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Drone operators often find it hard to fly the multi-propeller device and take pictures simultaneously, having to think about multiple controls for the drone and the camera. Traditional drone controls utilize dual joysticks for the drone navigation as well as an additional joystick and gimbal ­– a pivoted support that allows rotation on a single axis – to control the camera.

A simpler method to steering flight will be available soon. A touch-screen method to navigate and take pictures with drones has been developed by Bedrich Benes, a professor of computer graphics technology, and doctoral student Hao Kang in collaboration with corporate researchers.

The new multitouch gesture-controlled drone gimbal photography, called FlyCam, works with the concept of combining the drone and the camera movements. The controller “can think about the drone as a simple three-dimensional flying camera that is being controlled by simple gestures on a touch-screen device,” Benes explains.

How does it work? According to purdue.edu, FlyCam uses one- and two-finger drags across a smartphone or tablet to control the drone as it accelerates or turns and takes images. The drone moves forward or backward along the camera’s axis with single or double taps to the screen.

“We did a user study and most of the users performed with the FlyCam better” in comparison with the traditional method, Kang said. “It is easier to use just a single simple mobile device compared to a combination of cumbersome remote controls.”

FlyCam was testing using an Android system. Fliers worked better when using a tablet, which allowed for larger movements and better control.