FPV Flight

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First Person View

First-person view (FPV), also known as remote-person view (RPV), or simply video piloting, is a method used to control a radio controlled model vehicle from the driver or pilot's view point. Most commonly it is used to pilot an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or a radio-controlled aircraft. The vehicle is either driven or piloted remotely from a first person perspective via an onboard camera, fed wirelessly to virtual reality goggles or a video monitor. More sophisticated setups include a pan-and-tilt gimbaled camera controlled by a gyroscope sensor in the pilot's goggles and with dual onboard cameras, enabling a true stereoscopic view.

FPV Aircraft

First-person view (FPV) flight is a type of remote-control (RC) flying that has grown in popularity in recent years. It involves mounting a small video camera and analog television transmitter on an RC aircraft and flying by means of a live video down-link, commonly displayed on video goggles or a portable LCD screen. When flying FPV, the pilot sees from the aircraft's perspective, and does not even have to look at the model. As a result, FPV aircraft can be flown well beyond visual range, limited only by the range of the remote control and video transmitter.

The first recorded FPV flights occurred in the mid-1990s, done by hobbyists using largely custom-made equipment on nitro-powered RC airplanes. With the proliferation of inexpensive electric models powered by lithium polymer battery technology and the widespread availability of small, lightweight security cameras and wireless video transmitters, FPV became increasingly common throughout the 2000s and early 2010s. It is currently one of the fastest growing activities involving RC aircraft, and has given rise to a small but growing industry providing products specifically designed for FPV use.

Equipment

There are two primary components of an FPV setup—the airborne component and the ground component (typically called a ground station). A basic FPV system consists of a camera and video transmitter on the aircraft and a video receiver and a display on the ground. More advanced setups commonly add in specialized hardware, including on-screen displays with GPS navigation and flight data, stabilization systems, and autopilot devices with "return to home" capability—allowing the aircraft to fly back to its starting point on its own in the event of a signal loss. On-board cameras can be equipped with a pan and tilt mount, which when coupled with video goggles and "head tracking" devices creates a truly immersive, first-person experience, as if the pilot was actually sitting in the cockpit of the RC aircraft. Ground stations can be equipped with high gain antennas and automatic antenna tracking systems to provide for maximum range on the video link.

Both helicopters and fixed-wing RC aircraft are used for FPV flight. The most commonly chosen airframes for FPV planes are medium-sized models with sufficient payload space for the video equipment and large wings capable of supporting the extra weight. Pusher-propeller planes are preferred so that the propeller is not in view of the camera. "Flying wing" designs are also popular for FPV, as many pilots believe they provide the best combination of large wing surface area, speed, maneuverability, and gliding ability. FPV aircraft are frequently used for aerial photography and videography, and many videos of FPV flights can be found on popular video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. For this purpose, many FPV pilots utilize a second, lightweight high-definition on-board camcorder such as a GoPro camera in addition to their standard definition video link(s).

Radio frequencies

Video transmitters typically operate at a power level between 200 mW and 1500 mW. The most common frequencies used for video transmission are 900 MHz, 1.2 GHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz. Specialized long-range UHF control systems operating at 433 MHz (for amateur radio licensees only) or 869 MHz[1] are commonly used to achieve greater control range, while the use of directional, high-gain antennas increases video range. Sophisticated setups are capable of achieving a range of 20–30 miles or more.

The current world record is 65 miles, achieved in a RC airplane with an internal combustion engine.

Regulations and safety

The ability of FPV aircraft to fly far beyond the visual range of the pilot and at significant altitudes above the surface has raised some safety concerns regarding risks of collisions with manned aircraft or danger to persons and property on the ground, causing some national aviation authorities to restrict or prohibit FPV flying. For example, the United Kingdom requires that FPV pilots belong to the organization FPV UK, and restricts them to flying within the visual range of a mandatory observer, at a maximum altitude of 400 feet AGL.

In the United States, there are currently no binding regulations or laws affecting FPV flight, though any commercial use of unmanned aircraft is prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration pending ongoing regulatory proceedings. The Academy of Model Aeronautics' (AMA) Safety Code (which governs flying at AMA affiliated fields) forbids the pilot of a model from observing its flight solely with onboard video, requiring the modeler to strictly use their own natural vision (only augmented by corrective eyewear when prescribed) throughout the flight to observe and safely control the model.[4] Under AMA Document #550, FPV flight is allowed at AMA affiliated fields provided that the model is flown by two members using a "buddy box" (two transmitter) setup, with the pilot in command (the person holding the primary control transmitter) maintaining visual contact with the model at all times, and the secondary pilot looking at the video feed. Because these restrictions prohibit flying beyond the visual range of the pilot (an ability which many view as the most attractive aspect of FPV), most hobbyists that fly FPV do so outside of regular RC clubs and flying fields.

Despite safety concerns and the somewhat higher risk of crashing a model at a significant distance from the pilot due to loss of video link, there has never been a recorded incident of an accident involving an FPV aircraft causing serious injury or damage to property. FPV aircraft are generally lighter Styrofoam models and thus pose much less risk upon crashing than larger, more powerful models flown by traditional radio-control. FPV pilots frequently take additional safety measures such as avoiding flying above populated areas or at high altitudes where manned aircraft are likely to be present, and utilizing autopilots with "return to home" capability which automatically fly the model back to the pilot in the event of a signal loss. Such precautions ensure that FPV flights can be undertaken safely and minimize the risk of losing the model.

FPV ground vehicles

Any remote-controlled vehicle capable of carrying a small camera and video transmitter can be operated by FPV. Accordingly, FPV systems are also commonly used on remote-control cars and other ground-based models, though the effective range of such setups will typically be much less than a similar aerial system due to ground obstructions blocking the radio signal.

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