The FPV slope soaring thread - RC Groups
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Oct 09, 2017, 10:14 AM
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surfimp's Avatar
Discussion

The FPV slope soaring thread


Let's use this thread to share and discuss our experiences with FPV slope soaring.

Ian has been doing FPV slope soaring longer than most. Here's one of his videos from a few years back:
FPV - Skywalker Soaring - Zion Playground in HD (8 min 31 sec)


I have been interested in FPV since 2003/2004, got a HAM license in 2007, and built my first FPV rig, based on a Radian, in 2012. I haven't focused on FPV a ton since then, but my interest has been re-ignited lately, after seeing what's being done with FPV quadcopters.

Originally, I used a Radian with an older GoPro Hero2 as my FPV and HD recording camera, connected to a 100mW video transmitter. This setup was totally sufficient to allow me to fly comfortably along the entire ridge at Ellwood with very clear video.

My first-ever FPV flight in 2012:
Ellwood FPV (7 min 3 sec)


A few recent flights from the past month:
FPV Slope Soaring: Golden Weasel Chase (1 min 56 sec)


FPV slope soaring (1 min 0 sec)


Today, in 2017, the equipment is generally better, smaller, lighter and more affordable than ever before. It will still cost some time and effort to get going in FPV, but there's so much more info out there, and so many more products to choose from, that it's a smaller hurdle (though still a hurdle) than in the past.

I've just upgraded my Radian with a Fatshark pan-and-tilt for the camera. This pan-and-tilt will be driven by a headtracking module that's built into my Spektrum Focal DVR goggles, which connects via my Spektrum DX6e's wireless trainer port to send pan-and-tilt commands to the mount on the glider.

Headtracking is really cool: you turn your head, and the pan-and-tilt turns the camera, giving you the ability to look around while flying, similar to fullscale. It's the missing link, in my opinion, for FPV slope soaring to really be fun and practical, and I've sort of been waiting for the marketplace to mature sufficiently that better products were available. That day is now!

Anyways, my ultimate goal is to transfer this pan-and-tilt rig to an aerobatics plane so I can try my hand at FPV VTPR aerobatics. But I find with this stuff it's best to go step-by-step. The Radian is a perfect plane for testing these components, as it doesn't mind the extra weight in the least and remains very easy to fly. It's just super pleasant to cruise the cliffs with, I really like it. I'm hoping the headtracking is going to really be awesome!

I'm sure I'm not the only one doing FPV on the slope - share your experiences! It's a lot of fun and literally a new perspective on our hobby

Steve
Last edited by surfimp; Oct 09, 2017 at 10:30 AM.
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Oct 09, 2017, 01:55 PM
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Daemon's Avatar
Plenty of FPVers do slope soaring sort of incidentally while cruising mountain ridges and such
but I can count the number of folks who've done it with dedicated unpowered sailplanes
on the fingers on one hand, with probably a couple left over.
What you can't see in my HD video above is that the flight camera is on pan&tilt with
head tracker, and I found that essential for slope soaring so I could keep myself
positioned while crabbing in a stiff wind, chasing other slope aircraft
and to maintain situational awareness when flying with my PG and HG buddies.

Here's a little more raw view of what I used to do
FPV Zion - Up High and Down (too?) Low. (8 min 25 sec)

Notice how often I'm cruising across the slope with the nose not in view (crabbing)
or looking down between the fuse and wing. On the Skywalker video above, if I wanted
to give the HD camera (on pan only) a view "down" I had to bank hard.

I haven't had the EZG up in years though. Mainly because we moved to HD video and
there weren't HD cameras small enough to fit on a pan&tilt rig and still keep the drag low
on a plane the size of the EZG, and with low enough latency for aggressive
piloting through them. The Mobius has high latency and very poor light handling on
the live output.
Runcam2 is a little better on both respects, so maybe I'll build up a dedicated sailplane again
one of these days.
Oct 09, 2017, 07:21 PM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
I flew my Radian with pan & tilt on my lunchbreak in some nice lift out at Ellwood, and it was everything I'd hoped it would be. The wireless headtracking on the Spektrum Focal DVR worked awesome with my DX6e, and the signal from the Tramp was super clear. The image from the Micro Swift 2 wasn't as good as the output from a GoPro, but it worked just fine.

I knew pan-and-tilt was the missing link for me to enjoy slope FPV, and am super stoked with the experience. It's rad!
Latest blog entry: Of Fish, France, FPV, and Fun!
Oct 09, 2017, 07:31 PM
Faster is Better
Slopemaster's Avatar
Interesting.
Oct 09, 2017, 07:55 PM
Registered User
Daemon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by surfimp
I flew my Radian with pan & tilt on my lunchbreak in some nice lift out at Ellwood, and it was everything I'd hoped it would be. The wireless headtracking on the Spektrum Focal DVR worked awesome with my DX6e, and the signal from the Tramp was super clear. The image from the Micro Swift 2 wasn't as good as the output from a GoPro, but it worked just fine.
Play with the settings of the Swift 2. In particularly turn on DWDR (wide dynamic range) and maybe tweak
your contrast and brightness (often the names don't quite match the functions). You should actually be able to
get a more usable image from the Swift 2 than most GoPros which often have an overly contrasty output.

Quote:
I knew pan-and-tilt was the missing link for me to enjoy slope FPV, and am super stoked with the experience. It's rad!
Ya, it made all the difference for me. I've had over a dozen different types of fixed wing FPV aircraft and all but one of them
has had at least pan if not both pan and tilt. One of VRFlyer's videos back in 2005 sparked the modern era of FPV piloting
and he had it all, pan+tilt/goggles/headtracker but I find it interesting how many people either no longer use
a head tracker, or never did (in my opinion they just don't know what they're missing).
Oct 09, 2017, 11:22 PM
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surfimp's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daemon
Play with the settings of the Swift 2. In particularly turn on DWDR (wide dynamic range) and maybe tweak
your contrast and brightness (often the names don't quite match the functions). You should actually be able to
get a more usable image from the Swift 2 than most GoPros which often have an overly contrasty output.
Hehe, yes, that's the next step. I flew the camera bog-stock today, with even the crappy default text showing. I was just that excited to finally try pan-and-tilt out!

The experience was great; I made a short and really bad video which doesn't do the actual colors of the sunset any justice:

Sunset FPV slope soaring (2 min 7 sec)


Quote:
Ya, it made all the difference for me. I've had over a dozen different types of fixed wing FPV aircraft and all but one of them
has had at least pan if not both pan and tilt. One of VRFlyer's videos back in 2005 sparked the modern era of FPV piloting
and he had it all, pan+tilt/goggles/headtracker but I find it interesting how many people either no longer use
a head tracker, or never did (in my opinion they just don't know what they're missing).
Yeah, for me, this is the way to go. Not only to make slope soaring via FPV more enjoyable, but also to make aerobatic flying possible and most likely quite fun. It's a whole new challenge and I'm excited to take it on!

End of day was a beautiful sight
Latest blog entry: Of Fish, France, FPV, and Fun!
Oct 11, 2017, 11:58 AM
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parajared's Avatar
here's some slope soaring with the Radian
FPV sloping the Radian (1 min 55 sec)


and here's some thermalling with the Heron
a day of soaring (FPV Heron) (4 min 2 sec)
Oct 11, 2017, 05:45 PM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
Cool vids, Jared. What's your setup? Looks like pan for sure, but tilt too? And are you flying through the GoPro (or whatever action cam) as well as recording?
Latest blog entry: Of Fish, France, FPV, and Fun!
Oct 11, 2017, 06:32 PM
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parajared's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by surfimp
Cool vids, Jared. What's your setup? Looks like pan for sure, but tilt too? And are you flying through the GoPro (or whatever action cam) as well as recording?
On my Radian and Heron it's pan only and 180 degree only, just a 12 gram TGY-R5180MG glued into an x-actoed out slot in the foam for the sake of weight and simplicity. I use legos to give that extra bite on the camera to really clamp it down. I use an (absurdly huge) 50 gram 360 degree servo and use both pan and tilt on my 4 meter glider as the weight penalty isn't as severe. On my DLGs and (mini DLG and Cumulus) and my UMX Radian I used a fixed position cam.

I fly directly through my action cam but this comes with three major penalties
1) lag is a minor issue for casual flying but buggers the landings a little
2) sunset/sunrise lighting conditions are hard for my Firefly Q6. My non action cam Foxeer Monster works much better in the fading light.
3) battery drain is the most egregious of the lot for my cross-country flights. I heavy-duty magnet mount my equipment to the top of my car and I have a buddy who enjoys chasing gliders with me but my flights are getting cut short due to the action cam draining the main battery so much. I usually get stuck landing after a couple hours.
Oct 11, 2017, 07:46 PM
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parajared's Avatar
I decided to post this because it has a Le Fish in it
Le Fish attempt and Mormon Lake FPV Radian flying (1 min 36 sec)
Oct 11, 2017, 08:13 PM
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parajared's Avatar
Also I should mention control + video link

I gravitate towards 2.4/5.8 because of variometer beeps. I have had poor success sending vario beeps down the audio line of the video transmitter and listening through headphones attached to the goggles (Eagle Tree Vector variometer audio out port). I get buzzy garbled beeps and awful audio, the beeps not seeming to match up just right to climb/sink like they do with my paragliding variometer. However the beeps are crystal clear coming out of the radio and perfectly match what the glider is doing using Frsky telemetry (FVAS-02H). If you use 1.2 for video it really borks using 2.4 for control so your are stuck using 5.8 (or maybe 3.3?) for video instead but 5.8 video has some issues...
1) circling thermals tends to arse with the video link on 5.8 a lot more than 1.2ghz (the plane flying flat and level maintaining the best link, circling causing fuzz)
2) you hit the end of your "leash" a lot faster than you really want. You get caught up in the moment of riding the length of that ridge or coring that thermal and before you know it you have hit the end of how far 5.8 will go. 1.2 gives a lot more wiggle room/lose your plane waaaay far away from base room.

I use Dragonlink 433 and 1.2ghz video for my chase-car setup taking the penalty of no vario beeps. I use the "graphical variometer" Eagle Tree Vector OSD setting to give visual ques for lift (to poorer effect than auditory ques)
Last edited by parajared; Oct 11, 2017 at 08:24 PM. Reason: mention the graphical vario
Oct 11, 2017, 09:40 PM
Registered User
Interesting. Been thinking about this a lot as I have all the stuff from flying quads. Hmm, guess I need to figure out how to do tracking with Headplays.
Oct 12, 2017, 01:13 AM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
Dang Jared, that's awesome! I can see you've gotten some good experience with a range of equipment, that's very cool to read about. Videos are great too!

I've had really good luck with my 100mW 5.8ghz Fatshark video transmitter at Ellwood, but it's a small flying site with relatively limited area available. I can comfortably fly around 300-400yds in either direction up and down the slope with clear video / few if any dropouts, but if I get out of LoS at all (i.e. because I flew too low on the face of the cliff, too far away), the signal will cut out pretty quickly. It can get exciting!

On my Radian, with my old GoPro Hero2 as combined FPV & action camera, I could get about an hour or so, running it off the GoPro's internal battery. I also had a small 350mAh 11.1V lipo dedicated just to the VTX.

With the newer setup, I am running both the Runcam Micro Swift 2 FPV camera and the Tramp VTX off the same 350mAh dedicated battery. The pan-and-tilt runs off the main battery pack, which also powers the receiver and motor. So far so good, but I've only got a few flights with the setup and still need to route my camera's power directly off the battery so I can get the pack's voltage displaying on the Micro Swift's built-in OSD.

It's interesting about the pan alone vs pan-and-tilt. I'm a little frustrated that I can't seem to define expo or otherwise on the tilt axis with my Focal DVR goggles' headtracking. I'd actually like to speed up the responsiveness of that axis, as I've really got to wrench my neck to look "up," making the current setup a little uncomfortable. But this (adding expo curves to the headtracking channels) isn't possible from my reading of the relevant manuals for the goggles and radio. Not the end of the world, but makes me really think about whether tilt is even worth it, especially as I look towards outfitting an Ahi.

Anyways, thanks for sharing your experience! Have you considered something like a SkyMelody, Picolario or similar standalone variometer? Might be something to look into, if you haven't already.
Latest blog entry: Of Fish, France, FPV, and Fun!
Oct 12, 2017, 11:33 AM
Registered User
parajared's Avatar
Quote:
I've had really good luck with my 100mW 5.8ghz Fatshark video transmitter at Ellwood,
Hey, I know that area! I spent a few weeks learning to fly paragliders at Elings Park.

Quote:
I can comfortably fly around 300-400yds in either direction up and down the slope with clear video / few if any dropouts, but if I get out of LoS at all (i.e. because I flew too low on the face of the cliff, too far away), the signal will cut out pretty quickly. It can get exciting!
You can get more distance/ get in some "real" exercise fetching a downed plane using directional antennas . Personally I flip/flop between 5.8 pepperbox and 5.8 crosshair, still undecided which I like best. My pepperbox has issues with fuzzing out unexpectedly, kind of a fragile link that stretches really far. Crosshair has always been a really solid link, holding a good lock until the bitter end but never reaching as far as pepperbox. I spoke with Ibcrazy, the maker of the pepperbox and he said it's because pepperbox antenna is more sensitive to picking up signals other than the plane's video signal. For instance pointing the pepperbox at my plane would pick up the plane's vtx signal, some dude's wifi signal miles away, and some EMI from my radio whereas the crosshair is less sensitive/better at ignoring outside signals. For the 2.4 control link I like the moxon rectangle.

Quote:
but makes me really think about whether tilt is even worth it
pan only is pretty robust. If you want to look up or down though you have to bank the plane and look down the wing, a bit annoying if you are chasing another plane or just want to cruise flat and level and want to look straight down.

Quote:
Have you considered something like a SkyMelody, Picolario or similar standalone variometer?
L1D variometer caught my eye. Ultimately something needs to be done about the poor audio link however. Maybe there is a pilot out there who uses the audio port on their vtx to good success but it didn't work very well for me.
Oct 12, 2017, 10:27 PM
Registered User
Daemon's Avatar
I used to run audio all the time (just a mic in the plane with the gain turned all
the way down to avoid clipping) with my FOX800 VTX, and it worked fine. Maybe bypass
the Vector and go straight to the VTX. There might be some sort of VTX/VRX mismatch
but that's more common with 2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz (some are stereo, some mono).

One can get away with not having tilt, but personally I find it helps with any
type of aggressive flying including working thermals hard, or yanking and banking
low and fast.

As for the HT, I recommend this one
https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...ift-OpenSource)
Can build it from components or buy one pre-made. No drift, and it can be configured
to have different rates/endpoints for pan/tilt. If you use a good radio like the Taranis
you can do anything you want with the HT inputs on the trainer port.


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