The 10 Best FPV Drones
What To Know Before You Start Flying
While buying a really cool drone and taking off into the great blue yonder sounds like a great deal of fun, there are actually some rules and regulations set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration that one must be aware of before taking flight. Up until mid-2017, consumers were required to register all recreational drones weighing more than eight ounces before using them outdoors. While the registration process was easy and affordable — filling out an online form, paying a $5 fee, and attaching an identifying sticker to the drone enabled users to fly legally for three years — it was still somewhat annoying. There was nothing worse than buying a awesome new drone and then having to wait until a sticker was delivered to be able to fly it. It was practically torture.
Luckily, the federal appeals court ruled that the FAA overstepped their bounds regarding registration requirements and instructed them to revise them. To the elation of current and would-be recreation drone pilots, the new regulations are significantly more lax. The majority of drone users fall under the jurisdiction of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.
To fly under this rule, drones and pilots must meet the following guidelines: The aircraft must be flown solely for hobby and recreational use, it must be flown in accordance with any community-based or local guidelines, and it must weigh less than 55 pounds. All model aircraft must give way to manned aircraft in every type of situation. Unmanned aircraft should be flown in a way as to not interfere with the flight path of any manned aircraft. Finally, if flying within five miles of an airport, the pilot must give prior notice to the air traffic control tower. Consumers and air traffic controllers can establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure for those who fly their drones from a permanent location within a five-mile radius of the airport.
Those looking to use their drone in the pursuit of making money, like photographers or journalists, still need to register, however. They need to pass an FAA test and obtain Part 107 certification as a commercial drone pilot.
There are a few other safety guidelines that the FAA has put forth, as well, that all operators must follow. Unmanned aircraft must fly at or below 400 feet. Pilots should be aware of any airspace restrictions in flight areas. Drones should be kept away from obstacles at all times and be kept within sight of the naked eye. They are never allowed to be flown over stadiums, sporting events, or large groups of people. They can also never be flown in the vicinity of emergency response efforts, like ambulances and fire trucks. As with any other vehicle, drones should never be piloted when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How To Choose The Right Drone
The array of drone models available can be quite overwhelming when it comes time buy one, especially for newbies. They come in practically every size and price range imaginable, from cheap, nano-sized models to large, expensive racing models. There are also a number of different features to consider.
One of the most important aspects to take into account when buying a drone is your current skill level. Not all drones are easy to fly; in fact, some are downright difficult. Many people aren't aware, but quadcopters are actually physically impossible to fly without the benefit of a flight-stabilizing computer and sensors. Each drone has different flight characteristics depending on how the computer is setup. This means that some may be extremely agile and capable of incredible acrobatics, while others are more stable in flight and better for beginner pilots. First time pilots should always focus on those designed for new fliers.
Another thing to consider is how you plan to use the drone. Those who only plan on indoor flights can purchase a smaller model that is more agile, but perhaps less capable of dealing with heavy winds. If photography is your main concern, a large, stable model with a high definition camera and remote-controllable gimbal is a smart choice.
Durability should be a top concern for new pilots, as well. It is not a question of if you will crash your first drone, but when. Models which have rotor guards can handle crashes better. Some are also known for having a more durable frame. As a general rule, drones aren't known for having impressive flight times, but that doesn't mean you have to settle for something that needs to land practically as soon as you finish taking off. There are many models that get flight times in the double digits, though these are usually on the higher end of the price spectrum.
The final thing to be aware of is the many acronyms that you see bandied about in product terminology. If you see RTF in a drone's description, that means it is ready-to-fly. It will require little, if any, assembly or complicated flight control setup. Just charge the battery, attach the rotors, and launch. BNF models are bind-and-fly. This means it will come mostly assembled, but without a controller. You will have to use a controller you already have or buy one separately. Finally, there are ARF models, almost-ready-to-fly. These are kits that must be assembled. They may also be missing vital components, like a motor, computer, or battery. If you see a model labeled as ARF, make sure to thoroughly read the instructions and determine what additional components you will need before it is ready for flight.
FPV Drone Flying Tips
Getting the hang of first-person drone flying can be even more difficult than mastering normal operation. Here are a few tips that can help you become a pro pilot in no time.
It is always best to practice on a simulator first, before trying to tackle FPV flying with your expensive quadcopter. There are free online flight simulators that can help you get used to the the view and feeling of FPV flying, without having to worry about weather, unsafe flying environments, or damaging your expensive machinery. You should also master normal piloting, as well, before attempting a FPV flight.
Make sure your drone is perfectly trimmed to your preferred settings before you launch on your inaugural FPV flight. You don't want to fiddle around with the settings while in the air if you can avoid it. Tilting your camera upwards about 30 degrees can also be very helpful. As drones move forward, the front naturally tilts downwards, even more so at higher speeds. Tilting your camera up can help compensate for this.
It is also important to ensure your goggles are comfortable and securely placed on your head. Not only can it be annoying to have your googles slip while piloting, it can also result in distraction, causing you to crash into an obstacle.
For your first few FPV flights, it is best to fly in wide-open areas that you know well. This way you'll be aware of the majority of the obstacles you are likely to encounter. You'll be able to focus on practicing flight proficiency rather than potential obstructions. Start off by trying to fly between two landmarks, or from your starting point to a specific landmark and back again. It is best to practice at high altitudes, too. You are less likely to encounter an obstacle at higher altitudes and you have more time to recover from mishaps.