopilot using a single turning knob (see my last blog post here).
  • The dial can be transport locked, using a spring loaded bracket

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When Microsoft announced the Surface Dial last October, I immediately knew, that no better application could be developed for this controller than controlling the flight path of drones. For weeks I checked availability in Europe, only to order an overpriced device from the US Ebay finally. As it arrived I probably got one of the first Surface Dials in Europe...

This device literally cries to be integrated in my virtual cockpit software FlightZoomer. It is a perfect fit as an efficient, yet simplistic man-machine interface, to control the FlightZoomer autopilot (FlightZoomer is a Boeing 787 alike UI + system layer on-top ArduPilot).

But it was worth the effort: Changing modes by pressing and selecting target values by turning - how more simple could flying be? One man - one hand - one controller!

In the video above, you can see how the controller perfectly supports relaxed flying as well as street canyon hunting...

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This is my second post in the series called "FlightZoomer 3 Innovation Previews". The first was this one: Maximized terrain awareness for drone pilots

The innovation highlight presented in the video above is the synthetic camera, that offers an FPV experience without many of the disadvantages of a classic FPV approach. In the video 10 advantages of the synthetic camera are listed and demonstrated:

  • No video data transmission needed -> less hardware, less complexity
  • Truly worldwide range if there is nothing more than 2.5G cellular connectivity
  • Highly improved reliability
  • Cut the Gordian knot of zero cost Full HD FPV
  • Principally no yello, no shaking
  • No fog, no clouds, no twilight, never night
  • Adjust the viewing angle during the flight
  • Adjust the camera tilt and yaw angle during the flight
  • Manual snap back view direction control (MSBVDC :-))
  • Integrated optional zero lag gimbal

Of course there are limitations too:

  • Close to the ground the synthetic view lacks accuracy.
  • 3D cities are limited, 100% world wide coverage is only offered as aerial image laid upon an 3D elevation model (which offers still remarkably stunning views, especially when cruising a bit higher)
  • The scenery stays static. You cant observe non-static objects, like traffic, cars,...

The solution is implemented using the MapControl of the UWP programming stack. It offers a comprehensive API to place a camera over the 3D landscape at any place and specify all the parameter, that we need (including pitch and bank angle). B.t.w. this is also the reason, why this solution is not easily portable from Windows to Android or IOS (in fact not doable at all): the Android or IOS map API do not offer the needed capabilities for this feature. Google does not support to place a camera at all at a particular position and altitude and Apple does not support the combination of setting pitch & bank while using 3D maps with an aerial image.

An important detail is the possibility, to additionally feed the video from a real FPV camera into the app. The real camera view can be placed on top of everything else as a small, moveable and resizable overlay. This feature perfectly complements the overall package, FlightZoomer offers.

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Maximized terrain awareness for drone pilots

This is my first post in a series called "FlightZoomer 3 Feature Previews".

One of the coolest features for the next release of my FlightZoomer apps is a terrain elevation map and a vertical situation display. The look&feel of these features strongly borrow from the VSD (vertical situation display) and the TERRAIN display of the real Boeing 787 (after which FlightZoomer is modelled). The ergonomics, that are developed for professional pilots should be good enough for drone pilots as well!

To see how the changing colors provide excellent situational awareness about the proximity to terrain while flying I strongly recommend to see the video above.

The following explanations provide some interesting background information about these features:


On this picture we see the VSD (Vertical Situation Display):


  1. There is a cut through the terrain along the current flight track (if there is forward speed) or heading (if there is no speed). If a flightplan is loaded the VSD shows a cut through the terrain along the planed route. All the waypoints are shown as well as the entire vertical flight profile of the planned route.
  2. On the left the white triangle is the airplane symbol at the current altitude
  3. The magenta line is the armed target altitude of the autopilot. It moves while adjusting the target altitude on the MCP which helps to set a safe target altitudes on the fly
  4. The white line shows the current flight path angle
  5. The terrain is shown in various colors
    1. Green are altitudes more than 50m below the aircraft altitude. Green terrain is considered as safe
    2. Yellow are altitudes less than 50m below the aircraft.
    3. Red are altitudes higher than the current aircraft altitude


On this picture we see the Navigation Display with the terrain layer switched on:


Again the colors have the same meaning as above.


How should yellow terrain be interpreted?

It is perfectly normal and acceptable (actually unavoidable), that the terrain will turn yellow on a final approach. On the other hand yellow terrain poses an increased risk of a CFIT because of obstacles or inaccuracies of the system.


Some more details about the implementation:

  • VSD and terrain map are updated with 1Hz
  • The elevation data of the terrain is downloaded from the internet on demand.
  • There is worldwide coverage at any required resolution (= zoom level).
  • There is a two stage caching of the elevation data in order to reduce internet bandwidth consumption and to achieve a high performance. 1st stage: persisting on the device, 2nd stage: in the heap for fastest possible access


And - for those who think "I have no idea what FlightZoomer is all about" - here are some high-level buzzwords about FlightZoomer:

FlightZoomer is distributed avionics suite on top of ArduPilot. It has a companion computer (a smartphone) that is connected via a cell-network-data-bus to a ground station that offers comprehensive instruments, a flight management system and an autopilot. These features allow basically to fly IFR.

Read more…

In this post I show videos of two real flights, the first above for FlightZoomer version 2.0 and another below with the freshly released version 2.1. Both videos show the same automatic flight including an ILS approach. In the videos the replay feature is used to sync the recorded video from the on-board Sony camera with the presentation of the groundstation.

While FlightZoomer 2.0 works nicely and was a huge step forward overall, the video also shows some areas, that leave room for improvement. In particular the LNAV, the VNAV and the ILS autopilot modes worked not as precisely as a Pixhawk based system in theory could.

All this was addressed with FlightZoomer version 2.1, so check out the following video to see how the behavior improved:

Version 2.1 is provided as a functional upgrade. It does not bring a single new button or any UI change, but under the hood a nice number of improvements have been implemented. Existing algorithms have been refined, new cascaded control layers have been added, the ILS can be captured much more robustly, flight plans are followed more precisely and a bunch of bugs have been ironed out.

The complete list of changes is here:

  1. The turn initiation time is considered now for the flight path calculations. The turn initiation time is the duration, during which the flight path over ground lags the ideal turn. This change increases significantly the precision, how the aircraft follows the planned flight track.
  2. For the LNAV and the ILS Localizer mode deviations along the straight legs are now actively corrected. Prior version 2.1 the aircraft always just pointed to the next waypoint and, as a result, deviations have not been corrected until the very end of each leg.
  3. A new algorithm has been implemented in LNAV mode to keep the turn radius constant even if the speed varies a bit. This was required because before the aircraft often deviated from the planned track during turns when the speed was dropping temporarily.
  4. Speed transitions have been abruptly prior version 2.1 but now are smooth as well. Every speed change happens over a period of 2 seconds.
  5. The vertical flight profile in VNAV mode has been improved. Due to inaccuracies in keeping the standard climb or descend rate, the actual altitude could deviate quite a bit from the correct altitude for a certain position. This is important especially during descends because we are moving towards the terrain and because the end of the descend and the end of the route should happen exactly at the same spot. The new VNAV algorithm in version 2.1 ensures this.
  6. Optimization and fine-tuning of the approach pattern calculation. The result is a more realistic and much more compact approach pattern, especially during the downwind and base.
  7. The ILS glideslope can now not only be captured from below and after having turned to the final approach course, but from below or even before the last turn.
  8. Totally 26 issues have been fixed.


In both videos basically the entire flight was flown with the autopilot. Along the route using the LNAV and the VNAV modes, using the TRACK OVER GROUND, ALTITUDE and FLCH modes for the downwind and base and finally using the ILS LOCALIZER and ILS GLIDESLOPE modes for the approach.


Some screenshots from the second video:

On the next image you can see how precisely the aircraft follows the planned track even during a turn. Consider that the turn radius first is a variable that depends on the cruise speed and the turn rate (angular velocity). In practice also the actual speed and the impact of the inertia on the actual track over ground have to be incorporated:


The second image shows the final approach to the runway 08 of my virtual airport. Consider how the runway elevation has been configured 5 m above the real road, in order to have some safety buffer:



Again I dont want to miss the opportunity to provide some high level information about FlightZoomer:

  • FlightZoomer is a top notch distributed avionics suite for drones
  • FlightZoomer is entirely a software solution. The hardware are COTS devices (Windows Phones smartphones).
  • Why distributed? Because there is an onboard device and a groundstation, both are connected via a Relay Server at home.
  • All the components are coupled with a cellular EDGE, 3G or 4G link.
  • The onboard smartphone is mated with an APM based flight controller via Bluetooth.
  • Currently supported is Arducopter 3.3 or higher.
  • Supporting Arduplane is on the to-do list.
  • For about 200$ you can get everything mentioned working (assumed, you need to buy two Windows Phones for the groundstation and the sensor device)


Much more details you can find on my homepage


The full documentation for version 1.5 is still valid for the basic functionality:

Version 1.5 full documentation


For the version 2.0 the additional features are described in this 50 page addendum:

Version 2.0 addendum


For version 2.1 there is currently no separate documentation (beside this post :D ) 

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FlightZoomer 2.0 is released!

Until now I have presented only videos with the beta version of FlightZoomer release 2. But now the final version is completed and published. The apps are available for free so there is nothing that could stop you from flying your drone according to IFR rules (except the regulatory requirements, which should strictly be followed)!


In the video above, I go through the highlights of FlightZoomer version 2.0, so you not only see the system "working" but also get an impression of the look&feel as well as the capabilities of the new autopilot.


The covered topics in this video are:

  • The autopilot simulation mode. It allows to demonstrate and train the autopilot features with just the groundstation app as a stand-alone unit. All the other components are simulated
  • The autopilot itself
  • The Flight Management System
  • How a flight plan is created on the fly in a couple of seconds
  • How an ILS radio receiver is tuned
  • The camera control panel on the groundstation looks
  • And - last but not least - a demonstration of an ATC-guided (air traffic control) approach to the tuned ILS


Some screenshots from the video:





For those who hear about this project the first time, here are some bullet points:

  • Smartphone based systems, that aim to recreate the avionics of a real aircraft for UAV usage
  • One smartphone is attached to the UAV and runs the FlightZoomer Sensorics app
  • A second smartphone (or tablet in the near future) runs the FlightZoomer Groundstation app
  • Both are connected via cellular EDGE, 3G or 4G networks.
  • The communication links runs via a relay server, which can run at home and hosts the navigation database plus adds logging capabilities
  • There are extensive downlink (telemetry) capabilities and uplink control capabilities
  • The onboard smartphone is mated with an APM based flight controller via Bluetooth
  • Currently supported is Arducopter 3.3 or higher.
  • Supporting Arduplane is on the to-do list
  • For about 200$ you can get everything mentioned working (assumed, you need to buy two Windows Phones for the groundstation and the sensor device)


Much more details you can find on my homepage

The full documentation for version 1.5 is still valid for the basic functionality:

Version 1.5 full documentation

For the version 2.0 the additional features are described in this 50 page addendum:

Version 2.0 addendum

So, that's enough for this time, hope you enjoyed the video and this post!

The music in the video is composed by myself.

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This video is a showcase in which I provide an overview of the capabilities and usage of the 14 additional autoflight modes which will come with the upcoming release of FlightZoomer (version 2.0).

In the second half of the video I show the shortest possible flight during which any of the 14 modes is used.

In case you want to learn more about these autopilot modes I have provided another new video, which actually is a training video. It takes more than 40 minutes and explains the new autpilot modes one after another in great detail:

Here is the handout to the training video, which provides additional information in written form:

Training Video Handout

FlightZoomer is much more than an autoflight control system; but in this post I specifically address the autopilot capabilities that are as-yet untapped by current Ground Control Systems. For example:

  • Works as an overlay onto the Ardupilot software using the GUIDED mode (copter only so far, but Plane would be doable quite easy as well)
  • The FlightZoomer autoflight features are built as a composite solution which integrates the user layer (the groundstation), the communication layer (the cellular network) and the actual flight controlling unit (an onboard smartphone functioning as a companion computer) to get a transparent and robust flight control capability.
  • Each command is stored and actually executed autonomously by the onboard companion computer, mitigating risks associated with reduced cellular network connectivity and subsequent impacts to the flight
  • Failsafe integrated into the companion computer executable code
  • The MCP (Mode Control Panel) not only is a comprehensive tool to control the flight trajectory via a handy touch screen, but also to shows the current state of the autopilot (Pixhawk)
  • As there always may be short packet delays in cellular IP networks, care is taken to ensure each and every command is technically acknowledged and the acknowledgment state is also displayed on the MCP
  • The autopilot control screens and switches are patterned after the autoflight systems of the Boeing 787 Dreamlike- considered the current state of the art
  • As shown on the following diagram there are 8 basic autoflight modes (trajectory control), 3 radio navigation modes (using simulated VORs and ILSs) and 3 flight plan modes (similar to the existing APM AUTO mode):


More information can also be found in some of my earlier about FlightZoomer posts here:

A word about the usage of Windows Phone-8® OS
I am fully aware that I have built FlightZoomer on the least prevailing phone OS. The reason is that I can achieve the highest productivity using the Windows programming stack and I can leverage a lot between relay server and the phone apps. I would simply not have reached this level of capability and application maturity this quickly.

For the same reason (time to market) I am reluctant to begin porting the apps e.g. to Android. There would be considerable time “lost” without gaining new features (I will port the apps however as Windows Universal apps: these support Windows 8 and 10 across all device types from phones to tablets to laptops to desktops).

But, on the other hand - let me argue this way: we fly around with copters that cost thousands of dollars mostly consisting of just proprietary hardware. We buy proprietary hardware for RC systems, ESCs, FPV stuff, cameras, gimbals, OSDs or even whole RTF copters. So for non-Windows Phone users using FlightZoomer would mean just buying another two proprietary hardware devices. These cost less than almost any of the aforementioned hardware.

Or – to say it differently – imagine I would build and offer fully proprietary hardware for FlightZoomer, like an onboard companion computer with touchscreen & sensors & cellular G3, G4 connectivity & Wi-Fi & Bluetooth & camera & autonomous power supply for 50 bucks (that´s how much I paid for my "companion computer"). Everybody would cry hurray! And, with FlightZoomer you don’t need to build complicated Python scripts and debug errors….

Likewise, what if I would offer a proprietary groundstation with 6, 7, 8 or 10 inch touchscreen, which supports all the FlightZoomer features for 100 to 150 bucks? I see people investing much more in groundstations that are not as capable.

Read more…

Two months ago I have released FlightZoomer for the first time (version 1.5). Meanwhile the next version is nearing completion (version 2.0) and I am pleased to present you some of the highlights of this new version...

What are the improvements?

  • Version 1.5 mainly only provided feedback, Version 2.0 now is fully bi-directional, which means that my groundstation is extensively involved in controlling the flight path.
  • Air Traffic Control simulation. 
  • Recreating all the autopilot modes of the real Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
  • Sophisticated autoflight capabilities, like turn rate (= radius) definition, automatic course, altitude or glideslope capturing and - last but not least, the cherry on the cake - an automated ILS approach mode.
  • The supported features of the guided mode via MAVLink have been stressed to the utmost to get a satisfying handling.
  • Tested only with copters so far.

So what can you see in the video above?

  • The video is a live recording of the first succesfully completed ILS approach under the guidance of the in-built Air Traffic Control from last saturday.
  • You can see how the FlightZoomer groundstation is manipulated like real pilots would manipulate their Mode Control Panel (see below) in order to conduct an IFR/ILS approach.
  • You can hear my comments, but also the Air Traffic Control (female synthetic voice) and my co-pilot reading back the instructions (male synthetic voice).
  • 10 months ago I posted a youtube video, where I have hand-flown an ILS approach using FlightZoomer. At that time only one of 10 approaches would pan out so well as shown in the video. But the new version 2.0 will deliver a consistent and outstanding autoflight performance and precision.

Presentation of the real 787 Mode Control Panel (MCP):


Earlier FlightZoomer posts:

My project FlightZoomer: realistic flight instruments, navigation systems and auto flight systems

FlightZoomer News: documentation finished! Introduction Flight Management

FlightZoomer is now generally available! See how the look&feel (&features) of a full scale cockpit become reality in our RC world!

More details (about version 1.5):

Read more…

EASA European regulation proposal

3689668992?profile=originalBeside the US regulation attempts also the EASA has released a proposal for drone regulations, for which the period to make comments has ended on september 29.

More official information here:

The proposed regulatory framework can be downloaded here (PDF, 41 pages):

While the US rules seem to be quite restrictive, complex and drone adverse the EU ruleset at least partially aims to balance better between conflicting interests (freedom for RC hobbyists vs aviation safety vs public privacy).

The ruleset acknowledges the economic importance of drones, their innovation potential, the fragmentation of the industry as well as the diversity how drones are used. At least the agency seems to be willing to not lump together all these things.

Some quotes from the document above:

"Drones need to be treated as new types of aircraft with proportionate rules based on the risk of each operation."

"Innovative and diverse: the drone industry is extremely innovative and the risk that regulations are superseded by new developments will be always present."

"Finally, it should be kept in mind that using drones to inspect buildings or power lines could also improve safety because the consequences of hitting the building or the power line are likely to be material only compared to a manned aircraft where injuries to persons are to be expected."

"This regulatory framework is based on the risk posed by drone operations. Another choice would have been the classic approach used today for manned aircraft."

"Even very small drones can quickly fly high enough, thus posing a severe risk to aviation safety. As mentioned in the Riga Declaration: ‘Drone accidents will happen’. The challenge is now to find the balance and means to ensure appropriate safety while not hampering the market considering that a zero risk approach is not practical."

"Even if certification and licensing conditions were kept as ‘light’ as possible, the traditional manned aviation approach is likely to produce a too heavy approach to drones, especially to the small-drone market. The level of rigour applied to safety management in manned aviation (involving strict controls of aircraft design, production and maintenance; pilots; operations with (in most cases) ex ante licensing and continuous monitoring) is disproportionate to the risk posed by many drone operations."

"Overburdening low-risk operations lead to a climate of indifference or to illegal operations adversely affecting safety."

"Models are normally manually controlled and don’t carry a GPS unit or similar on board; there must be a clear benefit to mandate future drone technology and there is definitely a limit towards simplest, low-risk operations where it is not proportionate to increase costs without benefit (e.g. to install a GPS on a tethered balloon)."

"It is not the intention to create a licence, but merely to develop learning objectives or an e-learning tool."

There are also some quite interesting technical proposals, like low tech registrations comparable to how SIM cards are registered, smartphone based solutions, on-the-fly generated no-fly zones which are published over an open web interface which must be queried by drones before flying, temporary dynamic geo fencing e.g. to "create a safe bubble around a rescue helicopter when landing at the accident site"...

Sooo, what do you think?

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The title says it all:

FlightZoomer has been released and the three required apps can be downloaded from my homepage (the relay server) and the Microsoft app store (the Sensorics- and the Groundstation-app).

What is Flightzoomer?

A smartphone based telemetry, navigation and avionics suite, which brings the look&feel of real airliner cockpits into our RC world...

How to get started?

  • Buy two cheap Windows phone devices, one as sensor device which will be attached to the copter and a second which will become the groundstation
  • Install the relay server
  • Consult the comprehensive documentation here:

What does it cost?

  • Simply nothing! The apps and the relay server are completely free...

In what does Flightzoomer differentiate from similar systems?

  • Consequently tailor made for smartphones: no Wifi-, Bluetooth- or radio-connections, Flightzoomer makes full use of Edge, 3G or 4G cell networks.
  • No video or image transmission (so far). By sticking to telemetry-alone the restrictions of cellular networks can be mitigated.
  • Excellent user experience as you wont find "two short beeps&three yellow flashes mean A" and "three long beeps&two green flashes mean B" and so on. The touchscreen GUI even allows showing little "user hint" explanation boxes on many screens...
  • The primary focus is recreating the appearance and functionality of real full scale cockpits for RC usage. As a result the controls and displays of the groundstation whenever possible are directly modeled after the real Boeing 787 cockpit. For some system parts considerable portions of the documentation could even be copied unaltered from real Boeing manuals...
  • Fantastic expansion plans for future releases: Shall I recreate the autoflight modes of the real 787 autopilot, control Sony cameras via the remote API, implement smart ROI control, extend the Flight Management System (e.g. in the area of range-, power consumption- or flight performance-calculations) or even go into the area of image transmission? There are so many opportunities for Flightzoomer to "grow" that I almost don´t know where to start/continue...
  • For pure fun at one point I am determined to offer a feature that allows sending greeting cards (-Emails) from the airborne copter to configureable recipients (the feature could be called "RC airmail" ;-) ).

More details in my past blog posts:

Read more…



I am happy to provide another update about the progress of my Flightzoomer project. My first post about the project and the goals can be accessed here:

First post about Flightzoomer on diydrones..

This week I was able to complete an effort which took a long time: I completed the (user) documentation of the whole system. While about 70% of the version 1.0 has been made available earlier (but still lacked e.g. the paramount Flight Management System), now the complete documention has been finished. For each topic there exist separate documents (Functional aspects, Installation, one reference per apps). Additionaly there is the full document which contains all topics in one big, 146 pages-document.

Have a look by yourself using one of these links:

As a teaser I will now post some new images extracted from the documentation about the Flight Management System. As you might know the Flight Management System is the generic user interface for pilots in full-scale jet airliners. It covers any thinkable interaction with the avionics. Flightzoomer recreates the look and feel of the Boeing 787 Flight Management System. See the opening image, to get an impression how this looks on your groundstation!

The following images show various implemented FMS pages, the possible settings and the user interaction. They are straight copies from the documentation (which adds tons of additional descriptions).

The first image shows the screen which allows the preflight definition of important performance parameter:

3689665498?profile=originalAfter this has been done, a flightplan can be entered (or loaded). The required sequence is shown here:


For radio navigation the following FMS screen exists:

3689665412?profile=originalHave a glance at the underlying data model of the Flightzoomer navigation database:


Any data of the navigation database can be browsed from within the FMS using the FIX page:


So, I have to confess this is a long post with many very unusual imagines for a drones site. Nonetheless I hope it serves the purpose of explaining Flightzoomer a bit better. More details can be found on

Next steps:

Releasing the apps, completing the documentation was the last blocking point for that! Stay tuned!

Read more…


I´d like to introduce my project of a smartphone based telemetry and navigation system called FlightZoomer.

Other than (almost?) any existing system FlightZoomer differentiates as follows:

  • There is one smartphone onboard the copter/plane (= the companion computer is the phone)
  • Another smartphone is used as glas-cockpit (groundstation)
  • Focus on realistic flight instruments, navigation systems and auto flight systems (modelled after the Boeing 787 cockpit). This means:
    --- Glas cockpit with PFD (Primary Flight Display) and ND (Navigation Display)
    --- Navigation database with fixes, radio beacons, airports, runways
    --- Radio navigation
    --- Instrument Landing System ILS
    --- Realistic Flight Management System for flight planning
  • Synthetic voice output for co-pilot simulation
  • Transmission 100% based on cellular networks
  • Supports (performance) flight test
  • The onboard smartphone is coupled to an APM based flight controller via MAVLink (over bluetooth)
  • Sensor data is fed to the groundstation primarily from the flight controller, though fallback modes to the phone's own sensors are also supported
  • Latency typically < 0.1s
  • No video or image stream (< this strongly reduces bandwidth and latency issues)
  • Communication between the airborne smartphone and the groundstation runs via a Relay Server
  • The Relay Server can run unattended as Windows desktop application at home
  • The solution is 100% software, all hardware comes off-the-shelf
  • The phone apps run on Windows phone

Project history

The project started two years ago and for the longest time focused on a standalone system that only relied on the phone´s sensors. This was the initial idea and I was able to make it fly though serious constraints remained (non consistent accuracy overall, unusable compass, strange attitude sometimes, GPS overall marginally).

Therefore I decided to mate the phone with the flight controller. So currently a prototype with an AUAV X2 is in flight test, and the results are amazing (compared to the standalone operation). That way I came in touch with the ardupilot community so consequently I also joined diydrones. So here in  that I can introduce FlightZoomer to you. I am also curious what would you think about FlightZoomer...

Next steps

While version 1.0 was the standalone system which was never released, I plan to release version 1.5 (with the MAVLink interface over bluetooth) in the coming months.

There are also a lot of ideas for further releases to improve the underlying premise (recreate the experience of dealing with "real" aircraft systems):

  • More voice features (e.g. extend the role of the virtual co-pilot, test flight director, maybe even ATC)
  • Recreate the autoflight modes of the 787 100%
  • Extend the features of the Flight Managment System
  • Maybe add additional cockpit hardware to the groundstation (modeled after a real cockpit)
  • 3D terrain

More information


(The flightzoomer website currently still covers version 1.0)

Personal background

I was educated as electronics engineer, studied Electrical Engineering and worked in professional software development ever since.

Some images

The onboard app:

3689662819?profile=originalThe groundstation:


The Flight Managment System (real 787 vs. FlightZoomer):


Read more…