I learned FPV flying the hard way: by messing around and crashing a lot. Later on I realized there are exercises beginners can do to gradually build up skills and confidence. Also there are simple rules we can follow to avoid accidents. In this article we will show you how to start and improve flying a drone in FPV like a pro (or multicopter if you prefer).
This article is written by Shay A., a senior member of Multicopter International Facebook Group, and Oscar.
But before you jump into FPV flying, make sure you know how to fly your quadcopter in line of sight (LOS) first! In case something happens during your FPV session, you can still remove your FPV goggles and land your quad in a controlled manner in LOS.
There are so many ways to learn FPV, and this guide is mainly based on our personal experience. If you have any other good ideas or suggestion please let us know in the comment down below.
We will also look into adding some video instructions shortly.
Before we start, we would like to mention some of the basic safety rules about flying FPV.
- Spotter!!! A person that can watch out for approaching people/animal, warns the pilot for any potential threats they might not see in their goggles or monitor. They can also keep an eye on your ground equipment while you are totally immersed in FPV. In some countries it is illegal to fly RC models in FPV without a spotter
- Fly in big open area, far away from other people, traffic and property. Grassy field will be preferable not only for softening any crashes you might have but also will prevent sand from getting into your motors
- Range test your radio and video system when you arrive in a new environment, find out if there is any signal dead spots
- A 700g object free-falling from high altitude can cause some serious damage, especially one with spinning blades. Please be sensible and do not attempt anything dangerous
- Before flight: Always carry out a hover test, fly your multicopter around and make sure it reacts to your sticks accordingly. Make sure all of your systems are working
- After flight: check your gear after each flight, including feeling the temperature of each motor and ESC with your hand after landing. One hot motor means either it is failing, or the propeller is grossly unbalanced or badly bashed. Two or more warmer motors on the same side mean that the craft is not correctly weighted and balanced
Things you should know before learning FPV
Flight Modes: Self-Level and Acro Mode
For beginners, it’s important to have self-level flight mode available or even RTL (return to launch) on your model if it’s available (not necessary though). Make sure it’s tested and working beforehand. Set up a buzzer to a radio switch can help you find your aircraft if you crash into tall grass, or any hidden places.
Check out this post about the differences between self-level mode and Acro mode.
It’s harder to judge object distance when flying FPV than looking at them with your own eyes, due to the fish eye effect from FPV cameras, and the different field of view some camera might have. That’s why when you start, you want to go slower, and gradually build up ability to make better distance estimation.
RC Quadcopter Simulator for FPV
There are many RC simulators that supports multicopters, some are even designed specifically for quadcopter FPV racing. It could be a good idea for someone just started to gain flying experience on one of those sims before learning on the real thing. Although it’s not necessary, and one might not find it realistic.
Check out this post about FPV Simulators for Quadcopters.
Ways to Control the TX sticks: Thumb or Pinch?
Here is a good discussion about the benefits of the different ways of holding the sticks of your radio transmitter: http://intofpv.com/t-stick-control-thumbs-only-or-pinching-with-thumb-and-index-finger
FPV Flight Exercise
Some preparation before we start. For the following exercises, it’s best to have your FPV camera facing straight ahead if you are a beginner (no camera tilting). Some more advanced flyers tilt their cameras up so they can see the horizon when flying fast.
Always make sure that you have enough space for recovery from error, and that the area is clear of people, animals or any other thing that can get harm or damaged. Also make sure that the craft is far enough from yourself and your spotter.
Switch on self-level mode (horizon or angle mode).
Use some kind of marking, or trees as reference to help you identify position and distance.
1. Take off and land:
- Main goal: Practice throttle/altitude control.
- Sub goals: Control drifting using roll and pitch
- Take off and stay at 1 to 2 meters high for a few seconds, then slowly coming down to ground and land.
- Make sure the take-off and landing is soft and gradual.
- Don’t cut your throttle too rapidly, hard landing can cause damage to your quadcopter.
2. Flying forth and back:
- Goal: Practice forward flying, yaw turns, speed control, altitude control.
- Take off and stay at about at 1 to 2 meters high.
- Fly forward by pushing pitch stick, for maybe 20 meters. Keep your height constant at all time by adjusting throttle.
- Start to slow down by pulling the pitch stick towards you, and come to a stop.
- Turn around left or right using Yaw, accelerate again (pitch forward) to fly back to where you took off, slow down and turn around.
- You can increase speed and distance as you progress. Feel free to use roll as well to level your craft while making yaw turns.
3. Square pattern turns:
- Goal: Some more turn practice and making corrections to path after turns. Getting used to flying in a bigger area.
- Setup: Square of about 50mX50m mark with a white ribbon or any other thing you think is right.
- Fly along the sides of the square while trying to keep a constant altitude and pace.
- Switch between CW and CCW direction.
4. Circle a pole/tree while constantly facing it:
- Goal: Practicing yaw, roll and throttle control combined.
- Description: Circle a pole or a tree while constantly making roll, yaw and throttle adjustments to keep a constant distance from the tree and altitude.
5. 8 figure around 2 poles or trees:
- Main goal: Much better coordination between both hands, you should be able to control all 4 axis better at the same time: throttle, yaw, pitch and roll.
- It’s easier to have the 2 poles further away.
- Try to turn around as smooth as you can.
- Fly in an 8 figure while trying to maintain constant altitude.
- You should start to have some fun flying FPV.
6. Sharp turns:
- Main goal: Able to make a accurate sharp turns, enables you to avoid some crashes. Sharp turns are also an effective way of braking.
- Fly towards to the side of a pole or tree with some speed, and turn 180 in yaw axis in a fast manner.
- You will need to use roll and pitch to help levelling the aircraft, and fight some of the momentum.
7. Fly through a Tight Gap / Air Gate:
- Main goal: Practice fast flying combined with fine stick control.
- Setup: a long field with one air gate in the middle. Start with a big gate.
- starting at one end of the field, above the height of the gate, fly towards the gate and descend slowly to the height of the gate.
- Increase altitude once you passed through the gate. Sharp turn and repeat.
Few last words:
Fly safe, be responsible and sensible. More importantly, have fun!
If you want more help with your multirotor journey, or just love to share knowledge and help others feel free to join our Facebook group “Multicopters international”.