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Jan 31, 2012, 12:01 PM
K4UAV
dalbert02's Avatar
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FPV History


Here is my recollection of how the whole FPV hobby started. Feel free to offer corrections and details I may have missed. Perhaps one day our children will find this interesting.


A little background on the history of FPV. Thomas (MR RC-CAM) of RC-CAM started an MSN group (c.1999) where many of us shared our desires and experiences flying beyond line of site using first baby monitors and later security cameras and small video transmitters. Several people were doing it, but we were pretty much isolated and had marginal success by today's standards. One of the first videos to surface was:
"Worlds Greatest FPV/RPV Flight of the Oregon Coast"INCAB-RC Videolink Installation . (10 min 5 sec)
At the time the MSN RC-CAM Group became popular, a user known as Cyber Flyer (Val) demonstrated consistent long range success and was even experimenting with bi-quad antennas, antenna tracking systems and diversity receivers. One of the most exciting and influential videos at that time was by VRFlyer called the "Royal Bromont Golf Club". http://www.metacafe.com/watch/303408...of_r_c_planes/ Another big influence of the time was Bill Strong (YB2Normal) from Black Widow AV. He had the first (as far as I know) website selling cameras and transmitters specifically for FPV. He also posted instructions on how to make a ground plane antennas and other projects, some of which can be seen here: http://www.yb2normal.com/flightindex.html At that time the Panasonic board cameras such KX-161 and KX-131 ruled and Mike (JettPilot) was routinely flying 10's of miles using 50Mhz transmitters and Mirage 100W amps. Thomas Sherrer (later of Intellignet Flight) built a long range UHF RC transmitter and amp with used Motorola gear. This inspired me and I started building 25W amps using boards from Down East Microwave, rf modules from rfparts.com and dipole antennas from MFJ. I introduced the amp to Mike (JettPilot) and he used it for many of his long range flights.

Bill (of Black Widow) developed the first Diversity Receiver with help from Matt of Klarich Electronics. This receiver was later improved by Bill and re-developed by Ira (Quacker) to become the Iftron Yellow Jacket. Soon 2.4Ghz RC transmitters came into play which pushed the small band of FPV'ers to 5.8Ghz. With the increase in frequency came a decrease in range so some went to 900Mhz. This was difficult for those of us that used GPS based telemetry systems as many of us used Maxstrem X-Tend or Aerocom RS-232 modules that also operated at 900Mhz. Some of us experimented with TinyTrak and other APRS systems to send the data via the audio channel but it was not elegant. Because of the different frequencies in use at the time, Thomas (RC-CAM) built his own diversity receiver that was frequency independent, called the Oracle. All you had to do was add your two receivers and you were in business. Thomas also posted instructions on how to make his wildly successful Goof-Proof Patch which I think everyone attempted at least once due to its simplicity and excellent results. These Goof Proof Patches married well to the Oracle Diversity Receiver.

The first OSD available was called the SkySpy TL-100 and was used by CyberFlyer to demonstrate his long range success. Although limited to altitude, speed, voltage, and rpm it was a major break through even at $400. The only alternative at that time was a BOB video overlay board and so, Thomas came to the rescue again with his OSD called the Ghecko which later evolved to the Inspire. I was fortunate enough to be a beta tester of the original Ghecko and still fly it today in my larger aircraft. Soon after, Eagle Tree began developing FPV gear and then things really took off. On RCGroups, FPV information could be found in both the Aerial Photography (est. Nov 2001) forum and UAV Forum (est. April 2005). Typicalaimster put an end to the confusion by creating a dedicated FPV forum (Dec 2006). Around the same time Chris Anderson (of Wired magazine) created DIY Drones which has since become one of the more successful FPV/UAV websites. OSDs continually improved, and in my opinion one of the most significant improvements was the addition of artificial horizon. The very first one that was designed for R/C was the rc-cam project called MAHI (2004). It was thermopile sensor based and instead of a horizon line it had moving fly-to markers. Full details of its development with videos are here: http://www.rc-cam.com/forum/index.ph...icial-horizon/ Here is an early test video that showsv"fly-to" markers: http://www.rc-cam.com/forum/index.ph...2322#entry2322 Three years later (~2007) a young fellow named Alex Villa (ElCheapo) posted about his personal OSD project. He planned to include a horizon feature. About a year later he partnered with a FPV vendor and began selling it online. It has seen continuous improvements and today it is called the RVOSD5.

From that beginning, a host of companies sprouted such as Intelligent Flight, Range Video (TinyWireless), NG Hobbies, etc. Not the least of which was Dragon Labs developed by Daniel Wee and John (JMSTech) and their Dragon link is now sold by Mike (JettPilot). Also, important to note was the development of the first auto pilots such as the UNAV PDC-10 and the cheap AP4 built by John (ep92) from the University of Florida and only available from time to time on eBay. With the price of Auto Pilots sky rocketing, Atto Pilot was created by Dean Goede as a cheaper more accessible alternative. I remember many late nights working on the pulse train timing issues with Dean as different RC transmitters have slightly different timing widths. With many delays in the release of Atto Pilot some started developing open source auto pilots such as Arduino and Paparazzi most of which incorporated FMA's thermopile system used with their famous (infamous) co-pilot system.

Another milestone in the FPV community was the introduction of head tracking. Denis (Denis) was testing Andrea's (Kilrah RCTech.CH) FPV's first head tracker called Gyro Control. That was when Andrea came so close but unsuccessful until Denis found a reliable gyro from a handheld wireless mouse/pointer to which was not avail to EU. So with Denis's North American connection/help they finally got a good shipment of these gyros and began production of the first Head Tracker which was marketed at $300 USD. (funny what we used to pay for FPV gear back then) Anthony Cake (was Aeropix then renamed to ImmersonRC) started selling clones of this and caled it TrackR1 and R2 stating at $175 shortly afterwards.

Recently, antenna design has been revisited and some rather impressive improvements were made by Old Man Mike, most notably his Screw Planar Wheel and Clover Leaf antenna. Being rather humble about it, Alex (IBCrazy) started several threads on how to build OMM's antennas as well as the popular V antenna. His easy to follow instructions and willingness to help allowed him to find commercial success with his new company Video Aerial Solutions. I was lucky enough to be a part of that development by testing Alex's antennas with an Anritsu antenna analyzer. https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show....php?t=1353078

I think the next major development will be accurate antenna tracking systems. Although Eagle Tree offered one of the first commercially available designs, it has not gained much popularity. Perhaps MyFlyDream https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show....php?t=1159128 which allow continuous rotations will lead the race or perhaps a newcomer such as Tosh https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/member.php?u=329766 will prevail. I think once we can accurate track a plane with less than a couple degrees error they will really catch on with the long range FPV community. Another area of interest, at least from me, is wireless HD video. Now that everyone has a GoPro, we want that same image live!

I can not wait to see what happens next, it has truly been an amazing journey so far!
Last edited by dalbert02; Feb 04, 2012 at 05:03 PM. Reason: to incorporate suggestions
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Jan 31, 2012, 12:09 PM
my karma ranover my dogma
galaxiex's Avatar
Nice!
But I think VRflyer deserves a mention for the Bromont Golf video that kinda began the popularizing of FPV and influenced so many folks to discover this great hobby.
Jan 31, 2012, 12:14 PM
Becoming grumpy old man
aaronredbaron's Avatar
Actually, this guy was flying FPV with supercircuits equipment back in the mid 90's... They used to sell a lot of the same 900MHz stuff we still have access to, but for ridiculous prices!
"Worlds Greatest FPV/RPV Flight of the Oregon Coast"INCAB-RC Videolink Installation . (10 min 5 sec)
Jan 31, 2012, 12:30 PM
K4UAV
dalbert02's Avatar
Thread OP
Great! I'll try to incorporate comments and edit the original text. Thanks! Hopefully, as a "live" document and your input it will be worth publishing somewhere.
-dave
Last edited by dalbert02; Jan 31, 2012 at 05:26 PM.
Jan 31, 2012, 12:42 PM
Becoming grumpy old man
aaronredbaron's Avatar
I went back and watched some of his videos after digging that up, and you know, there are still a lot of viable ideas in his videos... Dave Upton was really ahead of his time! These videos were made in 1997!
INCAB-RC Videolink Installation part 1 (9 min 5 sec)

INCAB-RC Videolink Installation part 2 (7 min 23 sec)

INCAB-RC Videolink Installation part 3, Custom Twin (5 min 8 sec)


In addition, a little note about autopilots, I had a customer at a Portland area hobby shop flying an FPV slow stick circa 2005, and he was using a co-pilot for stability with a product from U-Nav which allowed him to connect to a hand held GPS to control his rudder for RTH... all of which was lugged around on his slow stick!
Last edited by aaronredbaron; Jan 31, 2012 at 01:02 PM.
Jan 31, 2012, 12:53 PM
Falling with style
metalfred's Avatar
Enjoyed reading this, very interesting and thanks for posting this information.
Jan 31, 2012, 01:23 PM
Registered User
JMSTECH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by galaxiex
Nice!
But I think VRflyer deserves a mention for the Bromont Golf video that kinda began the popularizing of FPV and influenced so many folks to discover this great hobby.
Yeah I recall that. Denis (Denis) testing Andrea's (Kilrah RCTech.CH) FPV's first head tracker called Gyro Control. That was when Andrea came so close but unsuccessful until Denis found a reliable gyro from a handheld wireless mouse/pointer to which was not avail to EU. So with Denis's North American connection/help they finally got a good shipment of these gyros and began production of the first Head Tracker which was marketed at $300 USD. (funny what we used to pay for FPV gear back then )
Anthony Cake (was Areopix then renamed to ImmersonRC) started selling clones of this and caled it TrackR1 and R2 stating at $175 shortly afterwards.
Jan 31, 2012, 02:26 PM
Registered User
Daemon's Avatar
For whatever it's worth http://www.blackwidowav.com was around in 2002 when I
first dabbled in FPV.
Here's an archive view of their RTF systems at the time
http://web.archive.org/web/200208091...tssystems.html
and raw components.. http://web.archive.org/web/200208091...omponents.html

I had one of those 100mW systems (and a really cheap 1.x Mhz system with knob on the Rx before that),
which I used on my big 3m slope sailplanes in 2002 (flying a mix of LoS and FPV piloting, looking at tiny
screen on a Canon MiniDV camcorder/recorder) but was frustrated by the inconsistent quality of the video
link (a lot of regular dropouts even at very close range), and found it very hard to navigate over the slope,
because plane was always crabbing in the wind which leaves the camera pointed out into
open space most of the time.
Here's one of my vids from 2002-2003 timeframe.
http://thud.us/videos/rc/inflight-carbon2-divx.avi (right click - save as)
All the little jump cuts were due to editing out a second of static here, and there, and everwhere.
Was very frustrating. I gave up for a few years.

The Bromont vid, and one other of VRFlyer's were what re-sparked it for me because
of the successful head tracking implementation , as I knew with that I could fly on the slope
looking in direction of travel and down at the slope rather than always over the nose of
the plane. I had a Track R1 HT, and it pretty much drove me nuts with drift.
Built a simple mechanical HT using joystick gymbals that I've used for almost 4 years
now. Ironically, my mechanical HT is so simple and reliable I could have easily built the
same thing back in 2002, and any of the other pioneers could have done it years before that.
Can be adapted to any radio with knobs or sliders that can be assigned to specific channels.

ian
Last edited by Daemon; Jan 31, 2012 at 02:33 PM.
Jan 31, 2012, 03:14 PM
UAV Flight Operations Manager
As a side note, Rangvideo used to be called Tinywireless.com I bought my first video tx and rx from him back then. It was a 1.2 500mw system.
Jan 31, 2012, 03:19 PM
Registered User
BushmanLA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by galaxiex
Nice!
But I think VRflyer deserves a mention for the Bromont Golf video that kinda began the popularizing of FPV and influenced so many folks to discover this great hobby.
Yep, RC-Cam and VRflyer are the two guys responsible for my addiction here.
Jan 31, 2012, 07:06 PM
Registered User
Toysrme's Avatar
Personally, I bet it predates rc itself. Surely to god somebody doing free flight had the balls to strap a camera or video recorder on there...


The first mag article I recall on it I scanned & posted. (started taking the big 3 rc mags in the late 80's. RCr rcm man).

The first mag article in any of them from that timespan I can reference is what I previously posted. Dec 2000 rear cover


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toysrme
Well more literally like "filler for the inside of the back cover".
But how cute, nicd flight pack, pointing monopole antennas at each other. black & white baby monitor lol

Last edited by Toysrme; Jan 31, 2012 at 07:20 PM.
Jan 31, 2012, 07:18 PM
Registered User
Toysrme's Avatar
For at matter the HS293D glide bombs had tv cameras. And that's WWII!?
Jan 31, 2012, 10:21 PM
Just trying to get a nut.
scrtsqrl's Avatar
I'd like to note that this forum, which has enabled so many of us, was created thanks to Typicalaimster.

As far as I know, JSTech is DragonLabs' second half...
Jan 31, 2012, 11:35 PM
Formerly bUd~Fokker
vvV FANG Vvv's Avatar
I really enjoyed reading this, and I think later it could be good to add a history section to the current FPV wikipedia page that is laking in any real info.

Well done!
Feb 01, 2012, 12:56 AM
Registered User
Mr.RC-CAM's Avatar
A buddy pointed me to this thread in case I could add any details. Here's some filler material:

Quote:
Thomas (MR RC-CAM) of RC-CAM started an MSN group where many of us shared our desires and experiences flying beyond line of site using a security video camera and small video transmitter. Several people were doing it, but we were pretty much isolated.
The MSN hosted RC-CAM forum began late Dec 1999. From the start the discussions were fascinating and quite technical. At that time the term FPV had not been coined yet (you could count all the successful wireless video R/C pilots on your fingers).

Early on I was very interested in R/C helicopters and wanted to do aerial photography with mine. As far as I know the very first evidence of a successful FPV R/C heli flight was by hobbyboy (Bob) sometime around 2000. In his first flights he flew his nitro heli around the neighborhood while he was inside his house watching a big screen TV. At the time there were some bold claims that flying a R/C heli by video alone would probably be impossible; To see his videos of him doing it was a real treat.

Quote:
a user known as Cyber Flyer demonstrated the most long range success and was even experimenting with antenna tracking systems and diversity receivers.
Cyberflyer did some awesome stuff. It was all DiY back then. He achieved impressive results with his home brew hardware.

Quote:
Another big influence of the time was Bill Strong (YB2Normal) from Black Widow AV. He had the first (as far as I know) website selling cameras and transmitters specifically for FPV.
Bill was a very active rc-cam member that posted entertaining videos that were very high quality, especially for the era.

Quote:
Denis (Denis) testing Andrea's (Kilrah RCTech.CH) FPV's first head tracker called Gyro Control. That was when Andrea came so close but unsuccessful until Denis found a reliable gyro from a handheld wireless mouse/pointer to which was not avail to EU.
Vrflyer/Denis was very persistent about wanting a headtracker. And indeed he and Kilrah solved it with a Gyro Mouse sensor. But before it there were some other desperate attempts at creating an wearable headtracker. There was an IR based one that involved putting IR emitters on the R/C Tx and the user wore some head mounted IR receivers. I recall it did not work well due to sunlight. I could be wrong, but I think it was Ira (Quacker) that made the prototype for Denis to try out.

Quote:
He {Thomas} also, as far as I know, built the first commercially available OSD called the Ghecko, of which I was a beta tester.
I can't claim the first commercial R/C hobby OSD. The first R/C OSD was the SkySpy. It was $400 and reported altitude and voltage. Val (Cyberflyer) used the SkySpy exclusively in his early record breaking flights.

The Gecko project began late 2004 and its goal was to create something with more OSD features that would appeal to aerial still photographers (no one was asking for an FPV OSD at the time). Although primitive in retrospect, it was a very integrated design (internal GPS, 75A current sensor, serial port for downloading stored data, 5-way Joystick for user config, camera shutter controller, tach sensor, and more). Tonight I went through the hardware archives and I found engineering prototype #1; Photo is posted below. BTW, the Gecko project evolved into the Inspire OSD (and dpcav.com began selling it sometime around 2005).

The OSD market for FPV began to take shape with products like Thomas Scherrer's OSD (lntelligent Flight) and others. The OSD's that are sold today came a bit later, but it's no stretch to say the features marketed now are beyond anything we could dream of touching back then.

Quote:
One of the most exciting and influential videos at that time was by VRFlyer called the "Royal Bromont Golf Club".
I can remember that event well. The rc-cam forum had moved to a commercial hosting site that was funded from my personal hobby budget. When the Bromont video was released there was a link to the rc-cam site in the credits. Within hours the rc-cam site's bandwidth spiked off the map, crashed the site (several times), and cost me a small fortune in unanticipated bandwidth fees. The rest is history, as they say.

- Thomas

.


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