So You Want to Fly FPV: Initial Questions and Thoughts

Background

The title of this posting is “So You Want to Fly FPV?”. FPV is just another hobby that caught my attention after I got a deal on an Anet A8 3D printer and found an FPV quad frame. I must say that the information and education around this sport or hobby is quite scattered. Since I write a lot technically as an architect and software consultant, I would like to help new FPV enthusiasts with the building part through online education here on my blog. I’ve yet to have a peaceful, smooth, full-pack flight but since I have an electro-mechanical background and 35+ years of software experience, I would like to share my FPV building experience so far and continue to help provide the new folks solid answers to the questions I’m quite sure we all have asked.

Why FPV?

If you want to fly an FPV quad, you should first ask yourself these questions and consider your answers:

  1. Why do you want to fly FPV?
  2. What are your objectives?
  3. Is money an issue?
  4. How serious are you about it?

I’m going to tell you my answers but try to explain how your answers may differ and how you should consider next steps. First, I want to fly FPV because I am totally entertained by the good pilots out there making freestyle videos with awesome music. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 4 years old and I write/produce my own music at home on a macbook pro. I will probably use my music for my FPV videos when I begin. Your reason to fly FPV may be to make new friends and maybe even race your quad. Remember there may be hardware choices that are different for each of us. Keep that in mind.

My objectives was to create a 5″ quad that can fly an HD video device and capture okay-quality video. Also, I wanted to build my own quad, learn from it, and also learn how to fly the quad. Again, our objectives may be different too. These were my goals and the reality of it all has shown the outcome so far to be different than I expected. I’ll explain this in another posting during this series.

Yes, money was and is an issue. I’m trying my best not to purchase the best because of costs. This is not to say that I haven’t chosen some good equipment. And, if money is no object, I will try in the future to discuss the absolute best choice of components. For me, I’m trying to make smart choices that are not based on hype or over-marketing. Later I’ll discuss my story from the beginning to the present and I’ll share the good and the bad.

I’m pretty serious about flying a 5″ quad and looking forward to achieving my goals, stated above. I’m also quite anxious to do everything which is probably bad in some ways because I’ve had some mishaps. Here are a few real examples where being too excited about this (needing instant gratification, lol) has caused me some issues:

  • not knowing about arm and disarm, almost cut my thumb off
  • not knowing the flight controller should be facing a certain way, didn’t quite fly right
  • not reading the instructions, pdfs, diagrams, etc., over-voltage fried a VTX
  • Too big of a hurry to get in the air, did prove failsafe and had a reason to get a new frame

Are You Prepared to Get an FCC Technician License?

If you want to build and fly your own drone by camera and around the 5.8GHZ band you need an FCC Technical License. This is the old HAM radio license where all applicants were required to know Morse code. Remember, I am el Hombre Viejo (the old man). Morse is not required these days. But, it’s not an easy test and you must pass a test to get the license. Technically the FCC requires that use of this band (5.8GHZ+ or -) be used only by licensed individuals. If you get caught flying your drone on one the video transmitter bands or channels and can’t provide your call letters (I’m KJ4GIZ) you will probably get fined. There are also channels that some transmitters block automatically and some that don’t for frequencies that are reserved for other FCC devices.

My message here is that while this is not discussed heavily in FPV circles online, it something you should be aware of and consider when entering this sport/hobby.

Conclusions

If you want to fly an FPV quadcopter, you should have some simple objectives in mind before you spend any money on a new hobby. I have several hobbies but I always consider the investment and what exactly do I want to get out of my effort and time. You also should also consider doing things legally. Get your HAM license to be legal. I haven’t talked about liability insurance in this post but it is something else to consider too.

In my next posting of this series, I will discuss the quad-copter: build or buy?