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Are you the kind of drone pilot who wants to do things with your aircraft no one’s thought of before? If so, then Tower, the new open-source flight control app from 3D Robotics, could well be for you.

Unveiled today, Tower was designed to offer a broad range of ways to control a drone in flight, while also giving manufacturers and sophisticated pilots alike a way to add their own new features or customize existing ones.

“Tower is the portal to your drone,” Brandon Basso, 3D Robotics’ vice president of software engineering, told VentureBeat. “It allows you to control [your] aircraft in very, very autonomous ways.”

Although 3D Robotics, one of the world’s leading drone hardware and software makers, has offered a flight-control tool for some time, Tower takes it to the next level, Basso said. And it was created with two things in mind: Giving pilots a very easy way to do what they want, and to make complicated flight maneuvers automatic; and giving developers a simple way to create new custom tools.

Tower is available to anyone for free, 3D Robotics said. It enables a range of different drone flight functions, including:

  • Being able to automatically circle an object while keeping the on-board camera focused on it.
  • Keeping the camera pointed at a subject, no matter where the drone’s flight path takes it.
  • Automatically generating a flight plan that fully covers a map region.
  • Following a user and keeping them centered in the camera’s view.
  • Creating 3D scans of large structures
  • Taking “dronies,” selfies taken by the drone’s camera.

The new flight-control app, which is available only for Android, also is ideal for creating and sharing flight logs, 3D Robotics said.

While 3D Robotics is one of the largest drone technology companies, its customers tend to be people who want more than what comes out of the box. While that means that the company sells many less drones than DJI, the maker of the Phantom line of quadcopters, it is nonetheless seen as a leader among those who want more control over the flight-control tools. Still, Basso admitted, 3D Robotics has about 15,000 active users of its previous-generation flight-control app, DroidPlanner. By comparison, DJI sells around 50,000 Phantoms a month, he said.

3D Robotics was founded by former Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson.

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