Do Professional Drone Pilots need a New Flight Planning App?

Jul 9, 2019 · 4 min read

A World of Apps

As a commercial drone pilot, capturing quality data on site is key. Fortunately, with the advent of drone SDKs (software-development-kits), a number of flight planning apps for precise and automated data capture have emerged over the last few years.

These applications can be broadly divided into 2 main categories:

  1. Special Purpose apps: Applications that are specifically tailored to plan and fly 1 main type of mission, and do that very well. Most flight applications fall into this category — for instance there are dedicated apps for mapping, apps for waypoints / aerial photography, apps for search & rescue, etc
  2. General Purpose apps: These applications are not tailored towards 1 specific mission but cater to a wide range of missions. A few applications fall into this category and typically include a combination of mapping and waypoint missions.

The Big Question

In a world of ever increasing choices, what type of flight planning application should a drone pilot invest learning?

  1. Special Purpose apps offer deep integration with 1 mission, and therefore are extremely easy to use and learn. However, if a drone pilot’s services go beyond that mission, the pilot then has the problem of learning many different apps to perform different tasks. This strategy of using many different apps for different purposes works well on a computer or a phone, where you have the luxury of time and the comfort of an office to constantly learn and use new systems. But when you are in-charge of flying expensive hardware that comply with airspace regulations, it’s critical to know your chosen flight planning platform inside-out.
  2. General-Purpose apps integrate with more than 1 type of mission, and therefore are extremely versatile. However, as a result of many integrations, these applications end up being over-engineered and extremely difficult to use. Moreover, the pilot is forced to deal with a number of nuances in the application that exist purely for the purpose of supporting many missions. So even though the pilot has the ability to use the same application for many different missions, the application is no longer easy to learn or use.

In fact, here’s a little 2x2 plot to visualise this:

The Tradeoff

So what should a drone pilot do? Sacrifice ease-of-use (special-purpose apps) for versatility (general-purpose apps) or the other way round?

Most people would say this depends on the personal preferences of the pilot. But at Hammer, we believe this choice should not be a strict tradeoff.
There is a solution, and that solution is adaptive applications.

We define Adaptive applications as general purpose applications that behave like special-purpose applications based on the the task/mission at hand. For instance, when the pilot is planning 1 specific type of flight, the app’s user interface and flight planning systems morph themselves appropriately for that type of flight.

This leads to 3 things:

  1. Simplicity: The application preserves its ease-of-use, as if it were specifically designed for 1 dedicated mission.
  2. Versatility: The application also preserves its versatility and can be used for a number of tasks/missions.
  3. Reliability: Since the same application can be used with the drone for a number of missions, it can be trusted even for new types of flights.

Over the last few months, we’ve working hard to develop Hammer, the world’s first adaptive flight planning app for commercial drone missions.

Hammer can be used for a number of different drone missions — from search and rescue, to aerial photography to survey and inspection. Yet, while using the application, all the underlying complexity is hidden away, and what the pilot experiences is an application specifically designed for the task/mission they’re interested in at that point in time.

Here’s an example of a pilot using Hammer for a spiral search mission:

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Search Missions in Hammer

Notice how all the flight planning and all settings menu in the application adapt themselves to the search mission. At this point, even though the pilot knows that the application can be used for other purposes, they simply shouldn’t care.

And here’s an example of the same pilot using Hammer for vertical inspection missions:

Vertical Inspections in Hammer

Once again, the pilot is working with an inspection mission, therefore all user interfaces and flight planning in the application adapt to it. During that planning, there is no hint that the same application can also be used for search and rescue or waypoint based photography.

Going back to our 2x2 plot, we believe adaptive applications hold the highest levels of versatility and ease-of-use:

To Conclude

Both specialised and general-purpose applications have their place in the drone industry, but we strongly feel with the rise of drone missions in several industries, an increasing need is being felt for adaptive applications.

As a team of designers and engineers at Hammer, we have been able to develop Hammer through the generous help and support of drone pilots around the world. If you are one those pilots, we are grateful to you! And we hope to continue building solutions for you.

If you’d like to learn more about what Hammer can do for you, please do get in touch with us at If you’re interested in trying out Hammer and leaving us with feedback, please feel free to get it from the App store.

We hope this post was helpful and we look forward to hearing from you!

— The Hammer Team

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