Phantom 4 RTK Terrain Awareness

As you may have noticed, DJI has added a few new options to the “Plan” menu on the P4RTK. Of particular interest is the “Terrain Awareness” feature. This is a welcomed feature on the P4RTK as it will allow the drone to remain at a set altitude above topography with changing elevations. This leads to consistent overlap throughout the entire project and makes it so you don’t have to “terrace” your flight into a few different missions when mapping a mountainside.


Unlike Map Pilot’s Terrain Awareness, which uses the SRTM model of the earth already loaded into the software to map for elevation change, DJI’s terrain awareness is a bit less streamlined.

DJI requires you to import a DSM onto the controller via micro USB, however, there are a few technical tweaks required in order to get the GSRTK app to recognize and properly utilize the DSM.

The good news is, we know how to do it! Using the National Elevation Database, you can create a usable DSM in QGIS. Not sure how to use the NED or QGIS? We can create a DSM for you and send it to you for upload to your Controller.

Contact or (949) 386-2277 for more details.

If you want to give it a try yourself, you can find our technical write up here.

The purpose of the technical workflow is to get elevation data from the USGS for areas in the United States and make that data usable for Terrain Awareness in the DJI Phantom 4 RTK.

There are GIS applications, like Global Mapper, that can assist in this endeavor. But, you have to pay for those tools. This workflow is FREE.

This process will consist of 4 main steps:

  1. Getting the Elevation Data

  2. Converting and clipping the data

  3. Loading the data onto the drone SD card

  4. Import data to the DJI controller

These are the steps for leveraging free USGS elevation data in order to use the Terrain Awareness feature.

  • Getting the Elevation Data

    • Go to the USGS web-viewer to download the data

  • Converting and clipping the data

    • Download QGIS

    • Open QGIS

    • Drag and drop the .adf file into QGIS

    • Add a base map

    • Draw a polygon to clip the data

    • Open OSGeo4W Shell

    • Use OS4Geo4 Shell to create a TFW for the clipped TIF

  • Loading the data onto the Controller SD card

    • Put an SD card in your computer

    • Place the TIF and TFW on the SD card

  • Import data to the DJI controller

    • Insert the SD card into the DJI controller

    • Tap three lines

    • Tap the SD card icon

    • Select the DSM file

    • Select Terrain Awareness Mode

    • Select the right DSM

    • Plan Task (aka Plan Flight Path)