In The Spotlight: DJI Intelligent Flight Modes

dj intelligent flight modes

DJI aircraft are packed with great features and advanced flight modes, with arguably the most impressive being their Intelligent Flight Modes. Whether you’re looking to improve your video imaging, or simply try some new techniques, these Intelligent Flight Modes enable you to perform technical manoeuvres that would usually take a decent amount of time to learn from scratch. In fact, some pilots may never have been able to achieve them without these features. You can choose from a library of technical flight skills that’ll take your shots from beginner to advanced – in the touch of a button!

Here, we explore each Intelligent Flight Mode, so you have a complete overview of what’s possible to achieve with your DJI aircraft. We will focus solely on DJI’s most popular and commercially-viable aircraft including the Mavic Series, Phantom 4 Series, Matrice Series and Inspire Series.

It’s important to note that in the UK we have Articles, 94, 95 and 241 in the ANO 2016 that will stop some of the Intelligent Flight Modes in this article from being legal to operate. You should always fly with care when activating any DJI Intelligent Flight Mode, even when Obstacle Avoidance is present. The pilot can use these modes at their own risk and be aware that the use of some modes might jeopardise their PfCO under VLOS. It is the responsibility of the pilot to ensure the aircraft and environment are safe before and during each flight. Ensure you know how the aircraft operates, how to exit these Intelligent Flight Modes, obey UK law (incl. ANO 2016) and always hold appropriate insurance.

Now let’s get started!


Topic Navigation:

Follow Me  Course Lock  Home Lock  Waypoints  Point of Interest  ActiveTrack  QuickShots  SmartCapture  TapFly  Tripod  Cinematic  Terrain Follow  Draw  Gesture  Spotlight Pro  Fixed-Wing  Return To Home


FOLLOW ME

As one element of the Intelligent Navigation Modes, Follow Me Mode allows the pilot to programme their aircraft to automatically track and film them at a pre-determined altitude and constant distance from the pilot. The aircraft will hover in place, if the pre-set distance between the aircraft and pilot increases by more than 200m.

This Intelligent Flight Mode is the perfect tool for hobbyists looking to capture the ultimate selfie video, without needing to manually control the aircraft. That being said, it’s also one of the most high-risk modes, as the controller is often out of the pilot’s reach, therefore extreme caution should be exercised when activating Follow Me mode.

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series
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Follow Me


COURSE LOCK

Course Lock Mode is used when you want to keep the current heading of your aircraft as a constant navigation. Once activated the aircraft will always move in the same direction when using pitch or roll to move the aircraft, whichever way the aircraft is orientated.

For example, when you are filming in one direction and need to concentrate on the manual control of the speed and altitude, this Intelligent Flight Mode will alleviate some of the pressure and navigate in the locked heading for you. Thus, allowing you to fly alongside vehicles or other moving objects or to capture a moving scene. Course Lock Mode takes the navigational reigns, so you can adjust the speed and altitude with ease.

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series | Inspire 1 & 2 | M100, M600, M200
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Course Lock


HOME LOCK

By activating Home Lock Mode, you can easily navigate your aircraft back to the Home Point without having to worry about its orientation. You can simply pull back on the right control stick (Mode 2) and the aircraft will slowly return to the Home Point.

This Intelligent Flight Mode is extremely useful during filmmaking, when shooting multiple takes of the same scene to minimise the turnaround time between takes.

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series | Inspire 1 & 2 | Matrice 600
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Home Lock


WAYPOINTS

Waypoints can be defined as ‘sets of coordinates that identify a point in physical space’ – and when it comes to DJI, that’s exactly what it does. This Intelligent Flight Mode allows the pilot to set multiple ‘waypoints’ to create a complete flight journey. When you start the flight, the aircraft will move autonomously between each recorded waypoint.

Each flight can be recorded as a ‘mission’ with a maximum radius of 500m and a maximum path length of 5000m (or as your PfCO allows). You can navigate the aircraft to each desired location and set it as a waypoint (must be more than 5m apart).

Once you have set all the waypoints, and the speed and altitude have also been set, you can select your control mode; Consistent with Record, Consistent with Route, or Free. Consistent with Record Mode means your camera will face the direction it was in when you recorded the waypoint. Consistent with Route Mode means your camera will face the direction it’s travelling towards. In Free Mode, the camera yaw will oscillate around its own axis during the flight, for a more varied shot. Note that Free Mode is not available on all aircraft with Waypoints capability.

Lastly, you’ll need to decide what your aircraft will do once the flight is complete; Hover or Return to Home (RTH). Then you can begin your mission! It’s important to note that the flight can be paused between waypoints, and the speed can be altered as appropriate during the flight.

The Waypoints Intelligent Flight Mode allows you to map your flight to reach specific points of interest, so you can concentrate on capturing quality shots without needing to manually pilot the journey. It’s extremely useful in Mapping and Surveying, as you can easily record data for the same area over a period of time.

You should note that DJI forces the user to manually fly the mission first, whilst dropping waypoints. This is to add an extra level of safety to prevent missions from being flown without the flight path having been properly planned.

There are other DJI autonomous apps available that allow the user to fly waypoint missions without flying the route first, called Ground Station Pro. You can also save pre-flown missions for a later date on both DJI GO Waypoints and Ground Station Pro.

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series | Inspire 2 | Matrice 600
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Waypoints


POINT OF INTEREST

The Point of Interest Mode will navigate around a specified subject or target, i.e. a Point of Interest (POI) in a continuous circle. The pilot can set the speed, radius from the POI and altitude of the aircraft, and the time it takes to complete one full circle around the POI will be automatically calculated for you. The nose of the aircraft will initially point towards the POI; however, this can be altered using the manual control stick.

Particularly useful for the inspection of tall structures such as wind turbines and transmission towers, this Intelligent Flight Mode can be used across various industry applications.

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series | Matrice 600
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Point of Interest


ACTIVETRACK

ActiveTrack Mode enables the aircraft to follow your selected target(s) whilst in motion, allowing you to create cinematic shots without the need for a second camera operator. Obstacles are automatically avoided when using ActiveTrack and the aircraft can track a subject going in any direction, including uphill and downhill (depending on the aircraft’s downward sensor capability).

Once your subject has been either automatically or manually selected, you can activate ActiveTrack in one of the following modes:

Trace – Allows you to actively track a subject from behind, even when they are moving or change direction.

Backward Flying – This ActiveTrack mode allows the subject to move forward and towards the aircraft, and it will travel backwards whilst capturing the subject.

Profile – This ActiveTrack mode allows the pilot to track a subject from the sides as they move.

Circle – Using the same concept as Point of Interest Mode, this mode extension can circle the subject at a set height, radius and speed, whilst simultaneously tracking the subject or POI as they move.

Spotlight – Keeps the camera locked onto a subject whilst the aircraft automatically yaws left and right to keep the subject in frame. This can be a great tool for sole operators or beginners wanting to get those smooth cinematic shots. This is most definitely our top pick of the ActiveTrack modes!

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series | Inspire 2
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ActiveTrack


QUICKSHOTS

There are 6 different QuickShot Modes in total; Rocket, Dronie, Circle, Helix, Asteroid and Boomerang. They all essentially allow you to create a different style of ‘selfie’ shot at the touch of a button.

Rocket Mode – As you would imagine, Rocket Mode allows the aircraft to shoot straight up from a low hover, with the camera facing downwards to reveal the surrounding areas as it ascends. Although this is a reasonably simple action to perform manually, this Intelligent Flight Mode leaves little room for error.

Rocket Mode

Dronie Mode – A modern version of the classic ‘selfie’, Dronie Mode focuses on a specific target or subject and pulls diagonally upwards and backwards, gradually revealing the surrounding location as it ascends. This is a moderately difficult action to perform manually, as it requires the skill to move up and back whilst keeping speed, distance and altitude in proportion.

Dronie Mode

Circle Mode – As the name implies, Circle Mode allows your aircraft to orbit around a specific subject or target. You can set this mode at you chosen altitude around stationary or moving subjects. This is a difficult technique to achieve with manual control, particularly if the subject is moving. Note: This mode is only available on Spark and Mavic Air.

Circle Mode

Helix Mode – This mode begins close to the subject or target, travelling up and away from the subject in a circular motion, with the spirals getting larger the higher it travels. This is even more difficult to manually pilot than the Circle Mode, as it requires the skill move up, back and sideways whilst keeping speed, distance and altitude in proportion. Helix Mode allows you to create exciting and visually dramatic shots with ease.

Helix Mode

In addition to the 4 QuickShot modes detailed above, the Mavic Air features 2 new QuickShot Modes; Asteroid and Boomerang.

Asteroid Mode – This Intelligent Flight Mode combines a spherical image with video to create a theatrical shot whereby the spherical image zooms forward and down towards the subject or target.

Asteroid Mode

Boomerang Mode – Just like the Australian Aborigines traditional hunting weapon, this Intelligent Flight Mode is designed to make the aircraft move about an axis (subject/target) perpendicular to the direction of its flight, before returning to the start point in one swift motion.

Boomerang Mode

Aside from providing fun and exciting new ‘selfie’ capabilities, QuickShots provide excellent tools for filmmaking when highlighting the location and surroundings of a product or target. Have you tried them all yet?

QuickShot Modes Rocket, Dronie, Helix featured on: Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series
QuickShot Modes Rocket, Dronie, Helix, Circle featured on: Spark
All 6 QuickShot Modes featured on: Mavic Air
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SMARTCAPTURE

Like something straight from “the future”, SmartCapture allows the pilot to control the Mavic Air by hand whilst taking photos or videos. Although it’s arguably one of the most exciting new Intelligent Flight Modes from DJI, there are few commercial applications that would require the use of SmartCapture, therefore it is more of a feature aimed at the hobbyist.

Once the aircraft has been turned on, there are 9 SmartCapture “gestures” that can be activated:

Gesture Launch – To activate this feature, the pilot should stand approx. 2-3 metres in front of the aircraft and raise their palm for about 2 seconds. Once this has been activated (you can tell as the front LEDs will blink green) the aircraft will automatically take off and hover in place.

Palm Control – The aircraft should be hovering level-ish with the pilot’s arm, no higher than 2m off the ground. To activate Palm Control, the pilot should face the palm of their hand towards the camera for approx. 2 seconds. As before, the front LEDs will blink green to show it’s activated and can now be carefully controlled by the pilot’s palm.

Control Distance – To control the distance, the pilot should face the nose of the aircraft and raise both arms together with palms facing the camera. Once the front LEDs are blinking green, you can move your arms apart to alter the distance. The further you move your arms/palms away from one another, the further backwards the aircraft will move, and vice versa! Note: this will only move back by a maximum distance of 6 metres and will move forward stopping at a minimum of 2 metres in front of you.

Follow – With the Follow options of Trace or Profile available in the DJI Go 4 App, the pilot simply needs to lower their palms slowly to the floor to activate SmartCapture Follow Mode. Once the front LED is blinking green, you can select either Trace or Profile in the app and further control the aircraft’s altitude and distance from you, using your palm!

Selfie and Group Selfie – To activate Selfie Mode with your palm, all you need to do is make a front ‘v’ gesture with your fingers and it will begin a 3 second countdown. Like a digital camera or smartphone, the aircraft will notify you when it’s close to taking the photo by making the front LEDs slowly flash red at 2 seconds and then speed up to quick red flashing at 1 second countdown. It will then turn off the LEDs to signify the photo is being taken. Group Selfie gets a bit more exciting – to activate, multiple people in the group must make a forward ‘v’ shape with their fingers. The aircraft will complete the same process as Selfie Mode at its current altitude. However, after the first photo has been taken, it will ascend and reverse 5m away from the subjects, then take a second photo at a 30-degree angle. But it’s not done yet, for that third amazing Group Selfie, the aircraft will then ascend and reverse a further 2m (total 7m) away from the subjects and take a photo at a 15-degree angle – and voila! You’ve got 3 awesome group selfies in the space of a few seconds.

SmartCapture

Record Videos – To record a video, the pilot must stand at least 7m away from the aircraft and make a ‘frame’ gesture with their index fingers and thumbs. The recording will begin as soon as the gesture is recognised. To end the recording, simply make the frame gesture again after 5 seconds.

Switching Control – If there are multiple pilots, you can easily Switch Control to the other person whilst in SmartCapture Mode. Once standing together, the Pilot in Control (PIC) simply needs to lower their palm to the ground, with the new PIC completing the movement by then raising their palm from the ground upwards. Once control has been activated to the new PIC, the front LEDs will blink green.

Gesture Land – To complete your SmartCapture flight, simply move your hand down slowly so that the aircraft follows, descending to the minimum altitude, before continuing the downward hand motion so that the aircraft slowly lands and stops its motors.

Featured on Mavic Air
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TAPFLY

TapFly is an Intelligent Flight Mode that allows the pilot to simply ‘tap’ a location on the horizon line that the aircraft will travel towards. You can change direction by tapping another location on the control screen.

This feature is fantastic when capturing a large, spacious landscape, as it removes the need for constant manual control. It’s also a good option for beginners who are yet to familiarise themselves with the manual control sticks, so they can concentrate on capturing shots.

TapFly works in Forward, Backward, Free, and Coordinate modes. It’s important to note that Obstacle Avoidance is unavailable in Free mode, so extra care must be taken when activating this mode.

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series | Inspire 2
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TapFly


TRIPOD

Tripod mode allows the pilot to have more stability and precision when traveling through small spaces, by decreasing sensitivity of the controls to create very slow, smooth and cinematic camera movement.

The aircraft also moves slower in Tripod Mode (max. speed of 2.2 mph), allowing the pilot to fly with more control and generally fly more precisely. This mode can only be used when lighting conditions are good, and the drone has a strong GPS signal.

This Intelligent Flight Mode mostly appeals to filmmakers wanting to gain smooth, cinematic shots, but is also really useful for carrying out precise landings.

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series | Inspire 2
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tripod


CINEMATIC

Cinematic Mode helps to create more – you guessed it – cinematic shots by extending the breaking distance for the aircraft. This allows the aircraft to slow down gently until it stops.

It also decreases sensitivity to the Yaw control, making the camera movement smoother to create impressive cinematic shots.

As an extension of the original Tripod Mode, it’s a useful tool for filmmaking and media applications. It’s also beneficial for novice commercial pilots, so they don’t have to adjust the gains/expo of the transmitters (note – you can still achieve this on aircraft that don’t have this mode by changing the transmitter settings).

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series
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cinematic


TERRAIN FOLLOW

Terrain Follow Mode uses the aircraft’s Downward Vision System to keep your aircraft at a set height (1-10 metres) above uneven or rolling terrain, within a 20-degree gradient. This mode is different from other IFMs such as Follow Me and ActiveTrack, as the aircraft doesn’t hone in on a subject to automatically track. You’ll need to manually move the aircraft (forward/back/left/right) with the right control stick and the altitude can be adjusted with the right control stick (Mode 2).

This Intelligent Flight Mode is extremely useful when capturing large swathes of land, including farmland, vineyards, sand dunes and any other rural, sloping landscape.

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series
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terrain follow


DRAW

Draw mode is an extended feature of waypoint control, where you can draw a route on-screen for your aircraft to follow. Once the route has been drawn, the aircraft will follow at a steady speed and altitude of your choice (between 2m-500m, or the maximum height your PfCO allows).

There are 2 main control modes – forward and free. Once the route has been drawn, and the speed and altitude have both been set, you can select your control mode. In Forward Mode, the camera will simply follow the flight direction for a ‘forward’ shot. Whereas in Free Mode, the camera yaw will oscillate around its own axis during the flight, for a more varied shot.

This mode allows the pilot to create a specific flight path whilst gaining more difficult shots, as you will be able to concentrate on the camera, rather than on manual flight control.

Featured on Mavic Air | Phantom 4 Series
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Draw Mode


GESTURE

As the older sibling of SmartCapture Mode, Gesture Mode originally brought the ‘selfie’ feature to your DJI aircraft and features on all the aircraft we’re focusing on in this article, minus the Mavic Air (which features the newer SmartCapture).

The pilot can use clear arm movements to initiate the following actions:

PalmLaunch
PalmControl
Away and Follow
Beckon
Selfie
Record

Featured on Mavic Pro Series | Phantom 4 Series
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Gesture Mode


SPOTLIGHT PRO

Spotlight Pro is an improved version of the original Spotlight extension within ActiveTrack Mode.

Featured on the Inspire 2, it uses a deep learning visual tracking algorithm so that the gimbal automatically adjusts, and the camera stays focused on the subject – no matter what direction the subject or aircraft travels. Spotlight Pro can be used in either Quick or Composition Mode:

Quick Mode – This mode allows the operator to concentrate on piloting the aircraft around the flight area, whilst the camera stays locked onto the chosen subject.

Composition Mode – This mode allows you to choose an area for the camera to lock onto, so that when the subject comes into this area, it can begin tracking them from that point onward.

Featured on Inspire 2
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FIXED-WING

In Fixed-Wing Mode, the aircraft will automatically travel forwards at a set speed. It’s essentially a cruise control for your aircraft. However, because you can alter the altitude and rotation of the aircraft whilst in this mode, it’s best compared to a fixed-wing UAV – hence the name!

Featured on Mavic Air | Mavic Pro Series
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RETURN TO HOME

Although it cannot technically be classed as an Intelligent Flight Mode, it’s important to mention the Return to Home function. This function is built into all DJI’s aircraft and allows you to record a Home Point, that your aircraft can automatically travel to at the end of a flight (usually the take-off or launch site).

You should record a new Home Point at the start of each flight, as it also provides a failsafe if you run out of battery or experience an in-flight emergency. There are 3 types of RTH:

Failsafe RTH – This kicks in should your remote controller lose signal. However, it can be cancelled if the you regain control of your aircraft.

Smart RTH – The aircraft uses obstacle avoidance when traveling to the Home Point, so the pilot doesn’t have to manually control the aircraft. If there are any obstacles during the RTH, it will either navigate around a static obstacle or hover in place until an obstacle has moved.

Low Battery RTH – If the low battery warning is ignored for more than 10 seconds, the aircraft will automatically start navigating to the Home Point.

Featured on ALL DJI Aircraft
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Return to Home


DJI’s Intelligent Flight Modes can be accessed and set via the Remote Controller, DJI GO and GO 4 Apps, however the method can differ between aircraft models. To learn more about how to set up each Flight Mode, please check your aircraft’s user manual.

The Intelligent Flight Modes detailed in this article are matched to the relevant DJI aircraft and information is correct at the time of publishing. We will do our best to update this article as and when new DJI aircraft are released, however cannot guarantee this.


For more information about DJI Intelligent Flight Modes, Aircraft and Training – please contact our team of experts on 0330 111 8800 today!


 

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