We’re very excited to announce the release of our new open source flight control app, Tower. Tower not only extends the simple and feature-rich flight experience legacy of our DroidPlanner series, but it also gives anyone the ability to build new features into the app or customize existing ones. We’re the major contributor to Tower and will support the app and fix all critical issues, but we really want this release to encourage people around the world to use their creativity and programming talents to further the power, usability and fun of drones.
The beginning of a new era
Tower is an important waypoint on the trajectory of this industry. “By opening Tower to the public, we’re giving the global community of programmers, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs the ability to drive drone innovation in a very positive manner,” said Colin Guinn, 3DR’s chief revenue officer. “We’re excited to see how people use their talents to improve and innovate on Tower.”
“We envision a future where numerous providers out there will be building apps for drones,” added Brandon Basso, VP of software engineering. “They want 3DR to do the work of keeping the drone in the air so they can do the rest.”
A good analogy is the smartphone: In order to make a smartphone app, you don’t need to design and create a phone from scratch. The hard part (the platform, in other words) is already done. With our flight control software, we’ve made the phone, so to speak. Now everyone has the ability to create new functions.
To that end, we’re simultaneously launching 3DR Services, a new app that aggregates all of these third-party tools — think of this as the app store for drones. 3DR Services can guide you to Tower and other 3DR apps, as well as third-party drone apps. To kick off this exciting forum, we’ve already built an Android Wear and Pebble app that gives you the ability to control some flight modes directly from your wrist.
Tower is suited to first-time pilots as well as experts. As with DroidPlanner, you don’t need to know how to fly a drone in order to fly our drones: Create flights by simply drawing paths on your tablet or by dropping waypoints. The app also provides transmitter-free operation of all 3DR-powered copters and planes from any Android smartphone or tablet.
Tower itself is essentially the next iteration of DroidPlanner, with the addition of useful new features you’ve come to expect from our DP updates. For instance, you can use Tower to easily program autonomous flights, bend around waypoints with a spline editor and take hands-free photos and videos of yourself with 3PV™ Follow Me mode and automated “dronie” features. Tower also features a new Mission Editor for easier insertion or reordering of elements. For commercial and industrial users, the software includes a new building mapper for creating 3D scans of large structures or geographical features. We’ve also made planning missions a lot easier, especially when it comes to inserting new waypoints into existing missions. And next week we’ll integrate support for Droneshare, our social network for drones, so you can track and share flights and pilot rankings (until now only available in DroidPlanner beta).
Here’s a quick breakdown of new features:
- Fly in smooth curves with spline waypoints
- Use Circle waypoints to orbit an object while keeping the camera pointed at it
- Region of Interest (ROI) points allow flyers to keep the camera centered on a subject regardless of flight path
- Survey will automatically generate the flight pattern needed to fully cover a region of the map
- 3PV™ Follow Me keeps the camera centered on the user while the drone follows the user’s movement; angles can also be adjusted as the drone follows you
- An Automated Building Mapper makes 3D scans of large structures
- Dronie function for creating one-of-a-kind selfies, revealing surrounding scenery as the drone flies back and away from the subject
How to get Tower
To download the free Tower drone control app, click here.
And click here to access 3DR Services.
The Tower open-source community is located on GitHub at https://github.com/DroidPlanner/droidplanner.
Tower works with most drones that use the MAVLink protocol.