Before you begin

If you are like me, you have seen a video on youtube and now you are ready to jump in spend some dough and get into the middle of things. You are itching to start racing. Right? Yeah, trust me, I know. I am the same way. However there are some things which you have to know before you jump in, and trust me this will save you money on the long run. There are some questions you will need to answer yourself before stepping forward in this game:

  1. Have you flown anything remote controlled before?
  2. Are you afraid of heights?
  3. Do you have any electronics, soldering, electrical knowledge?
  4. Do you know that you will need HAM radio licensing to stay legal with FPV flying?
  5. Do you wear glasses to see things more than 3-5 meters away?

I’ll get to more questions as they come to my mind, let’s start with these first:

1. Have you flown anything remote controlled before?

Well,  if you answered this question with “Yes”, then skip ahead to the next section. You probably already know the basics of flying, remote controls and orientation.  If you answered no, make sure you keep reading.

Flying things can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. Firstly – the multi-rotor helicopters (drones as many call them) are like a flying brick. If anything happens to the electronics, the gravity kicks in and pulls the bird toward the ground with 9.8G – unless you are flying inverted – in which case it will be a lot more than 9.8G.

Mutirotors do not have wings, so these do not glide well – I can even go and say – do not glide at all!!! Most people who purchased a drone for Christmas for themselves and/or their kids and had no previous Remote controlled flying experience ended up with a gift-junkpile-drone the next day after they flow exactly 2 minutes.

Basics you need to know:

Click on any of the below links to learn more.

 2. Are you afraid of heights?

Well, FPV flying simulates really good the real piloting experience. If you are afraid of flying or heights, make sure you sit down before you engage in FPV flying. I always have a folding chair in the back of my car, so in case there is no bench – or nothing I can sit on I take out the folding chair. Especially at the beginning when you are learning how to fly this is a good practice to do.

There are virtually 2 different ways of FPV flying:

  • Full Immersion FPV flying
    • When flying full immersion, you have a pair of video goggles on your eyes which block all the outside light and all the view of your surroundings. This allows you to fully enjoy the flying experience, since in this case you feel like you are indeed inside the cockpit of your aircraft and you only can see from the point of view of your aircraft. This is an excellent experience, however be aware of the gravity affecting your brain. In this mode when the craft is banking you will defiantly feel the drag of the gravity – even though you body is not moving. It is all coming from the visual experience effect.
  • FPV flying with a monitor
    • While flying with the monitor you can see your aircraft from the ground, as well you have the sight of the pilots point of view on the monitor. In my opinion this is a bit harder, but it does give you access to view the airplane on the sky in case anything happens to your video feed. Some people are debating that in case of such flying you do not need a spotter, I personally disagree, the spotter should be there all the time for safety reasons. Eve if you use a monitor, if your craft goes down somewhere you will be trying hard to get the control back till the last second – and most likely alternating your view between the monitor and the craft on the sky which could be even more confusing. The spotter will be able to point it out where your craft went down.

FPV flying will not cure your fear of heights, but it will make you more comfortable when flying on real airliners.

3. Do you have any electronics, soldering, electrical knowledge?

From the beginning of RC flying, this has been a hobby of people who “know” something. “Know” how to build an aircraft, “know” how the transmitter/receiver work, “know” about aerodynamics, “know” about electronics, electricity, etc. As you see there is a lot of “know” here. What if you don’t know?

To start building a drone you have to have some basic skills. You think you know how to solder two wires together? Yeah, I thought I did too. 10-15 years back I thought I was pretty good at soldering because I used a soldering iron or pistol all my youth – and when I started working with devices which require reliability and long term usage – I realized that I have to learn soldering all over again. So, even if you think you do, get on youtube and check out a few videos on how to solder SMA components, how to use solder flux, how to use a soldering iron with variable temperature. Here are a few hints:

  • To avoid cold soldering on wires, cables you will need the followings:
    • Soldering iron powerful enough to reliably heat your wire up – but you have to control the heat applied so it does not melt the isolation layer.
    • Solder flux – I’ll get to this later a bit, but you NEED to use solder flux even if your solder wire has flux inside
    • Clean wire – make sure you clean the wire before starting to work on it.
  • When soldering in headers to a flight controller:
    • test-fit the header first to make sure it slides in easily in the provided holes. Read the documentation to make sure you are soldering the header in the correct position. Read it twice before you start soldering it in.
    • before you install the header apply a thin bed of solder flux on the pads. This will allow even distribution of the melted solder and flow in the holes between the header pins and the plated hole.
    • install the header and make sure it sits properly in the board. Turn the board around so you can see the solder pads on the bottom. With the tip of the soldering iron touch he point where one pin comes out from the hole and with the other hand bring your solder wire to touch the pin on the side – about 90 degrees compared to where the iron tip is. Hold it there till the solder wire melts into the hole and covers the soldering pad – nicely flowing up on the pin. Do not solder in any other pins yet, just turn the board around ad make sure your header is straight and it is pushed in all the way. This is the time to adjust it if you need to before soldering in any other pins. When you satisfied with the position using the previous description solder in the rest of the pins.

Generally speaking, youtube is your best buddy when you try to learn something like this. Just type in “how to solder small components” or something similar relevant in the search field and watch a few videos. Don’t forget before you start working on the real board, unless you are very confident you can do it, practice on another old board or small wires, etc.

4. HAM radio licensing (Amateur Radio Licensing – in Canada) information.

Even though nobody on the field is telling you this, much less your normal everyday retailer – a HAM license is required to use the FPV transmitters legally. There are a few transmitters out there which are FCC certified to be used without a HAM licensing, those have their power level reduced to match the FCC requirements, however none of these are IC (Industry Canada) certified. Industry Canada requires an analog FM transmitter to have the power output radiating at 0.75mW to be license free. Since we know that all FPV transmitters radiate at a minimum of 5 to 25mW, those all require licensing in Canada.

Now, just compare this to driving. You would not drive on the city roads without a driving license would you? So why would you think using these frequencies which fall into the amateur radio band would be OK to use them without a license? Oh – you think you cannot do any harm with it? Wrong, on so many different counts. Radio interference caused by unlicensed transmissions can really cause damage and harm.

The Amateur Radio license is a one time exam, and it is valid for life. You do not need to be re-examined ever, also contrary to the misbelief, you do not need to take a Morse (CW) exam for the “Basic” licensing. I devised a methodology to learn, study and take the exam in two weeks. Tested on 2 young 13 and 14 years old kids (my son and my godson) who did not have much technical knowledge before starting to study for the exam – they were ready in 2 weeks and passed the exam with flying colors. To read this methodology and to see what you need to do to take the Basic Amateur Radio license, click on the below link – or choose the appropriate link from the menu. Please note this is valid for Canada and Canadian citizens only.

5. Do you wear glasses to see 3+ meters away?

If you do, you, then you have a decision to make  The Fatshark FPV goggles will allow to insert diopter lenses for vision correction. The dioptre lenses come in a set of 2, 4 and 6 in a bag, you can use these to insert these into your goggles to match these to your eye sight. The best thing to do is to check out the goggles of a friend, try it on and test it to see how does it work for you before investing in it. You can always visit our showroom at New Generation Hobbies we always have a few sets of goggles there you can try on and see if this works for you.

As an alternate option to goggles, lots of people with glasses use FPV monitors or displays instead of goggles. These are high contrast devices, usually come with sun-shade so can be seen even in a bright sunlight outdoors. The use of these will not allow full immersion FPV experience, but once you get used to it, it can give you the same FPV pleasure and experience as any other FPV flying.

Now, once you decided on these you can move ahead and start building your drone – not before reading and understanding some basic safety rules you need to follow when racing of flying these drones. So please continue reading on the next article about safety.