/ THE CHALLENGE
The Dronecode Project is an open source, collaborative project that brings together existing and future open source drone projects under a non profit structure governed by The Linux Foundation. The result will be a common, shared open source platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
Dronecode will encourage the development of open source consumer and commercial UAV software by building and supporting a community of developers and providing them the resources and tools to help them innovate.
Dronecode hosts several different Ground Control Stations (GCS) software, but none completely fullfills user needs. Some are clearly lacking in features, others neither support multiplatforms nor have a good user experience.
A GCS is a software that communicates with the UAV via wireless telemetry. It displays performance and position data in real-time and can serve as a “virtual cockpit”, its features are very similar from a real plane panel.
/ WITH THAT SAID, OUR MAIN OBJECTIVE AS DESIGNERS
CONTRIBUTE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE USER EXPERIENCE FOR CONTROLLING INTERFACES BELONGING TO DRONECODE PROJECT TO IMPROVE THEIR INTERACTION AND USABILITY, MAKING THEM ACCESSIBLE TO FIRST-TIME AND ADVANCED USERS
The proposal was gathering the opinion from people who really use Ground Control Stations software to propose some user experience improvements based on that.
For this Online Survey, we posted some open questions about drones’ usage in the DIY forum, and received some interesting answers.
DIY Drones is the largest community for amateur UAV. They are focused on recrreational projects by amateurs and primarily interested in just have fun technical challenge.
The objective was to study the current state of UI related to drone flights to find positive aspects and improvements areas on them, by doing so we hoped to identify best practices and gaps that the community can address to improve overall user experiences.
We analyzed 14 tools through video tutorials, technical specifications, actual usage and reviews from users, which deal in some way with flight planning and monitoring. The experienice were evaluated accordingly with how they support some important tasks, like first use, setup, plan, flight and data analysis.
/ WHAT WE’VE BEEN DOING
After a serie of researches, we choose only one GCS to give efforts, aligned with business interests. The chosen was QGroundControl, an open source operator control unit/ground control software for micro air vehicles, which provides full support and configuration for PX4 and APM Flight Stacks and is also a member of Dronecode project.
Our efforts are concentrated in three fronts. Our contribution started firstly by redesigning the branding and the website of QGroundControl Project. We are currently working on software front, proposing UX and UI improvements and trying to expand the software through other platforms.
Here you will find the path we are treading.
/ QGROUNDCONTROL APP
THE USABILITY TEST
The main purpose of the test was to observe final users dealing with QGroundControl interface to address gaps and opportunities from a more realistic point of view improving the overall usability.
After thorough preparation of test scripts, we have decided to test the product with a group of 10 users, distributed between newcomers and experts.
During March 2016, we’ve invited these users and during the private sessions, we’ve recorded their interactions with the product while they were performing typical tasks. The UI was tested with five tasks - including planning a flight and flying the drone - and the users were asked to score each task between 1 and 5. Besides the opportunity to investigate how users deal with the UI, the study report will be part of Dronecode User Experience Studies series and the recommendations are being done on project’s GitHub.
/ QGROUNDCONTROL APP
Watching the records and reviewing the notes, we marked all the issues we have found and post it then according to each category and task. The findings were classified according with their severity, with a combination of two main factors: the frequency the issue occurs and the impact of then (how easy will be for users to overcome).
Usability test analysis showed that the interface could give more guidance and feedback about the tasks being performed. Although the users could realize the drone was connected to the interface, most of them couldn’t affirm it was ready to fly. Besides, most of them couldn't feel confident enough on completing the proposed tasks without any sort of guidance.
/ SOFTWARE FRONT
The recommendations were prioritized and were uploaded on project’s GitHub. Many of them are already merged into master, and you can see some of then below.
The first step was a facelift of Summary screen, reviewing information flow, icons, colors and header. During this phase, we worked using Agile methods, to work fast and better.
/ INTERNATIONAL DRONE DAY '16
SPREADING TO THE WORLD
On May 7th we joined 150 teams in 50 countries for the second annual International Drone Day, a worldwide event promoted by That Drone Show and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), with the objective of demystifying Drones and showing how they can be used for general good.
We organized the keynotes (two internal and three external) and the demonstrations (drone racing and aerial photography) at Campinas' Ecological Park. We also delivered all visual identity and collateral material, including posters, folders, stickers and social media assets. Campinas was the only Brazilian city to participate, with over 150 people attending the talks and the drone flight demonstrations on the soccer field.
Most of the attendees didn't know Intel was involved in developing drone technology and wanted to know if we had a specific flight controller board. The event played a significant role in raising awareness for Intel, showing our work in Dronecode and connecting with the local drone community and enthusiasts.