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Jun 23, 2009, 07:55 AM
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FPV - latest notes

Here is my Blog thread covering latest thoughts / discoveries / lessons learned as I go through the whole FPV process from day 1

Last edited by Shikra; Jun 29, 2009 at 05:53 PM.
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Jun 23, 2009, 07:58 AM
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First I heard about FPV was may 09. I'm annoyed it took me that long to find out.

Anyway it's not really where I intend to go FPV wise, but I had just purchased a replacement Twinstar for my original that was about 10 years old and looking like it had been shot up a few times. The rudder fell off many years ago and both ailerons had about 25% missing. The dog also took a few chuncks ount of the wing too. Amazingly it still flew OK, but underpowered as still running the original 400 motors + nicads.. I wish I had taken some photo's
As it was such a good plane I had to get another.

So before fully researched and understood what I needed or how much this was really going to cost I bought the basics....

I have put a seperate blog thread together to cover where I am with equipment.
Last edited by Shikra; Jun 29, 2009 at 05:49 PM.
Jun 23, 2009, 08:09 AM
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So have shared a few mails with one of the nearest FPV'ers. Hope to meet up some time soon and reach out to one of the others nearby. There does not appear to be many in this region. Yet!
Last edited by Shikra; Jun 29, 2009 at 05:48 PM.
Jun 24, 2009, 05:04 AM
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So far have had 7 flights. Initial flights have all been from looking at a PC screen.
Plane set up with 20% of normal rates to make it very easy / smooth.
Starting out very high up, run with the screen for a bit, then get back to normal RC,Spotter essential, didn't need to go onto master Tx. Spotter really essential.

To anyone wanting to have a go by yourself - even though experienced RC'er it is like learning again. Completely overcontrolling at first, not getting the distance / speed / orientation. remebr that when you first stared.
It does come quick. Can now do a full flight apart from landing / take-off.

Next step - I have the goggles and need to use them... I am slightly nervous about that, but also looking forward to that real immersive effect. I'll be enlisting the help of one of the guys at the field for that. Need a good RC'er to be able to take over. Taking goggles off, eyes adjusting to light before taking Tx from someone who can just about keep it straight isn't good enough.
Last edited by Shikra; Jun 29, 2009 at 05:48 PM.
Jun 29, 2009, 05:47 PM
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Well, my plan was to grab a few more flights on PC screen before trying the goggles - but just couldn't resist....

So first flight was a nightmare, seemed to have real trouble controlling the pitch and struggling with direction - found myself physically moving around as the plane changed direction and trying to look down. Probably looked really funny if anyone had been watching! Found myself bent right over at one point.
Thought I was overcontrolling. Bet my heart rate was up a bit. Shaining like a leaf. Crapping myself is probably the best expression....

Also had extreme urge to rip the glasses off and look at the plane. Did it at one point, but couldn't see anything so v quickly put back on and regained composure.
Did I mention I was crapping myself!
Good job I was up high. Best thing for learning.
Perhaps I should rename this thread how NOT to learn FPV

So up high again, line up on smooth , level slow flight. Understand where the plane is and take glasses off to land. About 5 secs to adjust to light and locate plane.

Inspection of the plane showed that the elevator control had all but come off - this is why I was having so much trouble controlling it. 5 min epoxy sorted it.

Took a good period of time to calm down and run through gthe experience - what went wrong and how to improve. I genuinely believed that using the pan/tilt would make it easier. So the plan of 10 flights on pure goggles was cut short. Time to go for it.

Positioned car so could lean against it and stop me moving around.
First hand launch with goggles / headtracker and no physical sight of the plane. Completely wrong, you know you shouldn't...

Launch was good, it went very well, even though it is quite a windy day and launched crosswind. Headtracker is weird, but very quickly it feels so much better than without it.
Getting up high for testing with a safety margin, and start to look around. It really is a bizarre feeling looking down on the nose of the plane and then at yourself 100m below. feels like looking through someone's eyes. Turning is great - have a quick look in the direction of travel. Confidence is coming quickly. Down low skimming trees - this is pretty cool.
Still crapping myself though. This is now a confidence issue. Trusting equipment.

Talking of which, having real problems with the gps unit not picking up so as now have a good feel for the layout and landmarks I feel quite happy without it, however the battery info/timer etc. is so usefull. Moer than I realised. Before I new it my motor battery was flat and I'm 200m downwind with now power. mmm crapping again. Time for first FPV landing. Lined up well down field, but there are 2 nice trees in the way. Nothing to do but land between them.

Nice smooth landing - and a BIG milestone - first full FPV flight end to end. And with goggles / headtracker too.

So must learn to set timer on TX. I've always flown a battery right to the end. I think in the FPV world that's not so good. Noted for future use OSD - even without GPS.
Jul 02, 2009, 09:59 AM
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I have had a few flights now and after not really knowing what I wanted - or to expect from FPV I am forming a picture of what I want out of this in the future. Actually doing this in practice is very diferent to what you imagine or believe it will be like. You encounter all sorts of practical issues and hurdles along the way.

Over the last day or two I have considered what I have purchased already, lessons learned from the flight experiences so far - and also the direction(s) I would like to take in the future. The Twinstar has been a good platform for me to play / test things out and no regrets starting with this rather than the easy star which was my original intention.

Equipment "Lessons learned" so far:

1 Batteries -
Making sure 4 batteries are correctly charged for each flight is a pain: Main battery +RCTx, Vtx, Vrx. Increases the probability of not flying due to one being not at the right charge state + also increase the probability of an overall failure.
Migrating to a TrackR2 with a larger capacity Tx battery would enable be to power the goggles too.
Powering the Vtx and camera from the main battery removes another one.
So that's 4 batteries down to 2. Much better. less to worry about.

3 RSSI -
You become very aware of Tx range as soon as start getting glithes. Especially when using a headtracker with pan servo. RSSI indicator I think will give very usefull information, but it doesn't seem to differentiate between a good signal and bad one. ie., could be showing 100% recieved - but 100 of crap.
Range concerns me - especially when you sudenly start noticing all the mobile masts around here. Want to see that on the OSD, but the Blackstork I have doesn't support it.

4 OSD -
Direction home is so valuable when you are first learning, saved my plane on first flights.
Consider essential for any flights in an area not flown - or when extending distance. Even if you think you know the area it looks completely different from above. I have flown at my field for 10 years. 200 meters up and 400meters out I didn't know where i was at first.

I thought all the GPS type info would be the most usefull. Now I realise that once you know the area, the battery voltage / current used is actually of more value to get the most out of the flight. After a few flights I was confident to fly without the GPS info, but guess what, time went fast and so did the battery. Deadstick landing 200m downwind.

5 Headtracker -
No good if using a display, but did't enjoy flying goggles without it. Maybe that's experience. For me it's a must in future.
Hand launching by yourself into the wind with a magtrack is a pain. Found needed to turn it off for that. If alone, either use a different tracker or come up with a launch system. I quite like the challenge of that. One for the winter.
If using goggles and headtracker, the magtrack doesn't support BMFA requirements. I want to use this at the club legally with no issues or concerns. No choice but to get a TrackR2. Don't get me wrong - the magtrack works very well. I'll not let that go until I know the TrackR2 is as good.

6 Camera
I really wanted to go straight to the best camera. I now think the relatively cheap ccd killer is great to start out with. It's better than I thought it would be, plus very light, easy to start with. The good camera's can come later. Probably sooner. So many options. Probably Pixim Dx201 or a modded fx35

7 Plane
The Twinstar probably isn't the best one to start with, but have found it very good.
The Twinstar doesn't have much room to fit the gear. Swapping it around and trying different locations le

8 Co-pilot/RTH
From reading up, the whole RTH setup looks great and has so many things going for it. I really wanted this to start with as I was concerned about range and losing the plane. I think in practice it's not needed at all when starting out. Just adds complexity. Another thing to go wrong / worry about. Co-pilot could be quite usefull though - particularly if you want to go it alone. get the plane up high, but close to you and it will fly hands off whilst you put goggles on / off or look at the screen. That said, I think its probably more fun to use flying hands off to have a good look around without having to control the plane. Definately one to go for in a subsequent setup.

9 Antenna / tracker.
Well, pumping out a few hundred mw of power will certainly give you enough range on normal antennas and no patch or directional setup for beginners to learn.
It's not legal to in many countries, but for those that do - I can only say it probably interferes with something/somone nearby - so if you really will, then do it somewhere rural. If your not interferning with anyone, no one will be unhappy or complaining and this will minimise you getting yourself or the whole sport into trouble. Probably very relevant to 2.4ghz users - if you regularly interfere with someone's wifi, sooner or later they will equate that plane flying over with their internet not working. Only a matter of time.
Preaching over - have fun, but with consideration for you being able to keep doing this in the future. Oh, and others!

10 Tx/Rx
Running standard PPM 35Mhz kit currently. Flying video I am starting to notice glitches as venture a little further. In one direction I start noticing after only 100m. in other direction I have been out 700 with hardly anything. It would appear that I am getting some interference there. Funnily enough, you start to see potential interference causes - i.e. two samll cell phone mast less than 1k from our field. Right in deirection of flight. Suspicious... I need to do some testing with / without Video tx to see if it's combination - or determine if it is the masts.

So I would like to stay with 35Mhz to keep RC control away from the 2.4 video. It would appear from research that I can get some improved performance from:
Migrating to Synth Tx and Rx
Migrating to PCM
Increasing length of Tx and Rx Aerials.

Alternatives long range systems are out there. They look very good, but I do want to stay on the legal side. I don't think I will have any need to go down this route.

This is a lot of writing for me, but it's the thoughts of the moment and someting to look back on in a years time when I can fly FPV planes upside down at 1meter altitude!

Shorter term: I want a simple, easy to use fun setup that is good for just playing around within a few hundred meters radius. Skimming the trees, ground and generally messing around.
This has to be an Easystar.

Longer term:
I also have a desire for shooting some HD quality videos of the local area as it is so rich in history. Moving into longer ranges and smoother flight.
This looks like an Easyglider with pusher mod - or the BigWing Easystar. maybe they can be the same model but with different wings. I hope so - more 's
Jul 02, 2009, 10:11 AM
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Quick update:
Last night I think have cracked the FPV landings.
Up until now I had one forced landing - 200m out due to myself not managing battery power. It wasn't to bad so I thought I'd have a proper go.

Our strip is in a large field. Hay up to about 3 ft
Mown strip is about 10m*25m

1st real attempt was probably 80m short of the strip
2nd attempt was about 2m short
3rd / 4th attempt oveshot by about 2m

5/6/7th attempts - hit the strip each time.

Line up a reasonable distance out,
Gradually reduce the throttle and bring it down to about 3m 20m out
Hold altitude with right throttle.
About 5 m out kill throttle
Plane starts to loose height for a nice smooth flared landing.

Looking down over the fuselage is the key transition point. I think that's why I landed short at first - looking too far forward. And subsequently when started looking down I was cutting throttle too late - hence overshooting.
Jul 02, 2009, 06:11 PM
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Another 3 flights tonight. And landed on the strip each time.
Over 15 mins on the one flight which is not bad for a twinstar / 2200mah combo.
Lots of down low tonight. sweeping around the field and up over the hedges. Great fun.
Also pushed the range limits a bit. No GPS OSD today, but definately further than been before. Clocked 750 m before So probably 800-900 today.
In the other direction, the range seemed shorter than before. Getting glitches at only 100m. I'm going to do a bit of investigation into the cells. See what I can find out.
The tilt servo sounds dodgy. MAybe it was a heavy landing, but the all seemed quite smooth. Possibly knocked in the garage. It was noisy before. Still works, but need to change.
Jul 21, 2009, 11:43 AM
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Have now tried my Easystar and had a few flights

Bit of a disappointemnet - I found the Twinstar much better of the two. Enjoy flying it much more. I though I would enjoy the EZ*, but the twin just like a more responsive plane. Feels like I am actually flying it whereas the EZ* seems to take a while to do what I want. Not just talking rates. It's kind of hard to describe.

Positive points of the Twinstar compared to the "fpv standard" easystar:-
1 Much more positive in handling - more precise, deals with wind better.
2 Good load lifting capabilities
3 Better for more hands on type fliers.
Negative points are:-
1 Less than half the fly time for same battery capacity. I get approx 15 mins out of a 2200mah.
2 Doesn't allow you to pick up thermals and use them like the easystar
Less room for the kit
3 Less info / support out there

Personally, I prefer the Twin anyday, but I'll probably get flamed by the negative ones one the forum for that. I don't care - it's easy to be aggressive from behind a keyboard and screen. I don't enrage those guys that enjoy doing it - but always try to have one comment taking the P in reply. Even if I'm the only one that enjoys it!
Actually there seem to be a large proportion of thos etypes on this forum. Maybe it's the type that this sport attracts. Crap - i might be one of them too....
If you don't know who they are - then you are probably one yourself!
Jul 21, 2009, 11:54 AM
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Soo I'm thinkng more and more about a wing. I have 10 years witha good Zagi and that one would have made a good fpv ship, but unfortunately when i started to work on it found the foam had completely disintegrated.

Posted about using the Zagi on the forum and some good suggestions in there from the guys. Plus a few other comments as usual. Lot of US based stuff whcih looks good. Really would love to try a queen bee - even if not fpv. Shipping an issue there. Have to see if I can do something with work.

One of the guys - jetstreaming has posted an interesting link to Uk vendor. Was hoping for a slightly gigger one, but has triggered a view to do a full search on Uk available ones first.

If had the time it would be good to cut some cores specifically designed for fpv. Particualrly one slow and stable with chunky wing section. Don't seem to be any out there like that.

Only one thing concerns me about a wing - pitch stability. Maybe the answer there is to add an appropriate boom and tailplane. But then you might as well do a normal one!
Jul 25, 2009, 05:19 PM
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Another 3 * 15min flights on the Twinstar. First good day for a couple of weeks, but really to windy.
First trip over 1km. Running standard fatshark with no patch. The RC struggled at just over 900m. Held high above my head to squeeze a bit more. Just had to crack it. Will try with 4m lead one day. RX cable is modded reagy witha 2mm tight fit corally on the end.
Also first flight with EZOSD and repositioned TX. OSD worked great. Kept sats up well. Only time lost was when lots of 45 degree twists and turns very low. Level out and started to pick up sats again after a short while.
Jul 25, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Aquired a Sunell SN-DBC1500R camera. Pixim based and looks similar spec to teh Range DX201. Connected up to the TV for a quick test and it looks very provising. A fair bit heavier than teh CCD Killer, but the picture quality and light handling looked superb. In evening light and with internal room lamp shining bright in centre of picture I could still see very good detail through window and outside. Brighter than my eyes too.
Looking forward to trying out in daylight, although menu options look bewildering. I believ that is a sign of how goos and adjustable this camera is.
Aug 06, 2009, 03:56 PM
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Another couple of flights this evening. Perfect flying conditions, but a litlle dark. Camera struggled unless looking directly at the ground with very little sky visible. uite reasonable then but certainly not as nice as flying in nice sunlight.
Had the luxury of someone to launch for me tonight - that's a welcome first.
Usually I launch with the pan/tilt disabled and then flick the switch one stabilised the launch. Surprisingly I find it now just as easy to launc myself.
Aug 13, 2009, 06:27 PM
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And another few more flights under the belt.

This time I have manged to find find a camera I believe is equal to than on the Range Dx201. And is it ever nice to fly with. Pixim board based, not the easiest to mount, heavy but best of all...
Handles varying brightness really well.
540 lines = very clear.
Good focus
Good definition

We likes it!
Will get some vids and post on the forums when I get new gear.

Have ordered one of the ebay recorders to go on the palne iteslf. Looking forward to that.
Have a diversity unit one the way. Long range with tracker and better quality. Bring it on.
And I seem to have fixed an aiptek AHD200 I bought cheap off ebay.
Modded a couple of rx's for RSSI tonight. Need to turn the EZoSD into a PRO version and off wee go.
Some good progress this week.
Aug 14, 2009, 05:08 PM
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EZOSD now turned into PRO!

RSSI enabled
OSD display can be turned on/off in flight.
Also flashed the latest release, set up my callsign and the low bat voltage properly.

In the garage I was getting the sats, but not the number on top line. Didn't have time to test further so one for tomorrow.
Happy with progress though.