iOS Waypoint App Comparison: Litchi 1.0 vs Autopilot 3.0

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{Updated 1/4}The following is a review and comparison of Litchi for DJI Phantom/Inspire (iOS version) and Auto Pilot 3.0 (as of 12/21/2015) Waypoint Modes Only. Litchi was recently released (12/21/15) while Autopilot is in the final BETA testing / App Store approval with anticipated release in App store end of 2015. {Edit 1/4: Autopilot 3.0 received App Store approval Jan 4 and is available to download}


Summary: Nearly identical missions were setup using both apps over a golf course in Palm Springs, California. Waypoints were setup in a large figure ‘8’ configuration across the golf course. Focus triggers setup throughout interior points of the golf course. Interpolate mode used for Waypoints on both apps to blend gimbal movements (previous and next focus points).

My primary objective was to create continuous Cinematic motion events and see which app could do this the best!

Waypoint Setup: Both apps are somewhat intuitive to get going quickly for anyone who has used a WP app in the past. Both offer ability to touch or draw waypoints and focus points. Both allow offline setup load/save to iOS device or sharing externally. AP has some features which require knowledge of the Flight School documentation or tutorials to fully customize and utilize all the unique features. Once learned, it is straightforward. AP has ability to change position, expand or rotate the entire flight path. AP allows preview of mission on screen including aircraft direction, location, and gimbal direction. Litchi allows ability to continue flight path mission even if RC signal is lost since it utilizes the DJI SDK and downloads to the aircraft. AP does not allow this given its custom flight controller is in the app, but unlike Litchi, it does allow real-time flight path modification. AP flight controller has supports moving flight paths which can gets interesting when operating a Waypoint w/ Follow-me aircraft and gimbal movements.

Other App Features: Litchi layout is similar to DJI GO allowing for camera/map view switching between bottom corner and full screen. AP uses a custom layout only allowing view of both map and camera in Portrait mode. Both allow screen recording with iOS 9. Both allow automatic syncing with Healthy Drones using User Token. Both have hardware decode options. Litchi has ability to select video transmission channel and quality and customizable C2 RC button. Neither have camera setting controls, so DJI GO settings are held constant once set. Litchi offers pano photo taking at WPs if configured and video recording manually stopped.

Accuracy vs Google Maps: Both performed very well in general. Unfortunately, some features of the golf course have changed since the last Google Map update so focus points were off. AP has a setting that allows for more horizontal precision vs. smoothness. Mine was set at default = 33ft. It seems well within that range as there was virtually no wind to impact its course. I’ve seen instances with other modes where it can vary within the parameter due to wind.

Cinematic Continuous Smooth Motion: Litchi produced slightly smoother video while flying between curved waypoints and panning across the focus points. AP produced smoother, more cinematic video to/from flyovers if you are ok with aircraft yaw @ flyover point {Edit 12/26: the yaw is normal if flyover/focus point is on the flight path. Both apps do this. To reduce the 'spin' effect, move flyover/focus point off the flight path. } The “reveal” effect after an AP flyover is quite dramatic with mountains in the background! {Edit 12/26: Litchi requires an extra waypoint slightly downstream on flight path configured with same focus point to get similar "reveal" effect.}

AP Issues:
  1. Aircraft movement very aggressive, particularly with sharp turns. Usually this is masked by the gimbal, but occasionally you notice the movement in the video. This can be compensated with slower or wider/smoother turns. However, this is not always desired or practical.{EDIT: 12/29: AP has Bézier curve capabilities to smooth out path between waypoints. You can adjust corner rounding (similar to Litchi) but also segment smoothing. This works well for smooth video and reducing chance of P3 landing gear in the frame with hard, fast banked turns.}
  2. Gimbal Twitching especially when approaching low altitude flyover WP/FP. This appears to be due to gradual altitude adjustment from WP @200ft to WP @100ft. The gimbal begins to move smoothly as it nears the lower WP. -> Would need to either reduce gimbal response parameter (ie. deadband) or setup intermediate WP’s closer before & after the low altitude flyover point.{EDIT: 12/29: build 67 fixed the gimbal twitching issue}
  3. Aircraft Yaws @ flyover point. This can either be perceived as “cool” or a “nuisance”. This seems to be the strategy of the custom AP flight controller and is evident in all the AP modes {Edit 12/26: this is only an issue when the yaw produces a fast "spin" effect blurring the image. Both apps do this if the focus point is on the flight path. Simply move the focus point slightly off the flight path to reduce the "spin" effect.}

LITCHI issues:
  1. Gimbal tilt starts abruptly instead of gradually and smooth. This may be due to the SDK gimbal settings and can be adjusted in advance on DJI GO app.
  2. Gimbal tilt begins early and ends late unless previous/next WP’s are close. Nothing wrong with the function, user needs to understand and plan accordingly.
  3. Aircraft pauses at WP/FP during flyover if no WP curve is set. This is by design to allow other actions (ie. panorama photos, etc.). This was simply a user error.
Other information and settings:
Phantom 3 Professional
DJI GO Settings: Camera-Manual; ISO-100; Shutter-80to100; Size-1080/30fps; WB-5500; Landscape mode; **w/ camera focus defect**
Polar Pro Cinema Series ND/CP 16 filter
Default Waypoint Altitude (200ft AGL)
Default Speed (20mph)
Waypoint Curves: Yes, max/near max corner rounding
Mission Complete action: RTH
# of Waypoints (AP=14; LIT=16)
# of Focus Points (AP=11; LIT=8)
Low flyover WP/FP Altitude (100ft AGL); Speed (accel/decal 10mph). There were 3 low flyover WP/FP setup on this course.

Overall, I am very pleased with both products. Feel free to comment on other observations you’ve seen so people can be informed!

Litchi 1.0 Flight Video "Figure 8" over Palm Springs Golf Course

Autopilot 3.0 Flight Video "Figure 8" over Palm Springs Golf Course

Litchi flight plan
ImageUploadedByPhantomPilots - DJI Phantom Forum1450750956.164125.jpg


Autopilot flight plan
ImageUploadedByPhantomPilots - DJI Phantom Forum1450750978.896148.jpg
 
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GadgetGuy

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Well done! Thank you for the comparisons! I look forward to using both! :cool:
 
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great report, I'm deciding which app is the right for me and this detailed description will help!
which one would you choose as an hobbyist?
At the moment I'm using Airnest because is very user friendly and very fast to use...
 
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great report, I'm deciding which app is the right for me and this detailed description will help!
which one would you choose as an hobbyist?
At the moment I'm using Airnest because is very user friendly and very fast to use...
As a hobbyist, litchi will probably meet your need for waypoints. However the current version 1.0 of litchi does not have the other intelligent flight modes and camera setting features as in the android version. So it's somewhat limited as an overall aerial tool. AP will launch with all their existing features plus waypoints.
 
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It's interesting as well as Litchi is using the SDK functions for waypoints and Autopilot is using the SDK only for low level flight control functions and uses its own flight controller for everything else, running in the app.

Great comparison. Thanks for doing this!
 
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Extremely impressed with your skill, planning, execution and knowledge of matching hardware to software. First question which I continue to fail at, did you cache any maps of this area or are you using a cellular feature? I've got ipad air 2 v. 8.4.1 wifi only using a dual electronics xgps160 for my GPS, P3P, have had AP, so I'm not really thinking of Litchi but really appreciate your comparison. The aspect of dropping from 200 ft. AGL down to 100 ft. AGL is what I really enjoyed along with the horizontal view that included mountain scenes. I have not been able to get any explanation of AP v. 2.2 new use of google maps. Since I failed at caching a map on Dec. 2, my world was rotated 90 deg. to what I wanted and failed at switching to emergency pilot mode....replacing my "L" arm that holds the camera.
 
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First question which I continue to fail at, did you cache any maps of this area or are you using a cellular feature?
I have iPad mini4 cell, but no data service. I planned my missions offline while connected to wifi so maps were cached. I only have the cell version to use its built in GPS for follow-me or moving operator functions (ie. Waypoint with focus @ operator).

I have not been able to get any explanation of AP v. 2.2 new use of google maps. Since I failed at caching a map on Dec. 2, my world was rotated 90 deg.
I didn't notice anything unique when AP switched from Apple maps to google maps outside of more current and slightly closer views. If you plan WPs in advance while on wifi, this should not be an issue. If not, then you should cache. However, I think there may be an issue with cache saving without a saved flight plan. I did notice when I first tested the app in the field w/o a saved flight plan that it did not show the cached maps from the day prior. This was early on in the beta and I haven't tried to replicate it. Perhaps it's fixed...dunno since I now work off of save flight plans when in the field even if I modify once there.
 
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My new favourite person on here - thanks for the detail in this thread

Subscribed... until i think of something to ask ....
;)
 
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I 2nd Mo's statement....I have watched every cache video multiple times, read every posting available. I will say that on Dec. 2 I did NOT set up a pre-flight plan for zip line which is what I wanted to accomplish, but followed caching as instructed for ipad air 2 using google maps. When I was at this park, I had NO map, only a blank screen. I guess if I had flown to point A and saved the aircraft position & height, then flew over to point B and saved that, perhaps I wouldn't have had December off. Just asking for knowledge, since Litchi uses the DJI SDK, did you have to load the map through the go app. or does litchi also save a pre-planned flight?
 
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Just asking for knowledge, since Litchi uses the DJI SDK, did you have to load the map through the go app. or does litchi also save a pre-planned flight?
My limited experience is that you have to cache the maps in each app. It doesn't share the map data between them. So you would need to open it in Litchi, AP, DJI GO -whatever you plan to use.
 
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please correct me if I'm wrong..

during a mission if the radio signal is lost which is the behaviour of the drone with the 2 apps?
as I hunderstood:
  • litchi: Drone will continue the mission till the end and then RTH
  • AP: will start to hover when the signal is lost
Is that correct?
 
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Yes, although with Litchi the end action depends on you - it will either RTH or hover depending on what you have set. Personally I always make sure the last waypoint is near to my home point and set it to hover.
 
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AP will RTH upon loss of RC signal if set in the DJI GO app. The official explanation from their flight school documentation is as follows:

Warning Autopilot uses a Custom Flight Controller, which means that Lost Connection Mission Continuation (LCMC) is not currently supported. If the aircraft loses connection during a Waypoint Mission, it will automatically initiate the Return to Home failsafe assuming it is enabled in DJI GO. See the following section for more details on this decision. The primary purpose of Waypoint Mode is to script sophisticated aerial sequences for the purpose of cinematic video production. Waypoint Mode does not work well for long range photogrammetry and other applications where aircraft signal loss is expected. Autopilot offers features that products which use the SDK Waypoint implementation cannot offer, and this is why Autopilot's Waypoint Mode is a must-have for video producers.
We may create a new Mode or App that is targeted toward the commercial / industrial market where LCMC may be the rule rather than the exception, but we do not want to compromise on the features of Waypoint Mode to accomplish this.
 
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For those that want a more detailed breakdown of the Autopilot solution, check out these two new videos that I put together on Autopilot's Waypoint Mode. There's also a full suite of other videos to help you take advantage of the software along with the documented flight school.

First Video (Product Overview, Differentiators, and Key Steps):
Second Video (UI Intro and How To's) : https://youtu.be/g4qfLiTRNiw

I've obviously become slanted toward Autopilot and find it to be the most feature rich solution out there. I've used Litchi as well as FPV Camera's Waypoint solution. While I choose AP first, I would currently pick FPV Camera over Litchi, but I haven't test flown it in a few weeks so things might have improved.

If you watch the first video on AP - Waypoint Mode, you'll see the trade off that currently comes from AP's customized flight controller. Yes, it won't allow for missions if you disconnect from the transmitter. Assuming you have RTH set for lost connection, the quad will come home. But, watch the videos and you'll see that there's a lot more than can be done with AP that cannot currently be done with Litchi..

(BTW, great comparison - I was thinking about doing the same thing with Litchi, AP, and FPV Camera! You beat me to it.)
 
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For those that want a more detailed breakdown of the Autopilot solution, check out these two new videos that I put together on Autopilot's Waypoint Mode. There's also a full suite of other videos to help you take advantage of the software along with the documented flight school.

First Video (Product Overview, Differentiators, and Key Steps):
Second Video (UI Intro and How To's) : https://youtu.be/g4qfLiTRNiw

I've obviously become slanted toward Autopilot and find it to be the most feature rich solution out there. I've used Litchi as well as FPV Camera's Waypoint solution. While I choose AP first, I would currently pick FPV Camera over Litchi, but I haven't test flown it in a few weeks so things might have improved.

If you watch the first video on AP - Waypoint Mode, you'll see the trade off that currently comes from AP's customized flight controller. Yes, it won't allow for missions if you disconnect from the transmitter. Assuming you have RTH set for lost connection, the quad will come home. But, watch the videos and you'll see that there's a lot more than can be done with AP that cannot currently be done with Litchi..

(BTW, great comparison - I was thinking about doing the same thing with Litchi, AP, and FPV Camera! You beat me to it.)

This is a very interesting comment for me as I too have bought fpv but not the others yet.
Why would you choose fpv over litchi I'm curious
 
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This is a very interesting comment for me as I too have bought fpv but not the others yet.
Why would you choose fpv over litchi I'm curious

Before Autopilot's waypoint mode came out, I had purchased Litchi and FPV camera (this was a few weeks ago) and tested missions with both (similar to what the original author did with Litchi and Autopilot). For a basic mission or a mission with focus points, I liked the flow of FPV Camera. In addition, at the time, Litchi (while it did follow the path properly) did not seem to handle the camera focus properly.

I'm assuming that Litchi fixed that problem and it probably works fine now. I got busy once AP's Beta came out. However, at the time, I found the FPV camera software easier to use.

I'll make the comment that people that have used FPV or Litchi will need to make a small mind shift to use Autopilot. Not having Flight school or a How To video to learn from, I had to figure a few things out on my own and with the dev. It's not waypoint focused for focus points, but "Focus Trigger Path Point" based..

Like many things, much of this becomes personal preference. There are even simpler and less expensive options out there if you just want it to follow a path. Hell, you can use the DJI software (although you have to fly to the waypoints first)..

Watch the videos I reference above and let me know what you think.
 
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I use all of them as well, but I prefer AP, it's very easy and totally capable, it does not yet do panos but that's not anything that's really important


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