Thread: Discussion FPV Flying -- SAFETY!
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Old Dec 27, 2006, 06:11 PM
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FPV Flying -- SAFETY!

I feel that one of the first topics we should discuss is the safe flying and operation of model craft while in a FPV "mode". Many of the opponents to FPV flying feel that it is "not safe". I believe it is our duty as FPV flyer's to not only operate in a safe and secure manor, but to also show to others the steps that we take in order to assure we fly as safe as possible. By doing so, I believe we will promote, in a positive fashion, FPV flying. So I'm going to list a few items here, and also mention (in my opinion) what safe practices should be. My hope is that this thread will grow and include more notes from others.

1) Equipment
First of all, I believe it's important to use good quality components. And this not only goes for FPV flying, but RC in general. Inferior products often result in inferior performance. Most important are the transmission/receiving components, both of the RC control link and the video downlink. Since this is the FPV forum, I will focus on the components that are specific to FPV flying. A good quality camera should be utilized that has adequate resolution to easily see the planes attitude, location, and proximity to other objects. Perhaps more important is the video downlink system. Many "cheap" tx/rx combos can be found in places such as ebay. These are often "Hong Kong specials". And while some may in fact be of decent quality, I believe the consensus (and from personal experience) is that higher quality components are available from other sources. Yes they will cost more, and one's budget will ultimately dictate what components can be used. But in general, the higher the quality you can get, the better. You definitely do not want the video downlink to disappear while flying FPV. So you will want tx/rx components that are of good quality and have good transmission range. There are additional safety measures that can be taken in the event of loss of video link (see item 5). But these should only be used as supplemental safety devices, and not used to try and overcome a deficiency somewhere else in the system.

2) Experience
Do not attempt to fly 2 miles away from yourself, with headtracking, in high winds, near sunset, on your very first FPV flight! That is of course an exaggeration. However, FPV flying is entirely different than line-of-sight flying. You get a completely different perspective, and during your first flights, it is VERY easy to become disoriented or loose track of where you are relative to your flying field. It may be different than line-of-sight flying, but it shares one very common aspect... it takes practice, practice, practice to become proficient at it. The best thing to do is to start off slow and work your way towards more complicated flights, longer durations, or farther distances. It's also a good idea to know your field! Google Earth is an indispensable tool. Learn your flight location, objects around you (trees, buildings, etc.), and try to put yourself in the plane before the flight and imagine what it might look like from different points of view on the field.

3) Spotter
Possibly the most important safety item to FPV flying, is to have a spotter with you. This is someone that maintains visual line-of-sight on the aircraft during flight. In the event of problems, your spotter can guide you as to what needs to be done to return safely home. Even better is if the spotter is attached to your transmitter via the trainer port. This way, if the video feed is lost, the spotter can take control of the aircraft and return it to the field. He can then either land the aircraft, or give control back to you if the video link returns. It's my belief that a spotter should be used whenever it is possible to do so. I understand that this is not always practical. So one should use one's best judgment in determining if it is safe to fly without a spotter or not.

4) Location
Another important point, and possibly an area of discussion. Where is it safe to fly FPV? I would hope that most people would agree that flying over largely populated areas, busy highways, and other areas of high population density are not safe areas to fly. And this again, goes for R/C flying in general, not just FPV. This is another case where I believe one should make a logical and sound decision as to whether or not safe flying is possible from their location.

5) Long Distance
This is a hotly debated topic relative to FPV flying. By the nature of FPV flying, it allows us to fly outside of visual range. So then the question becomes... how far can I fly away from myself? And there are LOTS of things that go into this decision, including ALL OF THE ABOVE items. Of course you will need high quality components, and transmitters with sufficient power to overcome the distance traveled. Long distances will require a good accumulation of FPV flying experience and a good knowledge of the surrounding area. It should only be done in remote areas where the risk to human life and property is minimized. And spotters can still be utilized to assist the pilot. An additional hardware component can also be used here, and is recommended for long distance flying. That is the GPS return to home device. This allows, in the event of loss of either RC control or video link, the plane to be guided back safely to the flying field via a GPS navigation device. Normally a GPS receiver will be interfaced to a device that will steer the plane in the correct direction to return to the field. Sometimes a "co-pilot" leveling device is also necessary. This keeps the wings flat and level during any maneuvers the GPS device commands. Again I want to stress that it is my belief that long distance flying should only be done by experienced FPV pilots, that are familiar with and check for safe operation all of their equipment, and that do so in a location that is safe. It should also be important to know the limitations of one's equipment. Don't go trying to fly 5 miles away with a 10mW transmitter!

Well, that's it for now. I hope this will spur additional discussion in how to keep FPV flying safe. And of course, HAVE FUN!
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