Waypoint Mode Guidance



This guide is intended to walk pilots through the process of creating an accurate Waypoint Mission in DJI Pilot using Google Earth Pro and ArduPilot Mission Planner. This Waypoint mode allows for a crabwalk pattern with all DJI Pilot and Pilot 2 equipped aircraft in a hands off flight mode, including manually set Aircraft Yaw and Camera Tilt. The M3T and M30T must use this workaround because DJI Pilot 2 does not allow these aircraft to yaw during Mapping missions. The M300 has the same issue, but using the “Free” gimbal mode gets around this issue.

Aircraft that must currently use this workaround

Aircraft that can currently use this workaround
DJI M300 + Zenmuse H20T
DJI M300 + Zenmuse XT2
Other aircraft capable of using KMLs for capture

Software Required:
Google Earth Pro 
ArduPilot Mission Planner
DJI Pilot or Pilot 2 (Pre-installed on Smart Controller)

Hardware Required:
A computer running Windows, Linux, or Android OS
Mouse and Keyboard
USB Flash Drive or microSD Card


Process Overview: Table of Contents

Step 1: Create a Flight Boundary KML (Google Earth Pro)

Above the main satellite image window, you will see these 5 buttons:

Google Earth Tool List

The most relevant buttons for Waypoint Mode are the Polygon, Path, and Image Overlay tools.

The Polygon Tool

The Polygon tool has the same function as the blue flight boundary created in DJI Pilot and Pilot 2. You can save a Polygon as a KML then import it directly into DJI Pilot as a Mapping Mission to create an instant flight boundary instead of drawing one out on the Smart Controller.

The Path Tool

The Path tool has the same function as creating a Waypoint mission in DJI Pilot and Pilot 2. You can save a path as a KML and import it directly into DJI Pilot as a Waypoint Mission for an instant waypoint path instead of drawing it out on the Smart Controller.

The Image Overlay Tool

The Image Overlay tool takes an image of your choice and overlays it on the satellite map. If your solar farm doesn’t appear in satellite imagery and you don’t have access to a KML of the site, you can save an as-built page as an image and try to geo-reference by hand using existing landmarks. Shift-clicking and dragging the corners will resize the image to scale, clicking and dragging the center cross will move the image around, and the diamond on the left allows you to rotate the image.

If you do use this method to create a Polygon flight boundary, create a larger flight boundary than normal in case your overlay is not perfectly aligned.

The first objective is to create a flight boundary for the solar farm inspection. To do this, use the Polygon tool to draw a boundary around the farm. A second window will appear when using any of the tools above (shown to the left below):

Flight Boundary Setup with Polygon Tool

This smaller window must remain open while making additions, edits, or changes in the main window. You can re-open this window by right clicking on it in the “Places” section and then clicking “Properties”.

Some Tips
  • The “Style, Color” tab of the small window allows you to change the color/fill of the polygon you draw – a Red color, a larger width, and an Outlined area make it significantly easier to see what you are doing. The color and fill do not impact anything in DJI Pilot.
  • Tapping “R” will re-orient your viewpoint to be perpendicular to the ground. 
  • Unchecking the “Terrain” option in the Layers menu on the left will make it easier to draw accurately. 
  • Clicking and holding will draw a series of points, while clicking just once will create only one. Right clicking will delete the previous point in the polygon. 
  • Clicking on a different point in the polygon will allow you to create new points after that section of the line. 

Draw your boundary, type in the appropriate name for your polygon and click OK. The polygon will be saved under the Places menu in the left pane:

Flight Boundary Polygon Complete!

Right click on the polygon in the left hand pane, then “Save Place As”. Select “Save as Type: KML” at the bottom of the Save File menu that appears. Don’t save as KMZ, as it is not compatible with this process.

The flight boundary is now ready to use!

Step 2: Create a Waypoint Mission (ArduPilot Mission Planner)

Now that the flight boundary has been created, move on to the next step – importing it into ArduPilot Mission Planner. This is what Mission Planner will look like when first opened.

The default view of ArduPilot Mission Planner after launch

If this is your first time using Mission Planner, click on “Config” on the top row and adjust the settings below to your liking:

The Config Menu in Mission Planner

Next, click on “Plan” at the top and you’ll see a satellite map of the world. Right click anywhere on the map, hover over “Map Tool”, click “KML Overlay”, and then select your saved KML from Step 1. Click Yes twice when the prompts appear.

Importing the KML Overlay

Now that the proper boundary appears on the map, create a Flight Boundary in Mission Planner by Right clicking in the map view, hovering over “Polygon”, then clicking “Draw a Polygon”. Now carefully zoom in and click each corner of the KML boundary to make a matching polygon. Left click + Drag moves the map around in this mode while tapping left click adds a point.

Once you have drawn your polygon, right click anywhere on the map and mouse over “Auto WP”, then “Survey (Grid)” which will look like this:

Polygon complete!

Pop-up window for Mission Planning

The smaller window that pops up is used to create and adjust the flight plan, much like the settings in DJI Pilot. The Camera dropdown contains a handful of common standalone cameras used for aerial inspections but does not contain any specific cameras for DJI products since the software is not compatible.

Check the “Advanced Options” box on the right side to reveal two more tabs – you should now see “Simple” “Grid Options” and “Camera Config”. Click on the Camera Config tab.

Camera Config Tab

The settings that show in this menu by default belong to the camera selected in the dropdown. To create a new camera, delete and enter your own settings and click Save to create a DJI specific camera for the drone you are using.

Here are the settings for the most common aircraft that benefit from this Waypoint Mode guide:

Aircraft and Camera

Focal Length mm

Image Width px

Image Height px

Sensor Width mm

Sensor Height mm

Autel Evo II Dual 640R
Zenmuse XT and XT2
Model Specific

Enter the information above into the top half of this menu, name the camera setting, and then click Save. The camera will now appear in the dropdown menu on the Simple tab. Notice that you can cross-check your GSD on this page – with the selected altitude on the Simple tab it should read 3cm/px for Comprehensive, 5.5cm/px for Standard, and 15cm/px for Overview inspections.

Ensure that the camera you want to use is selected in the camera dropdown tab, and then adjust the flight altitude for your planned inspection. This example will use a Mavic 3 Thermal at the Comprehensive which flies at 74 feet AGL. Adjust the course angle using the “Angle [deg]” option here to make the flight lines run parallel to the solar panel rows.

Ensure that “Camera Top Facing Forward” is unchecked. This compensates for the changes in overlap that happen when a camera flies perpendicular to the main path. Flight Speed and other settings are not used since those are controlled by DJI Pilot later.

Ready to move to the Grid Options page

Next, click the Grid Options tab. The only adjustments that need to be made are the Overlap and Sidelap settings. Raptor Maps standards are 70% Front Overlap and 20% Side Overlap. In Mission Planner, Front Overlap is titled “Overlap [%]” and Side Overlap is titled “Sidelap [%]”.

As these Waypoint missions are extremely difficult to adjust accurately once in the field, it may be beneficial to use a higher overlap setting during mission planning to ensure full solar farm coverage. Raptor Maps’ standard for overlap is 70 front and 20 side overlap, but you may consider using 80 front and 30 side overlap to ensure proper overall coverage.

Finalized Plan Settings

Return to the Simple tab at the top and click “Accept” at the bottom. This small window will disappear, returning us to the main map view.

View KML to open in Google Earth Pro

Next, click the “View KML” button on the top right side of the screen (highlighted in red above). This will download a Network KML to your browser download window. The KML will open in Google Earth as long as Mission Planner is open.

Step 3: Trace the Mission (Google Earth Pro)

The next step is to get this complete mission into DJI Pilot. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to cleanly import this KML directly into Pilot so you must create a KML that can be imported. Open the Network KML that was saved to your browser downloads in Google Earth Pro by double clicking on it.

The mission imported back into Google Earth Pro

Next, uncheck the both of the “View Centered Placemark” folders on the left and scroll to the very bottom of the list and only check the “onground” path option. This gets rid of all of the text and makes it significantly easier to see what you are doing.

Check only the Onground Path

Onground Only Selected

Verify that the yellow lines are parallel to the panel rows and that the flight plan fully covers the area you are planning to inspect. Select the Path tool from Step 1. Starting at one side of the farm, trace over the mission by clicking once per corner. Feel free to adjust the color and width of the line to make it easier to keep track of your tracing and use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move the map around while you add the waypoint lines.

The most important factor in this process is ensuring the flight lines drawn are parallel to the solar panel rows. The flight lines should not extend too far beyond the end of the panel rows. You do not have to trace diagonal flight lines through the farm or even follow the same up/down cadence as the generated flight plan as long as the farm is properly covered.

Halfway There…

Once you have fully traced the farm, save the Path and export it as a KML in the same way as the flight boundary in Step 1. Next, add the KML file to a microSD card or a flash drive and plug it into the Smart Controller.

Step 4: Import, Adjust Mission, and Fly (DJI Pilot or Pilot 2)

Plug in the microSD card/flash drive into your controller or connect it to your computer via USB cable. Next, open DJI Pilot or Pilot 2 and tap on “Mission Flight” for DJI Pilot or “Flight Route” for DJI Pilot 2.

DJI Pilot 2’s Main Screen

First, tap “KMZ Import”, then navigate to and select the saved KML you created in Google Earth.

KMZ Import

Once you find the file and tap it, DJI Pilot will ask you what kind of mission it is. Remember, the Path tool creates Waypoint missions and the Polygon tool creates Mapping Missions. If you try to import one as the other, DJI Pilot will generate an error. Choose Waypoint to continue.

The 4 Mission Types

Depending on your aircraft and version of DJI Pilot you might get a popup asking for Altitude Mode, with Relative to Takeoff Point (ALT), Ellipsoidal Height or other options. You can choose the option that best serves your mission and farm layout. Relative to Takeoff Point is how DJI aircraft operate by default and the example farm is flat so this example will use this mode.

Altitude Mode Selection for DJI Pilot 2 / Mavic 3 Thermal

You can now import the mission into DJI Pilot. Tap the new mission to enter it.

The new Waypoint Mode mission

You should now see the same flight lines that were drawn in Google Earth neatly recreated in DJI Pilot.

The Waypoint Mission

Select the Edit button on the left side of the screen to begin making adjustments to the mission.

The Home Tab

There are 3 tabs on the right-hand menu.

The Home Tab

The Home tab is where you can select the aircraft and camera type, change the mission name, etc.

The Route Tab

The Route tab below the Home tab edits all of the waypoints for the mission at once, including flight altitude, camera direction, flight speed, camera tilt, etc. This is the most common area to make changes to the whole mission at once.

The Waypoint Tab

The Waypoint tab edits individual waypoints for changes in altitude, speed, and heading. This can be useful to manually change altitudes for a manual version of terrain following. The aircraft rises and descends smoothly between waypoints of different altitudes.

Enter your aircraft and camera type on the Home tab then move to the Route tab.

The Route Tab

There are various options in the Route tab depending on your version of DJI Pilot and aircraft, but the most important settings are as follows:

  • Flight Altitude/Relative Altitude
    • Set the flight altitude to the aircraft/camera’s appropriate altitude as listed on the Raptor Maps Tech Hub. For example, an M3T inspecting a farm at the Comprehensive level should fly at 74 ft. Failure to set the proper altitude will result in Ground Sample Distance (GSD) or image overlap issues.
  • Flight Speed
    • This option is extremely important as there are no overlap settings in Waypoint Mode. The aircraft’s forward flight speed directly impacts the image overlap since the camera will be capturing images every 2 seconds. Failure to capture at the appropriate speed for the inspection will result in image overlap, image blur, or increased inspection time issues.
  • Aircraft Yaw – Select “Manual” from the dropdown
    • This option is extremely important as it stops the aircraft from constantly turning to face the next waypoint. The arrows on the Waypoints on the Map view reflect where the aircraft will face after reaching that waypoint. Once you select “Manual” the aircraft will stay at that heading it is left at once the mission has started.
  • Gimbal Control – Select “Manual” from the dropdown
    • This option is extremely important as it allows the pilot to adjust the tilt of the camera so it can aim perpendicular to the panel faces, plus or minus 20 degrees for glare reduction. By default, DJI Pilot and Pilot 2 command the gimbal to look nadir or straight down.

Now that the mission has been set up properly, the last thing to do is to set up the image capture process. DJI Pilot’s Waypoint Mode does not capture imagery by default. To capture imagery at a regular interval use the built-in intervalometer setting in DJI Pilot.

Turn the aircraft on and enter the mission that you just built. Tap on the camera view in the bottom left corner of the mission, then tap on the button above the shutter button on the right side of the screen, shown below. The symbology of this button will change between DJI Pilot versions and aircraft models but it is roughly in the same place regardless:

The Camera Options menu

Once you open the camera options menu, you should see an option for Photo Mode or a camera icon. Tap on that icon and you will have the option of selecting what happens when the shutter button is pressed. By default, all cameras are set to “Single” which takes one picture per press of the shutter button.

The option in DJI Pilot 2 is called called “Timed”, shown here:

The Timed Interval Shot Selection Menu. Also known as the intervalometer.

By selecting a time in this menu, one press of the shutter button will begin taking pictures at that interval until you press the shutter button again. For Raptor Maps inspections, set this option to 2 seconds and use the listed flight speed in the Raptor Maps Tech Hub page specific to your aircraft:

DJI M300 + Zenmuse H20T
DJI M300 + Zenmuse XT2
DJI Matrice M30T
DJI Mavic 3 Thermal
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced

The aircraft is now ready to inspect the solar farm. After arriving on site, complete your preflight checklist, take off, and begin the mission. Once the aircraft arrives at the starting waypoint:

1. Pause the mission
2. Yaw the aircraft and camera to face the solar panel rows
3. Tilt the camera to look into the face of the panels plus or minus 20 degrees for glare mitigation
4. Start the intervalometer by pressing the shutter button
5. Un-pause the mission

Keep an eye on how many rows appear in your frame at any given time. If the aircraft is at the appropriate altitude the number of rows should be consistent throughout.

While flying, keep an eye on how much ‘new’ image appears between shutter sounds/screen freezes. If 1/4 of the screen is “new” from left to right between shutter freezes, your side image overlap is ~75% (on target). If 1/2 of your screen is “new” between freezes your side image overlap is ~50% (too low).

When jumping vertically between rows, at most 80% of the screen should be “new” resulting in 20% vertical image overlap. If you notice insufficient overlap during the flight, stop the flight and correct the mission settings before continuing.

Remember to turn off the intervalometer immediately after the mission is complete. Trim out any extra images captured on the way to and from the farm inspection before uploading data to Raptor Maps.