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At the recent 2010 All-electric NEAT Fair, we ran into a guy who really had taken the whole First Person View (FPV) segment of our hobby very seriously. Gary Graf of Long Island, NY brought with him two of his aerial camera flying platforms including his all foam flying wing and a very sofiticated looking Octo-Copter. He has invested hundreds of hours refining his equipment to maximize his virtual RC experience and each of his aerial surveillance vehicles have unique features. 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 in 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. Check out this amazing footage.
Gary is a full-fledged modeler having started at age 16 and flying RC at 18. We chatted with Gary and this is what we learned.
Gary, 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.
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.
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.
To see more photos and video of Gary’s headset feed with HUD information display, go to modelairplanenews.com and, check out his YouTube page at: https://www.youtube.com/user/FPVFLIGHTSCHOOL?feature=mhum