Real-time planning for automated multi-view drone cinematography

Tobias Nageli, Lukas Meier, Alexander Domahidi, Javier Alonso-Mora, Otmar Hilliges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


We propose a method for automated aerial videography in dynamic and cluttered environments. An online receding horizon optimization formulation facilitates the planning process for novices and experts alike. The algorithm takes high-level plans as input, which we dub virtual rails, alongside interactively defined aesthetic framing objectives and jointly solves for 3D quadcopter motion plans and associated velocities. The method generates control inputs subject to constraints of a non-linear quadrotor model and dynamic constraints imposed by actors moving in an a priori unknown way. The output plans are physically feasible, for the horizon length, and we apply the resulting control inputs directly at each time-step, without requiring a separate trajectory tracking algorithm. The online nature of the method enables incorporation of feedback into the planning and control loop, makes the algorithm robust to disturbances. Furthermore, we extend the method to include coordination between multiple drones to enable dynamic multi-view shots, typical for action sequences and live TV coverage. The algorithm runs in real-time on standard hardware and computes motion plans for several drones in the order of milliseconds. Finally, we evaluate the approach qualitatively with a number of challenging shots, involving multiple drones and actors and qualitatively characterize the computational performance experimentally.

Original languageEnglish
Article number132
Number of pages10
JournalACM Transactions on Graphics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Aerial videography
  • Collision-avoidance
  • Multi-drone


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