First Person View (FPV) RC flying is one of the hottest new interests in our RC hobby today. Live feed video instantly transmitted from the aircraft down to the pilot who wears video goggles or glasses provides a unique window on the world. It is as if you were in the model’s cockpit. This development is so popular in-fact that the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the governing body for all flying RC things, has developed strict guidelines for the proper procedures of FPV model flying . You need a safety pilot and a quick way to transfer RC control to the safety pilot. FPV flight has become so popular in fact that the web and YouTube is full of interesting and exciting videos. What do you think? With all the communucations between the AMA and the FAA, is this good or bad for our hobby? We want to know what you think.
MAN has been following local FPV activity and at the 2010 All-electric flight NEAT Fair, MAN ran into a guy who really has taken the whole FPV part of the hobby very seriously. Gary Graf of Long Island, NY been attending the NEAT Fair for years showing off his aerial camera-equipped flying platforms including a flying wing and a series of sofiticated looking Octo-Copters. He has invested hundreds of hours refining his equipment to maximize his virtual airborne RC experience and each of his aerial surveillance vehicles has unique features. Last year at the 2011 fair, Gary showed everyone just how much smaller the equipment has become.
Gary prefers flying wings for Air-to-Air work as they are very efficient and stable which is perfect when he is chasing and flying formation with other RC airplanes. His Octo-Copter he developed as an untra-stable hovering platform and it has both an auto-pilot feature that he calls “Retun-to-home.” All he has to do is flip a switch and his UAV comes right back to the point of launch with the help of its on-board GPS system. His backpack holds all the ground equipment needed to feed his Heads up display goggles so he can pan and tilt the airborne camera.
An interview with the FPV Man!
Tell us the FPV experience. Basically, FPV involves a small camera on the nose of your aircraft that feeds video to a small transmitter, which then sends the V-signal to a ground station. The Ground Stations consists of an antenna, receiver and a video monitor or goggles. You fly from the vantage point of the aircraft alone.
Is it hard to control the aircraft? I started doing FPV flying in January 2008 and found it easier to learn to fly FPV then it was to learn RC flying looking up from the ground. I prefer to use flying wings as my main FPV platforms because they are easy to set up and are the most efficient airframes.
Above: HUD View
Above: Head-tracking view point video. Camera is servo driven to pan and tilt the view.
What’s the story about your Backpack? I built my Backpack “Ground Station” because it makes transport easier and allows me to keep the receiver antenna pointed at the plane. This gives me the best video quality and improved portability. With my headset and goggles, I actually feel like I am inside the plane. I see a video overlay showing a “Heads Up Display” (HUD) similar to an F-16. I see what the camera sees plus my altitude, airspeed, what direction I am traveling, where the field is and there’s an artificial horizon to help me orientate to the model’s attitude.
Above: 2010 Backpack.
Above : 2011 Backpack is now a fanny pack!
Tell us about your Octo-Copter. There was a steep learning curve with these type of aircraft. Multi Rotor Helicopters consist of a control board for stability, a main frame to support everything, ESC’s and motors. They can have Tri-, Quad-, Hexa- and Octo-configurations. The more motors you have the greater the stability and payload capability. I use a UAVX Flight Control board which has three Gyros, a Barometeric altimeter, Compass and a GPS Reciever. I did a lot of soldering and some reprogramming on the more advanced systems but they make a great aerial video platform because of their stability and maneuverability. The Octo-Copter with its FPV set up is a great conversation starter. I always enjoy answering questions and sharing the hobby with people I meet at RC events. It has a “Position and Altitude Hold” function as well as a “Return to Home” function that really lighten my piloting workload while shooting aerial video photography. For 2011, he’s shown how much smaller the gear has become!
Chasing an RC B-17 at the NEAT Fair
For more information: