Drone controller with UI
illustration of a drone

Aerial Photography

by John Wayne Hill

A cohesive, easy to use flight & camera system

Taking Flight

Working with a client from early concepts through final production and delivery of a new, super easy-to-use, best-in-class drone experience. Over one and a half years we collaboratively worked to bring a brand new experience to life, taking aerial photography and videography to new heights.

Throughout this project I was the design lead, closely collaborating with our clients, as well as individually designing wireframes, flows, information architecture, presentations, and screens.

Drone flying with person holding controller with screen in view.
GoPro Karma being flown with focus on drone controller
Speak Friend and Enter

Getting There

Our project started as a three month concepting engagement with a large, new client. As the design lead, I worked with my team setting up discovery workshops and user research to better understand the problem space and the client's needs. We collaborated closely to work towards multiple solutions and ideas and simultaneously crafted user research to help us figure out the best solution.

To better understand users, we would take novice participants out flying with a drone. We also immersed ourselves in drone flying outside of the office and on weekends. Together with our client's knowledge, this helped us to understand a need to break away from the complicated experience and interfaces of other drones and controllers and create something super simple, easy to understand, and easy to operate.

illustration of a man with sticky notes in a thought process
John Wayne Hill leading a design activity
Workshops and materials in getting towards the product vision
Screenshots of articles and reviews of the drone and controller
Workshops and materials in getting towards the product vision


Key moments and responsibilities

Red Dot Award | 2017 for Best of the Best in Product Design

Lead large team, collaborative sketching sessions

Designed and lead user research initiatives

Immersed team and myself in product space through flying

Designed interactions to be within thumbs reach from controller

Focused on making flying simple and fun

Took three month contract to extended 1.5 years of collaboration

Designed a flying experience that anyone could pick up and use

illustration of a man moving bars on a screen

Design Details

Showcasing various aspects of the drone controller both on device and as stand-alone screens. Following is only a subset of the total screens created in tight collaboration.

Home screen of controller OS showing a simple swipe up to get flying ui
Home screen showing a quick way to start flying, with a swipe up.
Flight HUD showing that the drone is getting ready to start
Flight HUD showing that the drone is getting ready to start.
Flight HUD showing that the drone is ready to fly
Flight HUD showing that the drone is ready to fly.
Flight HUD showing that the rotors are starting on the drone
As the drone starts up, the screen showcases a message that the rotors are starting.
Flight HUD for drone, shown on the controller
The Flight HUD was the main screen for customers. We worked tirelessly to simplify the screen to just the necessary components. We also crafted the interaction points to be at the edges of the screen, easily reachable with your thumbs that rest on the remote. This screens, and the previous, made this drone one of the easiest to fly, even for novices.
Out of box experience to get the drone ready to fly
Showcasing part of the out of box experience for customers to get the drone ready to fly. Updates were often needed before the first flight to ensure safety and adherence to regulations.
Main screens for drone flight including Home, Flight HUD, Flight Menus, and Video Setting menus.
Most customer interaction with the touchscreen happened on these four screens. The Home screen with easy access to flight. The main Flight HUD with simple, reachable interface. The Flight Menu, accessed via the left-most bottom button. The Video Settings menu, accessed via the right-most bottom button.
Flight HUD screens showing map views, media views, and automatic modes for the drone.
Additional Flight HUD screens showing the ability to fly with a map view; reviewing media while the drone is hovering in flight; and automatic modes for the drone including the ability to return to 'home' position.
Flight tutorial and safety information which displays before the drone's first flight.
Before a customer's first flight with the drone, a quick tutorial is displayed which goes over safety information, how to use the controller, and some basic functions of the software.
Flight simulator screens that helped customers use the real controller
A simulator was also designed to allow for customers to practice flying in a simulated environment, but with the actual controller. This simulator was accessed from the Home screen and helped customers quickly grasp flight basics.

Additional Details In Person

Thanks for checking out my work! This is just a high-level overview for this particular case study. During in person interviews and presentations I go over additional details such as strategy, process, my direct contributions, and more. Get in touch if you'd like to learn more!

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illustration showing a person on video call giving a presentation