Why FPV?

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Written by Dillon Carpenter Ready Made RC’s FPV Fest moves to a new venue for 2019 As seen in the November 2019 issue of Model Aviation.

new venue

First-Person View (FPV) flying is a relatively new development in model aviation that has been gaining popularity during the last few years. With the advent of smaller analog video transmitters (vTX) and charge-coupled device (CCD) and complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) cameras, multirotor and fixed-wing pilots alike have been affixing these gadgets to their aircraft and enjoying a bird’s-eye view while they are flying.

For those who have not experienced the thrill of piloting their aircraft from a first-person perspective, they might ask themselves, "Why FPV?" I embarked on a weekend road trip to Ready Made RC’s 6th annual FPV Fest at its new location at Flite Test’s Edgewater Airpark to find out.

edgewater airpark
01. FPV Fest 2019 was the first event held at Flite Test’s Edgewater Airpark.
doug haubert enjoys
02. Doug Haubert enjoys a freestyle FPV session, taking him back to his skateboarding roots to "get that awesome feeling."
fpv games
03. FPV games and competitions were held at FPV Fest to keep things interesting throughout the weekend. The Stratobat contest is pictured here. Participants competed to see who could hit a ball the farthest using an aircraft fuselage via FPV.

According to the event website, "[Ready Made RC] FPV Fest is an incredibly fun event that is now being held at Flite Test’s new golf-course-turned-RC-paradise in Minerva, Ohio. From Friday to Sunday, the entire course is shut down just for RC pilots to enjoy.

"Fun is the name of the game and we try to have as much of it as we can cram into three long days and nights. Contests, racing, raffles, and free flight are what you can expect to find here, along with friends of the hobby. FPV (first-person view), LOS (line of sight), and RC cars are ALL welcome!"

That was indeed the case at this year’s Ready Made RC FPV Fest.

In previous years, the event was held at a small, private runway in Willard, Ohio, that was shut down for the activity. I have been a regular guest at this event since I attended the fourth annual one in 2017. During that gathering, the crowd was modest—possibly 40 or so pilots in attendance—but the sense of community and camaraderie was strong because the pilots shared a common interest: FPV flight.

Whether the pilots were flying multirotors, delta-wing racers, or traditional fixed-wing RC, they were all bound by the common love of FPV flight. Tim Stanfield, owner of Ready Made RC, even had a Ready Made RC Skyhunter airplane fully equipped with FPV and a thermal-imaging camera. A few attendees watched in awe as Tim flew over the neighboring woods, pointing out deer grazing in the area that appeared as white-hot blurs on the infrared feed.

Each morning, a sound akin to a Formula One racer, belonging to a souped-up racing wing, buzzed down the runway past adjacent tents and RVs, serving as the morning wake-up call. The attendees would step out of their temporary domiciles for the event, almost right onto the flightline, don their FPV goggles, and start draining batteries.

people and families
04. People and families of all ages and experience levels were at FPV Fest 2019. With more than 100 pilots in attendance, this was the most successful FPV Fest in the event’s six-year run.
matt nowakowski preps
05. Matt Nowakowski preps his racing drone during the LED night-racing event at FPV Fest.

Activities for the day included multirotor racing, wing racing, RC limbo contests where quadcopters and wings would compete to fly under a limbo bar, and other FPV-related games and activities.

FPV Fest 2019 was the first RC event ever held at the new 126-acre RC playground. In 2018, Flite Test started an Indigogo (similar to a Kickstarter) campaign to raise money for its lofty endeavor. Garnering $377,600 in donations in hopes of creating what Flite Test President Josh Bixler described as a "Disneyland for RC," Flite Test desired to create a space where families could come to enjoy flight, family, and fellowship.

Ready Made RC’s FPV Fest, which attracted more than 100 registered pilots, ticked all three boxes. There was plenty of flight, and of course, there was an abundance of fellowship among those who chose to camp for the duration, and palaver in the common areas. A few families stopped by to learn about and enjoy the event.

As is tradition during FPV Fest, the opening ceremony was marked by a gaggle of aircraft. A gaggle is when several aircraft are launched at the same time. Those who wished to participate, flew their aircraft over Edgewater Park’s Ready Made RC Runway.

Most were flown line of sight, but some pilots claimed the open FPV channels, which were scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis and designated by clip-on tags, which gave a pilot "rights" to use a specific frequency for a set amount of time without question. This prevented multiple pilots from "stomping," or creating interference on one another’s video feed and potentially knocking them out of the air. Some of our seasoned readers might be familiar with this concept from the 72 MHz era of radio transmitters.

Several other FPV-related activities were held throughout the weekend, including an event called Stratobat, where participants used a Ready Made RC Stratosurfer aircraft fuselage to play T-ball. It had the added twist of using FPV goggles with an FPV camera set up behind them, so that they had to hit the ball from a third-person point of view.

Two other events included knocking a water bottle from a platform with an aircraft or multirotor, and another where participants competed to land their models closest to a target. The capstone of the event was an FPV night-racing course, which was illuminated by LEDs and Christmas lights.

fpv and flying aircraft
06. All types of FPV and flying aircraft were present at FPV Fest 2019, even those that didn’t require cameras.
flying aircraft
07. All types of FPV and flying aircraft were present at FPV Fest 2019, even those that didn’t require cameras.

But that still leaves the question "Why FPV?"

Joe Scully, a mainstay race director and announcer of FPV drone racing, said it’s "The immersive experience. It’s like you are in the cockpit of the quadcopter or the jet—whatever you’re flying. As you put those goggles down, it gets rid of all of those elements around you that are distracting, and really puts you in the zone. And it’s in real time!

"There’s no latency, the responsiveness is amazing, so when you pitch forward and that nose is supposed to go down, it’s going down and you have that rollercoaster effect. When you put the goggles down and you arm your craft, you are in the cockpit and that’s truly what FPV is all about."

Other participants described it as an intense adrenaline rush that lets you experience the freedom of flight as if you were a superhero flying in the clouds and through the environment.

Doug Haubert, aka "Fresh RC," compared it to skateboarding in the sky, "I’ve rode skateboards for most of my life, and let me tell you, dropping in on a 12-foot vertical ramp is pretty close to diving a big huge tree, so you get that awesome feeling. I think that’s why I enjoy flying freestyle quads the most—it goes right to my skateboarding roots."

It’s like an extreme sport in that you get all of the rewards of thrilling, high-speed maneuvering through the air and obstacles, without the risk of personal injury.

Paul Adkins, participant and race director at the multirotor course at FPV Fest, stated that with "FPV, you could put a pair of goggles on and it’s like playing your [video game console], and a lot of the guys that fly FPV today, spent a lot of time playing [their video game consoles], … and it doesn’t take a couple of weeks or a couple of months to train your muscle memory that when [the craft is] coming toward you, [the controls are] backward. You can jump into FPV and fly it, and if I can fly [on the video game], then there’s a pretty doggone good chance I can fly FPV without too much problem."

Several people mentioned the ease of flying FPV compared with line of sight, or the thrill of feeling like a bird and connecting with your surrounding environment. The most common thread that was mentioned when asked "Why FPV?" was a resounding agreement that people who fly FPV together are like a family and the sense of community is strong. The feeling of being part of something bigger than oneself and contributing to a growing subdivision of the hobby was what really got people talking.

Joe ended his interview by telling me, "The great thing about the FPV community is that it’s a great family. Everyone’s there to help each other. You see so many people borrowing parts, tools, LiPos, and everyone’s excited when a new person shows up at a drone race or a fun-fly or a festival, because we’re growing our industry together.

"I call it an industry; a lot of people call it a hobby. Some of us get to do this professionally, but regardless of what you get from it, it is a community, it is a family, and the spirit and the hospitality and the accommodations that everyone has here is just absolutely amazing. It’s a wonderful experience to be able to bring your son or daughter, or even your significant other, out for the weekend to camp.

"There’s fun away from the racetrack and from the courses. There [are] movies on big screens, there’s camping, there’s fires and fireworks—you name it! It’s a getaway for the entire family. And, of course, the whole STEM and educational factor is amazing to be able to share that knowledge or learn together. In my case, to learn with my 9-year-old son how to build the craft, fly the craft, and repair the craft, and have a lot of fun in the process.

"FPV is one big family. It starts with your very own, and it’s very arms open and welcoming. That’s why we really love the FPV and drone racing community."



Ready Made RC



Flite Test


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