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An overview for those wishing to fly from the cockpit
Written by Patrick Sherman
As featured in the April 2014 issue of
Model Aviation.



The development of FPV, or First-Person View, during the past few years has drawn many new people into model aeronautics, including me. This surge of interest and enthusiasm has brought a new vitality to the hobby—new ideas and a new sense of mission that will ultimately transform RC flying and society. Of course, enthusiasm is no substitute for technical skill and many newcomers don’t know the difference between an ESC and an EC-5 connector.

Here at the Roswell Flight Test Crew, one of our primary goals is to teach people how to build their own FPV platforms. Because most of them fit into this novice category, we usually spend more time talking about how to build and fly aircraft than we do discussing the actual FPV systems.

When Editor-in-Chief Jay Smith of Model Aviation asked me to put together a how-to article about FPV, I jumped at the chance. As AMA members, you already have building and flying abilities, so I can skip straight to the fun part!



STEP ONE: Ham It Up

In order to lawfully utilize the radio frequencies that are required for FPV flying, you will need to be a licensed ham radio operator. This sounds like a daunting first step, but it isn’t the ordeal that it used to be.

In 2007, the FCC eliminated the requirement to know Morse code to become a ham operator. Today, all you have to do is pass a 35-question, multiple-choice test in order to qualify for a Technician license—the first of three levels of licenses available from the FCC and probably the only one you will ever need as an FPV pilot.

There are books and online courses available to help you prepare, but we signed up for a free, two-day class offered by a local ham radio club. To find classes in your area, visit the Amateur Radio Relay Network website listed in the “Sources” section.

If I can pass this test despite having the same level of technical acumen as a half a ton of igneous rock, anybody can do it!



STEP TWO: Choose an Aircraft

Contrary to what you might think from watching online videos, you don’t have to choose a multirotor! I believe that multirotors have become closely associated with FPV flying because both technologies matured at roughly the same time. Because multirotors are stable, mechanically robust aircraft, they were a natural choice for beginners who were drawn into RC flying by the potential of FPV.

Although you don’t need a multirotor, the aircraft does need to be a stable platform—either rotorcraft or fixed wing—with sufficient payload capacity to carry the necessary gear. Helicopters are certainly an option for a skilled pilot, but they tend to induce more vibration to the camera mount than other aircraft types. Foamie trainers and flying wings are popular fixed-wing choices, but we at the Roswell Flight Test Crew favor the ubiquitous multirotor.

Easy to fly and having as few as four moving parts, multirotors such as the Roswell Flight Test Crew’s RQCX-3 Raven hexacopter, are a popular choice for FPV platforms.



STEP THREE: Frequencies

Several frequencies are available to carry the live video feed from your aircraft back to you on the ground: 900 MHz, 1.2-1.3 GHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz. As a seasoned aeromodeler, I’m sure that one of those frequencies set off all sorts of alarm bells ringing inside your head—2.4 GHz, because that’s the same frequency our modern control radios use.

Unless you’re still rocking a 72 MHz crystal radio that you’ve had since 1975, let’s take 2.4 GHz off the list. Alternatively, if you’re using a 433 MHz long-range system to transmit control signals to your aircraft, 2.4 GHz is back on the table.

As a general guide, the lower frequencies (900 MHz, 1.2-1.3 GHz) tend to be more forgiving if a physical object such as a tree comes between the pilot and his or her aircraft. However, the antennas tend to be larger because of their longer wavelengths, which can make them more difficult to mount on your aircraft and more vulnerable to damage.

Conversely, 5.8 GHz signals are more easily blocked by intervening objects, but the antennas are much, much smaller and easier to install.



STEP FOUR: Transmitter/Receiver and Antenna

If you want to fly FPV, you’ll need a video transmitter onboard your aircraft to send live video, and a video receiver on the ground to pick up those signals. Wireless video systems aren’t standard equipment at most hobby stores, so you’ll probably have to look online to find one.

After you’ve identified a vendor, you’ll find that transmitters on your chosen frequency are available at a variety of different output levels, generally ranging from 100 milliwatt to 2 watts. It’s tempting to drop the most powerful one in your shopping cart and click buy; however, a good-quality antenna will actually have a much larger impact on signal quality than a high-powered transmitter.

Antenna quality is reflected in its gain (dB), and every three points of gain is equal to doubling the power of your transmitter. In other words, if you pair a 500-milliwatt transmitter with a 9 dB antenna, it will perform as though you have a 2-watt transmitter—at a fraction of the cost and the power draw on your battery.

Available online from specialty retailers, these circular, polarized receiver antennas provide great omnidirectional performance, which has made them popular among FPV pilots. As the wavelength of the signal being received decreases, the antennas shrink substantially, from the 1.3 GHz antenna at the top of the photo to the 5.8 GHz one on the lower left. A quarter is included for scale.



STEP FIVE: Choosing a Camera

When it comes to selecting a camera, you have a clear choice: a small, inexpensive, lightweight board camera or a heavier, more expensive sports camera such as the GoPro Hero series. Board cameras, which take their name from the fact that they resemble a lens attached to a circuit board, are typically powered directly from the main flight battery. They have no built-in capability to record the images that they capture.

Some sports cameras, such as the GoPro, have the ability to pass through live images as well as record high-definition (HD) video, which gives you the ability to relive your aerial adventures after the aircraft is back on the ground. A drawback is that these sports cameras are powered by their own internal batteries, which could run out of juice before your flight battery and leave you flying blind.

Many FPV pilots opt for both, wiring a board camera to their video transmitter and carrying a GoPro to record HD video without connecting it to their FPV systems. At Roswell Flight Test Crew, our practice is to use a video switch onboard our aircraft, so that we can switch back and forth between cameras while in flight.

Two frequent options for FPV cameras: a GoPro Hero on the right, which can send a live signal while simultaneously recording HD video; and, on the left, a lightweight, inexpensive board camera with interchangeable lenses to customize the field of view.



STEP SIX: On-Screen Display

This step isn’t mandatory, but it is a really good idea. An On-Screen Display (OSD) puts an overlay of aircraft telemetry on top of your video image. The most sophisticated OSDs resemble the Heads-Up Display on a modern jet fighter, with animated ladders that represent altitude, airspeed, direction, distance to home, and even an artificial horizon.

The most crucial piece of information that any OSD worth having onboard your aircraft can provide is your flight battery’s voltage. It’s easy to get caught up in the experience when you’re flying FPV, so it’s nice to have a reminder that your battery level is dropping, prompting you to complete the flight.

A sophisticated OSD can cost hundreds of dollars and include its own independent GPS receivers as well as a suite of sensors to directly measure altitude, airspeed, motor temperature, and g-forces. However, a simple OSD that only displays battery voltage can be purchased for less than $20.

This OSD provides the pilot with aircraft telemetry overlaid on top of the FPV video, including battery voltage, airspeed, altitude, compass heading, distance and direction to home, and latitude and longitude coordinates. It can even accept input from additional sensors to measure motor and ESC temperatures, g-forces, and other flight parameters.



STEP SEVEN: Choose Goggles or a Video Screen

Now that you have video and telemetry streaming live from your aircraft, you’re going to want to see it. There are basically two options available: video goggles or a small, battery-powered screen.

Goggles provide a much more immersive experience, putting you onboard your aircraft without any outside distractions. It can help novice pilots avoid becoming disoriented, because there is no temptation to look up at the aircraft itself and potentially become confused about whether it is coming or going.

Using a screen allows other people to watch the flight progress over your shoulder. This is a popular choice for aerial photographers who need to frame their shots while simultaneously keeping an eye on their aircraft as it moves through the environment.

Video goggles such as these Fat Shark Dominators, made specifically for FPV flying, are a popular choice because they provide an immersive experience by eliminating outside distractions from the pilot’s field of view.


A small video screen is one option for receiving the real-time FPV feed from your aircraft. It allows other people to share your aerial adventures by watching over your shoulder, and is a popular choice for aerial photographers. Be sure to get one that will display static rather than a “blue screen” in the event that you experience a partial signal loss—a broken-up image is preferable to none at all.



STEP EIGHT: Find a Friend

As described in Document 550, available on the AMA website, FPV flying is a team sport. There need to be at least two qualified pilots on the ground while the aircraft is in the air: the pilot, who is operating the aircraft via the FPV system, and the spotter, whose job is to alert the pilot to unseen hazards and be ready to take control of the aircraft in case of an FPV system failure.

After the goggles are on, the spotter has a critical role to play in maintaining the pilot’s situational awareness. Although the pilot can see what lies directly ahead, he or she may not detect a hazard off to one side or behind, or when there is a risk of putting an obstruction between the pilot and the aircraft. The wide field-of-view lenses typically used for FPV can make it difficult to spot small, but potentially show-stopping obstacles such as a bare tree branch or a power line.

Safe FPV flight operations require a minimum of two people on the ground: the pilot (R), who controls the aircraft and monitors the live video feed from the aircraft, and the spotter, who advises the pilot regarding unseen hazards and can take over control if the FPV system fails completely.



The Future

When conducted within the guidelines established by the AMA, flying FPV is as safe as conventional model aviation. It’s also a tremendous amount of fun, and becoming involved will put you at the forefront of revolution that will ultimately change the world.

In the years ahead, unmanned aircraft that are indistinguishable in their basic functions from the systems that hobbyists are using today will help first responders save lives, give farmers the ability to increase crop yields, and perform thousands of other functions, most of which haven’t yet been imagined.

It’s going to be an exciting couple of decades. Build yourself a system and come be part of it!



Webinar



—Patrick Sherman
lucidity@roswellflighttestcrew.com



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Sources

Roswell Flight Test Crew
www.roswellflighttestcrew.com

Amateur Radio Relay Network
www.arrl.org

GoPro
www.gopro.com

AMA Document 550
www.modelaircraft.org/documents.aspx




58 comments

If following the AMA Guide Lines then having a 433Mhz System would not be required or even needed. You also didn't mention that having the call sign displayed on the OSD is required by the FCC. EC-5 What's that? Must not be too important as I've been flying for a few years now and never heard of it.

An EC-5 is a battery connector sold by Horizon Hobby.

Hey, Kalikraven! Thank you for taking a moment to provide some feedback to my article. Specifically regarding the call sign being required on the OSD, I've heard that discussed -- and it seems like a good idea to me personally -- but I wasn't aware that it had become an actual requirement. Can you provide me with a citation? Also, regarding the 433MHz system, I certainly never meant to imply that it was needed -- I just wanted to mention this type of system because it likely isn't familiar to most non FPV-flying AMA members, just so they would be aware that it exists. As to the most common usage of 433MHz systems, being long-range flying (well beyond line-of-site), you're quite correct that this falls beyond the scope of AMA-sanctioned flying. On the other hand, I know a guy who flies a 330 quad around his back yard with a 433HMz system, so there is no reason you can't use it for flight operations conducted entirely within the bounds established by Document 550.

FCC Rules require a ham to transmit his/her call sign at once in each 10 minutes of transmission. One way to do that is to include the call sign in the OSD.

Hey, Dave! Thanks for jumping in to the conversation! As a licensed ham myself, I am aware of the "once every 10 minutes" requirement -- and my thinking very much parallels your own, about having it on the OSD being a substitute for that. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, I like the idea myself so maybe I'll just go ahead and do it. However, apart from this discussion, I've never heard anywhere that there is a legal requirement to display your call sign on your OSD. Maybe someone can come along and set us all straight...

Dave is correct. The FCC Part 97 regulations (http://www.arrl.org/part-97-text) [97.119] require that the station transmit its call sign at the end of communication and at least once every 10 minutes. It also does not say specifically how to do it as long as it follows an "emission authorized for the transmitting channel" in one of four ways: CW (Morse Code), phone (audio), RTTY (or data), and image (video). Using OSD would be one viable way to accomplish this and not the only way.

Hello, John! Thank you for bringing such clarity to this situation -- I especially appreciate that you were able to cite a specific source for your information. I will promulgate that moving forward and, obviously, adhere to it myself. Appreciate your input!

Most of the video goggles I'm familiar with (e.g. the ObeseMako) have a video out jack on them. This can be used for recording the video that the goggles display, or you can connect it to the video input on an LCD screen if you want to let others see what you're seeing. I believe you can do both, connect them to an LCD screen AND a video recording device, but not sure if you need a simple 'Y' cable, or some type of video splitter. This would give you video displayed on the goggles, AND video on the LCD screen, AND video out for recording by a video recorder.

Hi, Greg! Thanks for adding some additional information to this discussion! You're quite correct about the Fat Shark goggles (Obese Mako -- ha ha!) having a video output, which works as you describe. It's a single output, so if you wanted to send video to more than one device (i.e., another set of goggles and a recorder), you'd need to split the video signal. Great tip!

Video outputs on most items including FPV goggles can be connected to more than one end item with little problem. Since this is a new area if you use a Y cable look for gold plated connectors designed for video, not audio, and check for loss of detail by unplugging each item in turn in normal room light. Video thru connectors on a monitor will usually have only a ferrite bead to block snivets (ringing on edges) with no active electronics involved. The usual source of trouble in field video systems is damage to the connectors from lack of support for the cables. Most items are lightly build and small connectors are not up to hanging a cable in active use.

There are SEVERAL Ham radio license types. You don't mention here which one someone would need for FPV?

Hi, Kenpappas! Thank you for the question! You are correct, there are three levels of ham radio operator licensing. They are, in order of required technical competence from least to most: Technician, General and Amateur Extra. Unless you're doing something really exotic, the lowest-level license -- Technician -- will be sufficient for all of your FPV flying needs.

Well done!

Hey, Steve! Glad you enjoyed the article! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!

So......what you are saying is that your average person cannot buy.....say.....a DJi Phantom Quadcopter......and fly it legally without having a ham radio license? Where in the FCC Rules does it say that you have to have a ham radio license to operate in these frequencies?

Hi, Sharon! Great question -- thank you for asking! If you want to fly a DJI Phantom, or any other RC model, using a conventional hobby radio, no ham license is required. The FCC has given blanket permission for anyone in the United States to use portions of the 2.4 GHz and 72 MHz spectrum to control model aircraft without any licensing requirements. Furthermore, if you're flying the DJI Phantom 2 Vision, which broadcasts live video to your cell phone, you're also in the clear -- DJI is using a WiFi signal. However, if you want to set up a conventional FPV system (which uses an NTSC video transmitter), you are required to have a Ham radio license -- because those signals are being transmitted on amateur radio bands, unless you're operating at very lower power.

What is very low power?

This is a wonderful discussion for us new DJI owners. I guess I am still confused. I just purchased a DJI Phantom F 40. I switched out the stock camera for a GoPro Hero3. The Phantom F40 Flight controls are on the 5.8 GHZ frequency and the video is on 2.4 GHZ. My question is this. I keep reading that in 2.4 GHZ, if the transmitter strength is bellow 1 watt no license is required. So why is it not legal to say take a 250mw transmitter and still be within legal limits?
Any and all help would be appreciated.

Good article, but you mention the requirement of being a Ham to do FPV due to the frequencies, but when talking the frequencies you fail to mention what frequencies are strictly HAM. Most products being sold to operate on HAM frequencies, generally require verification of FCC lic. BUt would have been good to clarify those in this article.

Hey, Randy! That's a good question -- unfortunately, it would probably take another whole article to address it fully (pausing to stroke my chin in a contemplative fashion...). Anyway, here's my attempt at a Reader's Digest version: All of the FPV frequencies that I mention in the article (900 MHz, 1.2-1.3 GHz, 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz) require a ham license -- unless one of two conditions is met. The first one is that you're transmitting at extremely low power input -- the exact level varies with the frequency, but we're talking on the order of 25mW. You'd have a hard time finding an FPV website to sell you such a low-power transmitter, and while I've heard about people working miracles with the right antennas, it wouldn't be my first choice (or second, or third...). The other condition is if the transmitter itself is licensed by the FCC. They do exist and have usable power levels, they are extremely expensive. All of the transmitters you see on popular FPV websites that are made in China are not licensed -- so if you're getting your gear from the same place I'm getting mine, you'll need to be a ham to use it legally.

If you're not a criminal, just visit the United States of Amerika, they'll make sure you have a record before you leave.

FPV drone pilots don't need the AMA or the FCC.

I do not know why the AMA shows people flying FPV in there magazine when the people flying are not in a AMA field. And why not learn how to fly a aircraft line of sight in 9 steps.

Hi, Thomas! You're certainly right we're not flying at an AMA field in this photograph -- we're actually at a local grade school (on a weekend when school is not in session), flying over a park that borders the school grounds. Although we've enjoyed every AMA field we've ever visited, AMA members are not required to fly at AMA fields. Provided that they are following all of the elements of the safety code, it is just fine to fly away from an established field. With regards to learning to fly line of sight, it's obviously a critical step for any RC pilot. However, because I was writing for Model Aviation, my operating assumption was that everyone already knows how to fly. This article was intended for the experienced RC pilot who wants to expand into FPV.

Love it! I am interested in getting into FPV; there are lots of articles out there, but what differentiates this one is it starts at the foundation, working its way up, and most importantly it is from a trusted source. This is the first article I have seen that recommends the requirement of HAM licensing, and that a spotter is required. Any additional information you can add, or even turn this into a series, would be very well received.

Thanks!
John

Hi, John! Wow! Thank you very much for your feedback -- I'm glad the article was helpful to you. It's an honor for us to be writing for Model Aviation and working with the AMA. We're doing a bi-monthly "Advanced Technology" column in Model Aviation (check out our article about "A Day in the Farm" in the March issue, which you probably have laying around the house somewhere right now). If, as you suggest, the editorial team at MA would like to have us back more often, we'd be delighted.

I believe you only need an amateur radio license if you're using the 1.3 GHz band, i.e. 1280 MHz.

Hey, Doug!

I'm pretty sure you need a ham license for all of the common FPV frequencies: 900 MHz, 1.2-1.3 GHz, 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz -- so long as you take into account the exceptions I outlined in response to Randy's comment, above.

Patrick, you are correct. The Part 97 regulations (http://www.arrl.org/part-97-text) [97.301] show detailed tables for the valid frequencies for each license class. Like you state in your article, the Technician Class is probably adequate for most people. If they are looking for more esoteric UHF or EHF frequencies, then General Class would be adequate.

People should make like a foot control so that you could look right or left while looking out of the plane so that you could look around you. So you would pretty much be hooking up a servo to it so it can move. Then it would be like you are in a real plane. The only problem would be that it might make the plane unbalanced and mix you up with the controls.

Hey, Trisan! Actually, they are already way out ahead of you on this one... With many FPV goggles, you can add a gyroscope to it which is tied into a couple of extra channel on your radio and a pair of servos attached to your camera on board the aircraft. When you look to the left, the camera on board the aircraft pivots to the left. Some people have even put real working flight instruments (miniaturized, of course) on board their models in the camera's field of view.

Thank you for this awesome write up. I love the concise information enabling me to better understand what I need to do to start into this futuristic way of flying. I just started flying last month. I tried in the 80's but was not that great. the new models with GPS and safe mode make learning much easier.
@ClayFranklin
http://clayfranklin.com

Hi, Clay! Wonderful! I'm so glad that the article was such a help to you... Also, thank you for following us on Twitter -- we're always up to something. Stay tuned!

Despite the nitpickers, you wrote a pretty concise detailed and helpful article. Thanks!

Hello, James! To a certain extent, I feel that both I (as the author) and the readers who were left wanting more information were both victims of the format. This story was over 2,200 words long, plus photo captions -- which is a big slug of text for Model Aviation, where a typical article is more like 1,200 words. I did my absolute best to distill the subject into friendly, bite-sized nuggets, but I left a lot out in the process. Anyway, I'm glad you found it helpful!

Future Model Aviation articles

Hi, Larry! Assuming that you're calling for more articles about FPV in future issues of Model Aviation, we're only too happy to deliver. Right now we're doing a bi-monthly "Advanced Technology" column. Track down your copy of the March issue and you'll see an article from us entitled "A Day on the Farm," about the use of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in precision agriculture. If the editorial staff at MA wants us to contribute more, we'd be honored to oblige.

How about air combat without the usual lethal outcome! This looks like a new way to do that at a sporting level. I'd like to see the transmitters modified to a stick and rudder pedal kind of set up (I fly full size airplanes too) Maybe laser guns with receptors on the vital parts of the airplane! Always looking for something fun to do!

Hi, David! Aerial laser tag using FPV -- I like it! My one thought, based on my own FPV experience, is that it can be very difficult to acquire and maintain a target. Now, admittedly, we fly multirotors with fixed-position cameras, but a few experiments we've tried with formation flying have not been especially encouraging -- and that's when we're trying to find each other, not trying to avoid each other! Most FPV setups use cameras with a very wide field of view, which is great for general situational awareness, but can make it difficult to identify small objects at distance -- like another model aircraft. Having a pan-tilt system would no doubt substantially increase situational awareness and your ability to see and track a target... You might talk to Team Echelon in California -- FPV formation flying is their specialty, so they may have some insights for you. If you try it, let me know how it works!

Nice introduction!

While you don't have to have an amateur radio (ham) license to fly your RC model, you do need the license to transmit a TV signal from that model. ANY of the three classes of amateur Radio license (Technician, General, and Extra Class) will let you legally operate your FPV transmitter. The American Radio Relay League website (www.arrl.org) will show you how to get the license.

Hey, Ralph! I think you actually said it better than me! Thank you for lending clarity to this discussion!

Dear Patrick –
I have been following your videos and articles for some time now and I appreciate how you have stepped up to represent FPV in the mainstream media. Your articles are informative without hype or drama. There will certainly be much controversy and misinformation related to FPV flying in the future. Your competent, responsible (yet enthusiastic) writing will go a long way toward ushering in this new phenomenon into the public arena. Thanks to the Roswell Flight Test Crew for your participation and proactive stance concerning this new technology.

Hello, Gregg! Thank you very much for offering such a gracious tribute to our work -- it really means more to us than I can easily say, to know that we're making the type of impression you describe. I think you understand us pretty well: we love this stuff, we believe it's going to have a very powerful, positive impact on the future, and we want to share it with everyone we can. To know that someone believes we're accomplishing that mission is the greatest reward that we could ever receive.

I like the article and thank you for writing it. So, I am new to this. Do I or do I not need a ham licence to operate a 5.8GHz FPV set up? I would just like to be flying legal.
Thanks.
Dale B.

As I described in my response to Randy (above), there are some circumstances under which you could conceivably get away with using a 5.8 transmitter without a ham license -- either using a very low power transmitter or using a transmitter which is itself licensed (and very expensive). If you're going to buy a piece of Chinese hardware off the Internet like the rest of us do, you'll need a ham license.

You do not need a ham license if operating on 5.8 at 500mw effective power or less. If you use high gain antennas, your effective power will be more then half a watt and would require a license, so basically, if you want to flay more than 200 yards away, you need a license.

I would like to try FPV sometime, but a spotter would be useless for me because I wouldn't understand him/her due to my hearing impairment. How can I get involved legally? Wouldn't adding a second camera to the FPV view to make it 3D help me avoid those tree branches help better than a spotter? Maybe add a position indicator to the goggles and a servo to the cameras so that we can turn our heads to the side to see from side to side of the aircraft?

Hey, Mike! Thank you for sharing your situation... Your particular set of circumstances had never occurred to me, but obviously you're not the only person in this situation, so by solving your problem, we will solve their problems, as well. That said, you ARE going to fly FPV. That simply is going to happen. Here are my thoughts on the matter. First of all, I'm aware that the AMA is working on a set of guidelines for indoor FPV flying which in some instances will not require a spotter -- so that will make it possible for you to fly FPV within AMA guidelines, no problem. Of course, I'm sure you want to fly outdoors, as well -- me, too. I have a couple of thoughts on that, as well... First, novice FPV pilots are required to have co-pilot on a buddy box, to take over if something goes wrong. You could make all of your flights in this configuration, so that your spotter/co-pilot could simply assume control of the aircraft if an unsafe condition emerges. Of course, you'll want to take the training wheels off, eventually, as would I, so is my suggestion when you get to that point. The most important duty of the spotter is to make the pilot aware of manned aircraft in the vicinity. Obviously, we want to avoid conflicts with manned aircraft under all circumstances. It occurs to me that you could work out some non-verbal cue with your spotter that means, "Land Immediately" -- two hard squeezes on the left shoulder, or something. Of course, the spotter can also be a great help in preventing you from backing your model into a tree or something. That isn't as big a safety consideration because your aircraft is the only thing in jeopardy -- wrecking your own machine is your problem, whereas endangering a manned aircraft is everybody's problem. But, none the less, you could work out a system with your spotter of physical contact to keep you advised of other hazards. Good luck with it and please keep me posted as you progress -- it's a fascinating problem and one I'm sure other people will want to solve, as well.

Really liked your article. As a retired Army Instructor Pilot (flew Apaches) I see the technologies we used in the 90's using heads up displays, FLIR, and flying the dreaded bag (hooded flight) through today to be very similar to RC-FPV. I appreciated your step by step information going from licensing requirements to getting into the air. Is there a training syllabus in the works or available for AMA members (and others) wanting to get into FPV so we all don't have to reinvent the wheel by trial and error? It would be great to see FPV training scenario, applications, and initial flight maneuvers (planes, quads, and helis) while learning FPV flight using locked and unlocked camera gimbal settings.

Hi, James! Glad you enjoyed the article, and thank you for your service to our country! As a matter of fact, we're members of a volunteer working group that is participating in a weekly teleconference call with AMA headquarters to develop precisely the sort of curriculum that you are describing -- so something like that is definitely in the works. Stay tuned! It will be released as part of the AMA Flight School program.

Hopefully one day the AMA will catch up and realize that a spotter is redundant and actually ineffective in FPV. Fortunately, they removed the buddy box requirement in the last update to document 550 after veteran FPV pilots started educating the AMA.

To everyone reading this: An FPV pilot has a zillion times more control over the aircraft than someone standing beside them watching it fly "way over there" across the field.

If you believe that a spotter will see a branch "way across the field" better than the pilot on board flying then I have some coastal property in Kansas I would like to sell you. :)

I typically fly 3 to 10 feet off the deck so if my FPV system fails, having a pilot standing beside me will do zilch. And I have redundancy built in - my FPV system is not going to fail.

FPV flying takes RC flight safety to a whole new level - It is MORE safe than line of sight (LOS) flying. I can fly within 3 feet of the treeline at 3 feet off the deck all the way across our AMA field with extreme precision while the LOS pilots scream "YOU'RE GOING IN THE TREES!!! YOU ARE GOING TO CRASH", and I have done it for years at multiple AMA clubs.

Remove the spotter requirement AMA. It does nothing.

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