Recently, I've been seeing a lot of people on the Forums and on the Facebook Flite Test Fans group asking for advice about their very first FPV flights. Advice you say? We hear you! Here's the definitive Flite Test Guide to help you out.
Note! Before we get started, it's worth mentioning that most of the following advice is aimed at FPV airplane flyers, although multirotor pilots may also find this information helpful.
1. Simplicity is Key
Try not to overcomplicate it at first. Use the bare minimum. This means using a simple video transmitter/video receiver setup without bothering with telemetry, auto-navigation or any of that complex stuff that you can add later. Just remember, keep the gear minimal and there will be less to go wrong! At first, you just want to turn up at the field, plug everything in and get flying to get your day off to a successful start.
If you haven't yet bought your FPV gear, we recommend that you start out with an all-in-one kit. This is so that all of your transmitters, cameras and wiring is at the correct voltages and all you have to do is plug them together to get started. It's easy! Here's some of the gear we sell on the FT store. If you want to find an all-in-one kit, try checking out the forum for suggestions on what other people are using.
2. Choose the Perfect Aircraft
Having a great performing and easy to fly aircraft, be it a quad or a fixed-wing aeroplane, really helps when it comes to the maiden FPV flight. In terms of airplanes, we have designed quite a few platforms perfect for beginner FPV pilots. These include the FT Explorer and the FT Spear. The FT Explorer is great because of it uses a high wing and a modular design; it's stable, perfect for carrying cameras, and super customisable for your own uses. It is also easily reparable as you can switch out parts.
The other design, the FT Spear, is a flying wing that has a ton of space for your gear. As you develop as a pilot, the Spear will develop with you. You can even fit your lunch in it.
3. Get comfortable with your gear
It can be as simple as making sure that your new goggles fit on your face and don't slip down! Whilst you're in the comfort of home, try setting up your gear and remembering what plugs into what. Draw some diagrams and a checklist if needed. This is so that you limit the number of problems you may encounter at the field as possible.
4. Test Fly First
Getting comfortable with how your plane performs whilst flying line-of-sight makes predicting what it will do from the cockpit far easier. If you've chosen a stable plane as recommended, it should be a simple process. As you don't want to jump into FPV too soon before you've mastered line-of-sight, try flying your new plane around 3-4 times before pulling on your goggles. If you're flying quads, make sure you have skills such as 'walking the dog'.
5. Pick a Great Day
To focus all of your energy into flying from a completely new perspective, pick a calm and bright day. Flighting gusts of wind is not fun for an inexperienced FPV pilot, so waiting a while for a gentle evening is much better than rushing outside on a day that simply isn't suitable.
6. Carry Some Speed
Although you shouldn't pick an FPV platform that feels like it's travelling at Mach 1, if you're flying an airplane you should make sure that you don't inadvertently fly too slowly. It seems like it should be a good idea to take things extra slow, but loosing too much speed might mean that you unexpectedly stall and crash. Looking back at my early footage from when I started flying FPV, I noticed I was on the verge of stalling several times through taking it too slow. It's hard to judge your speed at first, so be aware of where the throttle stick is: if it's where it usually is when flying line-of-sight, all is good.
7. Fly High (But Not Too High)
As with line-of-sight flying, try and keep a few mistakes high. Give yourself a buffer zone, a space that you can stall into if needs be. It's as simple as that!
8. Know Your Playground
In the early days of the FT podcasts, I remember hearing Josh Bixler say 'know your playground and fly a pattern'. Like much of what Josh says, these are wise words. It really helps if you pick out landmarks, be it a house you can see, trees, a radio mast, or far off places like a town or city in the distance. Try flying towards one then turning to fly flying towards another landmark. Make sure you keep asking your spotter where you are in relation to your body on the ground and where you're heading, even if you think you know. Life is good.
9. Make a Flight Plan
Looking at where you'll be flying and knowing what you'll be doing for the time that you're in the air is a great way to stay on top of any potential problems. Ask yourself these questions: What pattern are you going to fly? How long are you going to go FPV for? How long will you fly before pulling on the goggles? Then, on the day, take your time. Keep calm. Stick to the plan.
10. Keep Calm and Carry On
Sometimes things go wrong. It's a pain! However, a positive mindset and a focus on the end goal can usually overcome issues you may encounter. If you crash on your first flight, don't worry! It happens to all of us at some point. Hopefully, your gear survived and you can simply rebuild and start again. Here's the article on the plane below, just so you can see the story of a rebuild from a bad FPV crash.
Some Concluding Words
FPV flying, as you probably know, is a whole different world. It's an amazing thing to scale yourself down and take a seat in your own aircraft. Overcoming the initial flight is the biggest leap you'll have to make, so, hopefully, the ten points of this article come of use to you. As always, let us know how you got on in the comments, or by writing an article of your own, or posting in the forums or on the FT Facebook Fans group. We look forward to it!
Article by James Whomsley