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j3steven's blog
Posted by j3steven | Dec 06, 2012 @ 03:49 PM | 1,503 Views
So, I'm sure you get this question all the time when you're flying (especially from young guys): "Can I try flying it?"

Invariably the answer is no - because if it was yes, you would watch your beautiful airplane immediately spiral into the ground. But I wanted to experiment with a workaround that would make it possible for someone with zero experience to say that they got to fly a (R/C) plane. If you have no experience in RC, then FPV is definitely not something you should jump into - get used to flying R/C in general, then add the complexity of FPV. But the irony is, if you take away the problems of interference, setup, component installation, etc., flying an R/C plane FPV is actually much easier than flying LOS - about the same difficulty level as a computer flight simulator.

My experiment was to have a completely inexperienced friend try to fly my Bixler FPV, with me launching and landing, and of course watching it as he flew. It was a complete success - with a little coaching, he did great. No buddy box system!

My mistake was - with my permission, he then tried to fly it LOS, and was doing OK, but did crash, and my 5.8Ghz transmitter is now toast. That's ok - I'm planning on moving to 1.2Ghz as my frequency of choice, although that will make next year very expensive (goggles, TX/RX, LRS, OSD! basically starting from scratch).

But the FPV experiment went very well! With close supervision, of course, I think it might be a great way to say "yes" to those "Can I try to fly it" questions.
Posted by j3steven | Nov 29, 2012 @ 02:02 PM | 1,470 Views
Not that I'm old enough to know this for sure, but I'm almost positive everyone who started flying R/C 15 or more years ago began with a nitro powered trainer. That's what I started with when my love of all things flight got me into R/C - my airplane was very similar to the nitro model you see below. I registered at a club, paid the $300 yearly club fee and MAAC insurance, and started on the buddy box system with an experienced pilot.

However, since I lived in the country and had a long driveway with a huge field behind our house, my foolish youthful impatience got the best of me, and I started it up (I still remember the roar of that OS .60 at full throttle!) and took off. This story ends the way you might expect - I pulled up a little too hard, overcompensated down, overcompensated up, and quickly created a $400 hole. The airframe and the motor were too damaged to repair, and I put my R/C flying career on hold until I graduated from university 5 years later.

In retrospect, I really wish I had started with a foam trainer instead. When I finally decided to get back into R/C, after a false start with a cheap foam warbird, I bought a Bixler-like motor glider with a rear-mounted motor, and that's when I really learned how to fly. I crashed it more than a few times, but a little hot glue and it was back in the air.

From my perspective, I think training with a buddy box system is a great way to start, and if a local flying club has their own trainer for you to learn on, even...Continue Reading
Posted by j3steven | Nov 27, 2012 @ 10:01 AM | 1,358 Views
One of the greatest aspects of the FPV videos that I have seen is cloudsurfing. High-altitude flying above a patchwork of fields has its own appeal, but flying around clouds has the feeling of an entirely different world.

Obviously, there are legitimate safety concerns with cloudsurfing, since fullscale aircraft operate at that height, and having taken fullscale flight training, I learned that even fullscale aircraft avoid flying through clouds because VFR becomes impossible with zero visibility. If there is any air traffic where said cloudsurfing is taking place, checking with local air traffic control would have to be a necessary measure.

That being said, I would love to experience the joy of cloudsurfing. What kind of RX antennae would you use for cloudsurfing with a 5.8ghz system?
Posted by j3steven | Nov 21, 2012 @ 02:51 PM | 1,362 Views
Here is where feedback would be greatly appreciated. This is the equipment that I'm planning on buying next year, when my hobby budget resets!
  • Fatshark Dominator goggles. I hear the picture is much better than the base version, and it has an optional headtracker upgrade which I might get in the future. $320
  • An OSD with stabilization capability. $200-250 range.
  • A Turnigy 9X radio so I can eventually upgrade to an LRS module. $60

My hobby budget is typically $300/year, which the Dominators are going to *cough* dominate all by themselves. However, all of the above is upgradeable should I wish to move to a new plane/video frequency, so that's my justification for spending the extra money.
Posted by j3steven | Nov 21, 2012 @ 02:20 PM | 1,458 Views
Best way to start is to describe my equipment. Last year I bought my first FPV gear, which is as follows:

Plane:
  • Bixler (V1) motor glider (have lots of flying experience with it, it's a great plane). About $100 with shipping.
  • Cheap 2.4 ghz Hobbyking TX/RX radio. Honestly, I didn't expect a lot out of this radio, but it's lasted me for about 2.5 years, no problems so far. I know that I'm going to need to upgrade it for FPV due to its limited range. About $50 with shipping. In retrospect, I should have gotten the Turnigy 9X, which has much more functionality (trainer port, spot for module upgrades, 8 channels vs. my 6)

Video system:
  • the Security Camera 2000 540TVL PZ0420 CCD Camera. $55 with shipping.
  • 5.8Ghz 200mw transmitter (VTX) with receiver (RX)- I think it's the Foxtech one (5945 is highest channel). Not compatible with Fatshark or Immersion RC 5.8Ghz equipment. $75 with shipping.
  • A small, cheap 3" car backup screen to see video (bluescreens when signal is too weak - definitely needs to be upgraded). $30 with shipping.
  • A wooden dowel that I mounted all the ground station equipment on. I heard that the higher the VRX is off the ground, the better, hence the dowel. $5

Cost for all video equipment was about $165, which was a great way to get my foot in the water and try FPV for cheap. In retrospect, I should have splurged on a proper 7" LCD screen that is easier to see, and that shows static instead of bluescreening. Would have been a much better experience. Probably would be about $200 with shipping. Although this wasn't part of my initial startup, I also purchased Ibcrazy's Bluebeam circularly polarized antennas after modest success with my own homemade creations. That was about $75 with shipping.

I power my plane's motor and video gear separately. All batteries are 3 cell 11.1V Turnigy Nanotech lipos. I use a 2200mAh battery for my plane's main power, a 500mAh for camera/VTX, a 500mAh battery to power the VRX, and a 1000mAh to power my screen.

Comments/questions?
Posted by j3steven | Nov 21, 2012 @ 01:56 PM | 1,310 Views
I've been flying RC for a couple of years, and absolutely love it. I generally just fly small scratchbuilt foamies out of my local park (RCpowers ones especially), and I've found it to be a great way to connect with people and get out from behind my computer into the great outdoors. I've also picked up some skills, like soldering and basic assembly know-how.

When I discovered the existence of FPV flying, I was PUMPED. I had taken full-scale flying lessons in high school, but that turned out to be too expensive to maintain. But here was a way to (relatively) cheaply experience flying, and experiment with some really cool tech.

With this blog, I want to chronicle my experience in getting into FPV, so other newcomers can hopefully learn from my experiences as I go, and thereby save themselves some heartache (crashed planes and incompatible equipment).

Hope you enjoy reading, and I would love to get feedback and hear about your experiences. Happy flying!