Now you can pilot a real-world drone from inside virtual reality

October 21, 2015, 9:27 PM UTC

Drones and virtual reality, together at last.

The CloudlightFPV app, created by developer Kai Aras in collaboration with Chinese drone maker DJI Drones and German tech company Zeiss, allows VR One headset owners the ability to see the world through a drone’s perspective by simply turning one’s head any direction.

Traditionally, drone pilots use a high definition screen on a smartphone or tablet to guide a drone through the air. But Dave Hodgson, director of sales and distribution for Zeiss VR One in North America, says VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) open up a brand new perspective that can be used by hobbyists and professionals alike to help control a drone.

“Drones are popular because people want to experience an aerial perspective of a physical location,” Hodgson says. “VR is all about creating an experience that is so realistic so that you feel like you are in another physical location. By simply combining the two, you end up with endless possibilities of new experiences.”

So many things are possible by combining VR and drones. According to Hodgson, educators can allow students to hover over the Great Wall of China as if they’re in a floating bubble and look in any direction they want. Photographers can pilot a drone over the Grand Canyon at sunset to capture the perfect magazine cover shot. Drone racing enthusiasts can sit in the driver’s seat of the winning pilot. And oil refinery inspectors can check every nook and cranny of a fractioning tower without leaving their office desk.

MORE: Flying an unregistered drone will soon get you in trouble

Aras says this app opens up the possibility for a two-man operation with a pilot steering the drone and a cameraman using head-tracking to control the gimbal-mounted camera to accurately frame the shot.

“Imagine a construction company that is working on a large commercial project for a client that wants daily progress reports,” Aras says. “With this set-up, the construction company can capture footage every day of the construction site in 360-degrees (as if they are sitting inside the drone), and every day show it to the client inside the VR One so that they can look at where they want to look and feel is if they are flying through their new construction site.”

The CloudlightFPV app is available for both iOS and in development for Android. DJI Drones’ Phantom 2 Vision, Vision Plus, Phantom 3 Advance, Phantom 3 Professional, and Inspire support the VR app.

“It’s one thing to be able to capture 360-degree video on the ground,” says Aras, “but being able to capture the entire essence of a product, solution, or service from the air in 360-degree video will give the prospect an entirely new perspective.”

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