VIFLY R220 Review

By: Kathleen Hickey

If you're just starting out in FPV, it can be intimidating. A growing market, and an abundance of information online can make choosing the right drone, or "quad," a daunting choice. The first big decision in deciding what to purchase, is if you'd like to build your own quad, or if you'd like to buy a Ready To Fly (RTF), like the VIFLY. Both choices have advantages and disadvantages.

I decided to build my first quad. I really wanted to know how it worked, so I wanted to put one together. I also knew that part of racing is crashing, so you need to know how to fix it once it's broken. It took months to build. I had someone helping me, so between our schedules, build issues, and various technical issues, it took a while. Even after it was done, it was plagued with issues. It wasn't until my second build that I was actually able to do any decent flying. The benefit of an RTF is being able to take the quad out of the box, and start flying right away. There is no wait time, no soldering issues, no hoping and finger crossing that all of your lights will turn on.

The VIFLY comes with a lot of great accessories, so you really only need to have goggles, and you're set. Below are the items that come in the kit.

The VIFLY comes with a Flysky radio. Not all RTF quads on the market come with one. The most common radio for FPV at the moment is a Taranis, by Frsky, (I'm sure the similarity in names is not a coincidence), which is what i normally use. The Flysky runs on four AAA batteries (not included). It's really light in weight, and does not feel as good in quality to the Taranis.

The VIFLY is already programed in, so there's no need to do it yourself. When I took the VIFLY out to fly, I was also with my friend Josh Bryson, (WicketFPV). Josh also took a look at the equipment, and flew the VIFLY. Because Josh has more flight experience than me, I thought it would be helpful to have his input as a more experienced pilot, and mine as a beginner. I asked Josh his thoughts on the Flysky. "Are there better radio’s out there? Yes! But for a beginner quad it gets the job done and it is actually usable on future quads so long as they use the same protocol. It has some future proofing in that way and eventually if you decide to stick with RC and FPV you can always get one of the more expensive popular radios."

If you're used to a certain radio, it is a big adjustment to then move to a new one. It was a challenge for me to get used to new switches, and gimbals. I asked John Qin, Director of Sales and Marketing for VIFLY if it was possible to program the VIFLY to another radio. "What you have is a RTF version. Now we also have the BNF (Bind and Fly - Binding is the process of programming the quad to the radio so they "speak" to each other), version which pre-install Taranis receiver. So the customer can buy the BNF (Taranis) version directly. We have 3 versions now, FrSky(Taranis), Spektrum and Flysky. We will public it on our website soon." If you already have a Taranis or Spektrum, and you'd like to purchase the VIFLY, then look for the BNF version. 

You also receive a GoPro mount (which seems to be designed more for the older models, and not the Session), an extra set of DAL 5045 props, a lipo balance charger, and a 3C lipo. I used the lipo charger once, to charge the 3C that it came with. I already have a battery charger, so after the first charge, I used the one I have. Also, most of my batteries are 4C, which is currently the standard when flying FPV. The charger included in the set is really simple to use, and basic. It will get the job done, but if FPV is going to be more of an investment, it will be worth looking into other chargers. 

This is my own charger, not the one included with the VIFLY

This is my own charger, not the one included with the VIFLY

The VIFLY quad itself is a nice design. It is rather heavy, which is common to find in RTF. The more experience someone has in FPV, the more weight they want to take off of their quad, but for a beginner, the weight isn't as important. It will of course affect how the quad flies, and how much you'll get out of your battery, but again, for someone that's starting, the most important factor is being able to actually fly. It has an LED display for the the battery voltage when plugged in, and the channel display as well. The channel can be changed with one button, on the body of the VIFLY, which is really convenient. There is a DVR port reserved, a battery protector, and a VF-RC-2205 motor. 

The VIFLY comes with an instruction manual that covers all of the basics. I made sure to read it, even though I have been flying my own quad. Chad and I met Josh at the park, and I read through the manual several times, which again was pretty self explanatory. The Flysky radio arms a quad using "stick arming," which means to have the props start spinning, you have the throttle all the way down, and turn it to one direction for a couple seconds to arm. If you want to disarm your quad, you have to pull the throttle down, and move it to the opposite direction for a couple seconds. My Taranis arms and disarms using a switch. I can pull one switch down, and the quad is disarmed, which can take a second, as long as your finger stays near the switch, which it should. It may be a few seconds of time that's saved, but for someone that is not experienced it can make a big difference. If there's a situation where you would have to disarm quickly, a few seconds can mean a lot. The user would also of course have to remember which direction is arm, and disarm, even in a panic. I flew the quad Line of Sight (LOS) first, with the 3C to get used to it. There is a noticeable difference when you're used to the 4C and change to a 3C. Again, if you've never flown before, then there's nothing to compare it to, but since most people use a 4S it would be best to get used to a battery that has more power. 

Next I flew FPV. I'll be honest and say that most of my experience is flying LOS, but this was a great way for me to get more practice in. I use FatShark goggles, which again are an FPV standard and my recommendation, but there are other options available. I also switched the battery to a 4C. I use Tattu R-Line 1300. I thought changing the battery made a huge difference. I also thought the camera, which can be really easily adjusted, worked well and overall it was really easy to fly. Josh gave his input as well. "On 3S it was a little under powered but on 4S it flew better. I would say that some tuning was needed to really get it feeling “locked in” but I think for a beginner quad it is enough to get you in the air and going." The VIFLY also offers a free repair service, an free spare parts, by reaching out to their care department. Shipping is not covered, but I don't believe there is another RTF that offers free repair, and parts, which is a huge plus. 

If you'd like to see the VIFLY in action, you can also look on their YouTube channel:

Final Thoughts

Overall, the VIFLY is a really good option for someone that's just starting out. For $299 USD, it comes with a lot of extra gear, and with the care option the price is pretty hard to beat. People that have read some of my other blogs would know that I'm a big advocate for building your own quad. I think it's an important part of the process. With that being said, being able to trade in the months of build time on my first quad, to airtime on the VIFLY, has a lot of value as well. 

Something to also consider are additional costs. These are items you'll have to purchase regardless of the RTF you decide to go with, but just to keep in mind, you'll need:

  • Additional batteries
  • Goggles
  • GoPro (not mandatory, but most people like to watch their footage.

I would also lean more towards the BNF option when it is available. There's value in having a radio that most of the FPV community either uses, or has used at some point. It's easier to get help with troubleshooting issues, and compared to the Flysky getting a Taranis or another radio is something you can take to any quad after you've grown out of the VIFLY, or if you'd like to add another quad to the collection.

For more information on the VIFLY, their care program, or to purchase your own (there are 4 available colors!) Visit the VIFLY Website. You can also find them on Facebook, and Instagram

Happy Flying!

 

 

 

Drone Worlds 2016: A Post Mortem

By Kathleen Hickey

There has been a lot said about the Drone Nationals, and the Drone Worlds. Some people think we should stay silent for the good of the sport. Sponsors don't want to get their hands dirty, and put their money into events that are publicly trashed by the people that attended them. Some people think there should be brutal honesty. They want embarrass the organizers, or vent because they are angry due to their own experiences. Some want to make conditions and events better in the future by calling out what has happened in the past. So which is the right thing to do? Let's take a look and see what went wrong, what went right, and you can decide on your own answer. 

Drone Nationals 2016

To have a better understanding of what happened at Worlds, it's worth taking a look back at Drone Nationals which took place on Governors Island in NYC August 5-7. Nationals was set up to be one of the most exciting races the FPV community had seen to date. Both Nationals and Worlds are events by The Drone Sports Association (DSA). Drone racing would be featured live, for the first time on ESPN. There were huge sponsors like GoPro, and AIG that were attached to the race. Pilots throughout the United Stated competed to qualify for the event. The thought of having a huge race, with incredible pilots, in an amazing location was inspiring. In a time when some pilots are making drone racing a career, the idea of being seen on ESPN, with household names sponsoring the event made it monumental, and for some possibly life changing.

As race day grew nearer there were more pilot chats, and conversations on Facebook and other social media about logistics. Governors Island is only accessible by ferry. There were questions about which ferry boat to take, on which side of the island. The location gave way to wonder how DSA would be able to assemble a race, with media, pilots, tents, and technology by ferry boat. Joe Scully, Race Director for FPV Racing Events explained his own frustrations with the transportation when he arrived in New York. "My week started off rough; we arrived 9 minutes late for our booked ferry on Wednesday because our GPS took us in circles in that area of New York. Knowing we’d be pushing it, I called one of the logistics people of US Drone Nationals and asked, “what happens if we miss our booked ferry?” The answer being “You get on the next one”. There was no next one, the schedule posted on the website was for Thursday onwards, we had unintentionally booked the last ferry of the day on Wednesday." But when Joe reached the island the next morning, the transportation issues seemed to now be minor in the face of larger issues. "Thursday morning at 7am we went onto the island for the first time; we were a bit stressed as practice was to begin at noon, and we had a lot of setup to do for the ground stations. When we drove around the corner of field my jaw dropped; there was no race course." As Joe and his team struggled to have the proper equipment which was requested, available to them to set up ground stations, practice days turned into a race day that was not ready for a live broadcast. "Saturday morning I scoured the island and after about 2 hours, I found a skyjack through the help of a volunteer and we moved it into position. After struggling for another 4 hours we had the receivers wired in properly and were ready to race… at 1pm on Saturday, as opposed to 12pm on Thursday. The event began to run smoother (now that video issues had been solved), and then video issues hit hard again. The livestream was using the equivalent of Race Band 6 for their connection to the mainland! We dropped that seat. We also had to drop the equivalent of Race Band 3 as the government buildings were connected to the mainland on a point-to-point losing that seat. Into Sunday, we had even more problems as the livestream had video issues, and moved to the middle of the equivalent of Race Band 5 and 6, and we dropped another seat. We had 5 usable channels." So what was the breaking point of the Drone Nationals? According to Joe, it was seemed much to do with lack of organization and communication. "The build being 1.5 days behind was the biggest thing to go wrong. Leadership not taking advice from their team or contractors was the second largest thing. We could have had the Video Issues solved by Friday Morning had our simple request been addressed."

The Break In Between

After Drone Nationals came a wave of negativity, and frustration from the FPV community. There were complaints about practice time, or lack of it. The course was changed from practice day to the actual qualifier, which made it a challenge for pilots that rely on the practice to help remember the course layout. There were pilots calling each other out on social media, with some feeling like they had to defend themselves, or each other. There were scoring questions, and timing questions that left some pilots feeling cheated, while others vindicated.

At the same time pilots from around the world had spent time and money qualifying for the Worlds, in Hawaii. Chad Nowak (FinalGlideAus) who is the 2015 Nationals Champion, and 2016 Nationals Freestyle Champion decided to withdraw from the Drone Worlds competition after his experience at Nationals. "I have been involved with the the Drone Nationals and what ended up being DSA since nearly the start of things. I was involved both in the public side, and behind the scenes to a certain degree, and things began to focus more on the politics and sponsors (money and power) rather than on the pilots and the races. This gave me many concerns about how the pilots and the whole community would be treated in the long term and this was confirmed at the NY Drone Nationals 2016, and after some thinking I decided to distance myself by not competing (in Drone Worlds)." During the Nationals competition there was an alleged comment that DSA had made about the sponsors being the most important part of the race, which was a comment that did not go over well with pilots that already felt slighted. After Nationals there were changes in DSA, which saw a loss of some of its team. Many wondered if there would be lessons learned in the organization that would make for a better Worlds. Tickets had been bought, and accommodations had been made. Pilots from all over the world would be on their way to Hawaii just 2 months after Nationals. 

Drone Worlds

The Worlds competition was set to start with the Aloha Cup, which was the last official qualifier for Drone Worlds on October 18-19, with the World Championship taking place from October 20-22. Both were plagued with wind, rain, and bad weather, cutting flight time significantly. The contingency plan for the rain was apparently to cut qualifiers. After looking at several weather site, October on average was the 5th most rainy month of the year on Oahu. Organizers seem to put a lot of emphasis on not knowing about the rain and weather, which does not make sense when we are talking about Hawaii in October. 

Joe Scully did not participate in Drone Worlds, but feels that the weather was not as big of an issue as the technology and timing systems used. "My personal feeling about what went wrong in Hawaii however stems back to TBS and VAS. Yes, the event had issues, but the biggest complaint was because of the lack of track time and mass confusion. This all was to be solved by running 2 simultaneous flight lines (IRC and I were prepared to run 4). VAS pulled off a stunt that allowed 16 quads on the same track, and inferred that it could be done in Hawaii. To do that, he required: low power, solid antenna, no diversity, corner of field and alternating polarity. In Hawaii, they did all 16 ground stations 300’ apart between the flight lines on the same polarity. He would have known that wouldn’t work. MultiGP had 3 going 3/4 of a mile a part and I had 2 going 1,400 feet apart… but 300’ was suicide, especially on the same polarity. TBS instructed DSA that their timing system ran the MultiGP Champs (it did not, it only was 3rd backup redundancy and we used it 3 times over the entire event to verify 3 individual laps). It is in beta and kept frying… they blame the weather, but the systems kept getting soaked and frying. I use the analogy of sticking a finger into a wall socket; you don’t put your other finger in the wall socket. They also used a qualifying format that the software didn’t run automatically, which caused a lot of delays for manual execution, PLUS on top of that there were no print outs, so even now, people don’t know their lap-by-lap times for their 3 (of 9 promised) qualifying rounds used to seed them. With the issues, they reverted to stopwatches on phones for a number of heats, which scares me on the accuracy - if (0.2) two-tenths of a second separate 32nd and 33rd (the break-off) and it’s based on 3 laps, that’s 0.066/lap difference… while some times were RSSI based and some were stopwatch based.
Had the 2nd flight line worked, the event would not have had the lynch mob."

The "lynch mob" Joe may be referring to is a meeting that took place after it was determined that the promised qualifying rounds would not be able to take place, and pilots would have to settle with three laps. The meeting was captured, and posted by pilot Paul Nurkkala (Bulbufet FPV)

Besides the technical issues, there were also inconsistencies in judging, which seemed to be apparent in both the race, and freestyle competitions. Jay von Brimer, a judge at Worlds shared his experience. "From my judging view, I saw many inconsistencies, which equals unfairness. Some were given time to fix video channel problems, while others were ordered to unplug, and disqualified for having video problems...There was a minimal meeting explaining the judging, but we had new ones joining and people switching, which made it inconsistent. We oversaw ourselves, but truly did our best to remain accurate and objective."

In the freestyle competition, pilots took turns judging each other in the same competition they were competing against each other in. At the end of the competition, there was talk that one judge had scored all of the pilots significantly low. Jay shared his thoughts on the system. "The freestyle judging is a different story. Pilots judging the freestyle can work, only IF they will give an honest score. That one ended up with possibly a single pilot giving bad scores to everyone, to serve himself. Shouldn't have that much effect, as the other scores will cancel it out."

Danny Chan, was in first place for freestyle after the first day. He had spent the entire day in the freestyle tent assisting with the judging, as other pilots were shuffling between both the freestyle, and race competitions and qualifiers. When heading to the race the next day, freestyle pilots were asked to arrive by 8:00am. Danny had run into car trouble, and traffic on the way to the race. He tried to call, and was also called by organizers, but cell phone reception on that part of the island did not allow for clear communication. The competition started at 8:30, and when Danny showed up at 8:45, he was told he was disqualified, and could not compete. The largest reason being that he was not there for the 15 minutes to be a judge, and that would be unfair to the other pilots. Danny gave me his thoughts on his experience. "The day before. Everyone was late and I was sitting the racing area all the time. But the next day, I got a little trouble. They treat me like a kid and child? And the most important thing which was the judges. Why don't they ask some audience or some professional pilots (don't need to race in freestyle) for judging?"

There was a lack of water, available bathrooms, and a number of safety issues, including battery charging stations that had 100+ battery chargers exposed to the elements and rain in an open tent. There were no sand buckets for damaged lipos. Tents blew down, an estimated 10K in GoPros were stolen, and we haven't even talked about the Wings. 

The VIP Treatment

While at the race, a friend of mine, Ian Richardson, a pilot that competed in both the team and individual race, let me know about his two friends from New Zealand, Fran and Greig that had purchased VIP tickets for Drone Worlds. For $599 each ticket, they were supposed to receive the following: 

Package Features

  • Access to the Super-VIP "Twilight FPV Zone" or the quiet zone just feet from the racing flight deck and the Finish line. Here you will sit so close to the pilots, that you'll hear the banter and trash talking. You can wear a set of FPV Goggles and experience the thrill of the race first hand. You'll be directly in the action, up-front, on the field, complete with the roar of the crowd as you watch the winners cross the finish line. 

    You will see exactly what the pilot is seeing via the onboard camera as he/she navigates with speed and agility through the course. Warning: Please ensure that you are adrenaline/high tension tolerant, and can handle very fast motion vertigo. This is as close as you can get without being a pilot and is completely optional, so if you just want to stand in the Twilight FPV Zone that's ok too, just hold on to something.  
  • Concierge Service with Majordomo to take care of everything you need. 
  • Invitations to all parties, receptions and private events
  • All Access to the Pilot Pit Area to meet/greet pilots, inspect airframes, hang out in the pilot lounge.
  • Access to special demonstrations, exhibits and events.
  • VIP Swag, including branded logo wear and other goodies
  • All Access Badge and Official Lanyard
  • VIP Parking pass.

I spoke with Greig and asked him about his VIP experience. "We bought VIP tickets as I was going to enter the Aloha cup, we had already booked air fares and accommodation but when I went to purchase my aloha cup ticket in early September it said it was sold out." Greig had intended on trying to qualify through the Aloha Cup, but never competed because he was not aware of the wait list, and other rules which had not been communicated to him. I asked Greig if he had received everything that the package had promised. "We were never offered FPV goggles (I did have my own). Our VIP tickets didn't kick in till the start of the championship proper, so no VIP treatment for the aloha cup. We did get offered fruit platters and on the 2nd day there was beer on the third soft drinks. At some times people where kicked out of the VIP area that made me feel like a bit of a douche, rather then a VIP, at one point the NZ team dudes I were talking to got kicked out." And what about the swag? "All we got was a t-shirt, lanyard...the New Zealand team guys had to add me to the Facebook group 'drone world participants' we received zero communication, other then a survey that I found in my spam folder of my gmail." When I asked Greig about his feelings towards the cost of the tickets, he gave a really positive answer. "I would of rather given them Team Pilots) the money or to my local club, we have no money $1,200 USD's would go along way towards gates or ground stations. We have had a great holiday and at this point are kind of over it, I got to meet some cool people and am better friends with the NZ crew, so wasn't all bad."

Everything Must Come to an End

The winner of Drone Worlds, Shaun Taylor (Nytfury) walked away from the race a champion. A truly gifted, hard working, kind, and consistent pilot, the trophy found a good home. Regardless of how many felt about the race itself, one constant positive point that kept coming up was that everyone was happy to see each other. It was a way for pilots from around the world to meet face to face, and say hello to each other, despite what language people spoke, or where they were from, everyone came together for one passion, one dream, and respect for one another. Jay von Brimer said it well, "I think the organizers set high expectations, which also cued pilots to have them also. The event did not come close to the perceived quality expected. The gathering of all the world's top pilot, however, DID awesomely meet and exceed the standards of a world class event."

Hours after the final race, a Facebook page, RIPDSA as well as a hashtag by the same name were born. People were upset, and are upset. The anger and frustration is more focused on DSA, and not pilots against pilots. There are people on social media saying that Drone Worlds should be talked about behind closed doors, that too many people complaining will scare the sponsors away. I agree that the negativity, and anger should be turned into finding a positive solution to problem. But at the same time, I believe in transparency. I'm sure DSA, TBS, and whatever other acronym was involved in the race would love to keep the flaws quiet and forget about it. I'm sure the pilots that paid 2K per pack they flew would like to forget about it as well. The transparency should assist in understanding what went wrong, and how to fix it for next time. 

I reached out to Scot Refsland, and TIm Nilson of DSA for comment, and emailed questions which I have yet to hear a response. I believe at the end of the day, many people that are labeled as "complaining", would like their voices heard, and to have their points acknowledged. Many question if there will be another DSA race, and if there is, will they attend it. Joe Scully commented on the future of the organization. "The Drone Nationals, Drone Worlds movement will most likely come to an end. I think the big positive is that there will become an actual world-wide organization that will be a collaborative effort of all regions and all of the biggest minds of the game, and we will all improve, and our next “World” anything (Drone Worlds, World Drone Prix) will be better for it."

As DSA counts the losses from Drone Nationals, and Worlds, there are other organizations waiting in the wings. The current problem is that not one of those organizations has the total package in line yet. To Joe's point, hopefully Drone Worlds will cause a movement towards an organization that is collaborative. Every organization wants to be "the one" but perhaps two of three of four together is what it will take to make Drone Racing the new 'it' sport. 

I'd like to give full disclosure for this blog. I was not emailed for press/media access for Worlds which I was sent at Nationals. The lack of an email may have been due to the fact that I didn't notice that much press at the event in general. It may have been because I did not attend Nationals. It may have been because I had made public comments about Nationals after the event. Regardless, I would like to make it clear that I attended the race to meet people from around the world that I had not had a chance to meet in person before, and to support my friends that were competing in the race. My boyfriend is Chad Nowak, a pilot that won the 2015 Drone Nationals. After his participating in the 2016 Drone Nationals, he publicly stated that he would not participate in any competitions at the Drone Worlds. 

After Nationals I took a break from my blog to focus on the things that I love about FPV. I saw so much negativity come from that event, I wasn't sure if that event alone had changed the direction of FPV Racing from fun flys in a park with friends to complete corporate rule. I hope that pilots will see what happened in these races and know that they are what makes this sport what it is. I hope they understand their worth, and not keep quiet for some free batteries and stickers. There's blood in the water, and if nothing else, this experience will hopefully show the community which people are the sharks, and which people want to achieve success morally, and with care and grace. Until then....

Happy Flying

A Guide to the 2016 Drone Nationals

By Kathleen Hickey

What a difference a year makes. The 2015 National Drone Racing Championships took place in Sacramento CA. It was the first large scale race of its time, bringing pilots from all around the world to compete. If you missed the race last year, here is a great video from Tested. 

The winner of last year's race was Chad Nowak (FinalGlideAus), from Brisbane, Australia. The 2016 Drone Nationals will take place August 5-7 at Governors Island in NYC, New York.

The venue is not the only change, ESPN 3 will broadcast live streaming of the event. There are also huge sponsors, including GoPro, and AIG. The Drone Nationals is produced by The Drone Sports Association (DSA), which was formerly RotorSports. Earlier in the year, RotorSports and IDRA had joined, but recently IDRA announced a separation from RotorSports, and with that came the newly formed DSA. Also joining this year is a personal favorite of SLD, Joe Scully, and the rest of the FPV Racing Events team. 

The 2016 Nationals will have four race categories; Individual, Team, Wings, and Freestyle. With the growth of technology, popularity, and accessibility, the level of talent from the competing pilots is really incredible. So who's going to win? Here are the top picks from SLD in Individual, and Freestyle. 

Individual

  • Chad Nowak (FinalGlideAus) is the reining champion from the 2015 Drone Nationals. 
  • Brian Morris (Brain Drain) is ranked #1 in the DSA national rankings, leading the next pilot by over 1K points, and #2 in the world. 
  • Zachry Thayer (A_Nub) is currently ranked #2 in the DSA national rankings, and #5 in the world. 
  • Shaun Taylor (Nytfury) is ranked #4 in the DSA national rankings, and #12 in the world. My nn

My pilots to look out for - Andrew Meyer (MayMayDay) the current Canadian National Champion and Rich Howarth.

FreeStyle

The freestyle competition was by invitation only, and every pilot that's competing is extremely talented.

Steele Davis (Mr. Steele)

Carlos Puertolas (Charpu)

Tommy Tibajia (Ummagawd)

Chad Nowak (FinalGlideAus)

all from Rotor Riot will be competing.

Zoe Stumbaugh (Zoe FPV), is the only female competing in both Individual and Freestyle, not to mention she's a freestyle badass that can also do her tricks inverted.

The competition also includes a couple of notable newcomers in Johnny Schaer (JohnnyFPV)

and Ethan Gulnac (HiFlite). 

 

If you're planning on watching the live stream on ESPN 3, be sure to check out the website before the big race. There may be an App or media player required to view. Also, be sure to take a look at the official 2016 Drone Nationals Schedule. If you're lucky enough to be in NYC this weekend, here's the ticket information. The US winner from the Nationals will be qualified to race at the Drone Worlds, in Hawaii this October. It's impossible to know who's going to walk away the winner, but I must say from attending qualifiers, and seeing many of these pilots race in person, it's going to be an amazing race. Enjoy the 2016 Drone Nationals, and until then...

Happy Flying!

 

FPV Racing: From Hobby to Money Maker

By: Kathleen Hickey

A New Era in FPV Racing

Anyone in the UAV, or drone community will notice one particular area that is on a steady rise; FPV Racing. In recent months FPV Racing has been riding a wave of attention, and growth that is seemingly unstoppable. Local races and meet-ups in parks have turned into large multi-day events, in incredible locations, all around the world. Companies like ESPN, Mountain Dew, and GoPro are all testing the waters to see if FPV Racing can be a viable source of marketing, and income. There is talk of introducing gambling to the sport. But with growth, and money come higher stakes for people involved, and leaves one to wonder what will become of a growing sport if put in the hands of people that want to monetize it. 

Racing With The Big Boys (and Girls)

This year alone has seen a number of incredible races. In January XDC had it's second race at the Zappos HQ in Las Vegas, which took place the same week as CES. 

The Track for XDC2 was more proximity, and show. There were large screens to show live feed, and share social media pictures. For the final, there was an audience of 500 people in attendance, which were able to participate in the race by voting by applause for the the freestyle pilot they enjoyed watching the most. It also ushered in one of the hottest course trends in FPV, the glowing gates created by FPV LighTrax, which is admittedly a stunning visual for any audience. 

At the end of January, I attended Flight Night, a race presented by ThunderDrone Racing. Although it was a single night event, it was full of production value not usually seen in FPV Racing. 

Then of course, came the announcement of an international race that claimed it would change the sport of FPV; The World Drone Prix in Dubai. 

Following the World Drone Prix were races in caves, multi-day FPV LighTrax courses for nationals qualifiers, and the integration of two prominant FPV organizations, IDRA and the Drone Worlds - Drone Nationals by Rotor Sports. This year the Drone Nationals will be held in New York City in August, at Governors Island and will be broadcasted live on ESPN, which is a huge change from last years race in Sacramento, CA. The Drone Worlds will take place in Hawaii in October, on Kualoa Ranch. 

The Mountain Dew sponsored DR1 Race was held at the end of June, bringing household brands to FPV Racing. 

The race was an invitational, which included twelve top FPV pilots, and was shot for release on a cable network. 

In recent months, FPV has captured the attention of major media outlets, such as 60 Minutes Sports. 

There was also a CorridorDigital You Tube video that features the flying talents of FPV pilots Chad Nowak and Steele Davis, through their show Rotor Riot. The video has gained nearly 2 Million views. 

Do I need to mention that it's just July....

Who is Actually Winning

Like many things that experience rapid growth, there are also some growing pains. The Drone World Prix which initially sent the FPV world a flutter with a one million dollar prize went through several race, and prize restructures. It went from an invitational, to a race with a video entry qualifier, something that had not been done before in FPV racing. The one million dollar prize turned to a 250K prize for the winner, with smaller prizes spread out to ranking pilots in the race, and freestyle competitions. The World Drone Prix also required pilots come in teams, so most pilots split their prize, which left winning pilots with much much less than what the promotional videos had touted. 

Instead of all teams having their accommodations paid for when it was an invitational, teams in the top 20 would have their travel expenses reimbursed. Four months later, some of those top 20 teams have still not received checks from the World Drone Prix for what they had to pay out of pocket for hotel, and travel costs. With pilots receiving less than a months notice that they had qualified for the race, for most teams travel was booked at a premium. People looking in may assume that pilots are being taken care of by large race organizations, and pilots are not ones to speak out publicly against an organization if they have not been compensated, which leaves an illusion of a grand race.

 For other big events, pilots are given prize money if they place, or (in one known case), an appearance fee, which pilots had to use to put towards their accommodations, which left some of them with less money then when they came. Some pilots have their travel paid for by sponsors, but the pilots that don't have those types of sponsorships have to attend the larger races on their own dime to compete with the best, and with the hope that a win may open doors to more lucrative opportunities. There have been instances where prize money has taken over six months or more to make it to the pilots. 

So with a growing industry that includes big RC manufactures, corporate sponsorships, and pilot sponsorships, who is walking away with the best deal. Although the number is growing, it is very rare to find a pilot that is able to make a living from racing alone, with no other source of income. As races get larger, and destinations get further away, who is making sure that the heart of FPV, the pilots, are receiving fair treatment for what they are giving? With no managers or agents, pilots are left to negotiate their own terms. The current group of elite pilots, may at some point need to set the standard for how pilots are paid for their work, including use of their footage, to consultation and appearance fees, and travel costs. In time, sponsorships may include money, and not just free products.

As it transitions from park meet-ups and fun flys, to a lucrative money making sport, it will be interesting to see the people and companies that will come out on top as the true money makers. Will FPV race organizers see the profit? Will the product manufactures see the most reward? Will the pilots see their fair share of the pie? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, regardless of what happens, we can only hope that the fun, community, spirit, and innovation of the FPV community is never overshadowed by the money. 

 

Happy Flying!

 

 

Quad Life: MY FPV Journey 2 - Show Me the Money!

By Kathleen Hickey

So, you've checked out a race or two, or hung out with a local FPV group, and you've decided that you want to fly. What's the next step? There are three ways you can go.

The first would be to purchase a Ready To Fly (RTF) quad. You can purchase a quad that's ready to fly out of the box. Some retailers also offer sets that come with Fat Shark goggles. Some retailers to check out would be Horizon Hobby, or ReadyMadeRC. The benefit of going to RTF route is saving yourself from figuring out various parts, and a build right off the bat. If you have never used a radio or controls of any sort, or if you're completely new to the RC and drone world, a RTF could be a good introduction. You'll want to make sure that the quad you buy has replaceable parts that you can purchase. 

The second option would be to build your own quad. I wanted to build my own for various reasons. First, I usually don't take the easy road with most things. I like to really challenge myself. Basically I'm a sucker for punishment. I also knew that I wanted to fly and there was no doubt that this was something I wanted do. Another fact to consider is that you will crash. Crashing your quad is part of the package. The very best pilots crash . The benefit of building your own quad is that you know how to fix it when something goes wrong. You can also customize the parts you'd like to use to make a quad that you like to fly. There are you tube videos on how to build your own, but if at all possible, find someone that is willing to sit down with you and teach you in person. You would be at the mercy of their schedule, and it may take some time to build it, but understanding how the quad works, and how to build it is very valuable. 

The third option would be to go to your local hobby shop, and see if they build quads for their customers. You would have to pay for their time to build it, but it's a way of using the second option, without having to go through the build process on your own. You may want to ask if they would be willing to take you through the process, so you can learn what it's like from start to finish. The benefit of going through a shop is you have a real person that you can talk to. Make sure to also get quotes on repairs, and labor for those repairs. I can't say it enough, but you will crash, so it's important to know what that cost will be before you commit to that shop building the quad. 

This might be a good time to bring up an important point. There are no absolutes in FPV. From your props to your radio to your quad, everyone has an opinion on what they believe is best. It's important to not get too overwhelmed with advice and suggestions. Also, ask people why. If someone tells you to build your own quad, ask them why they think so. If someone suggests buying a RTF, ask them why. Pilots feel very passionately about what they use, and how they like to use it, and once you find what works for you, you'll feel the same way. 

Space One FPV provided my 180mm Frame, four motors, four ESCs, and a flight controller. 

I decided to start flying Line Of Sight (LOS) first, before going right to FPV, with goggles. There were two main reasons for this decision. The first was because the people around me recommended that I being LOS first. They believe it's important to see how the quad flies with your eyes first, and learn how to hover, turn, and keep the quad even in the air, before moving on to FPV. Some people believe that you should go right to FPV, and not fly LOS at all. Another determining factor for me was the cost. I could start to fly the quad without purchasing all of the FPV equipment, and parts.

The list of things to purchase is long. And if you're like me, with no previous RC experience, it can be an expensive hobby to get into. Here are a few tips:

  • Have an idea of what you want your quad to do, and how you would like to use it. Picking parts for your quad is a chain reaction. The motors, ESCs, Battery, props, FCs, PDBs, everything is connected, and they have to support one another. Before buying things off of friends, or the internet, make sure all of your componets will play nice with each other. Otherwise you are spending money on products that won't work, or will need to be replaced sooner than later.
  • What kind of shopper are you? About 90% of the pilots I have spoken to about this topic, suggest that you buy good quality tools and parts from the start. The first reason being that in FPV, you really do get what you pay for. Secondly, it will be more costly in the long run to replace parts on your quad, or your gear because you didnt spend a little extra to begin with. Also, there is resale value. If you decide you don't like a certain part, and it's still in great condition, you have a better chance of selling it. With that being said, I don't suggest you buy the newest latest thing for your first quad build. Purchase reliable, good quality items. You don't need to buy the new hype motors, or ESCs. Not only do you want to avoid "testing" the newest thing when you're building your first quad, but it may also be more difficult to find people that can help, and answer questions if something comes up. 
  • When planning your budget, allow for extra parts. Don't buy just four motors, props, ESCs, because you just need four. Something may not work. You may damage your quad within the first couple weeks. Nothing is worse than waiting for extra parts to come, especially if that part is now out of stock. You don't need to become  a hoarder, but have a few extras around.

Sound daunting? If you just want to get your feet wet, another option is a mini drone, or quad. 

This is my Proto-X. There are also other small quads to choose from. They come with remotes, and are a great way to get down flying basics.

Regardless of how you want to do it, one guarantee is that things will break, parts wont work. You will have to replace things, and there are many little tools, parts, and equipment that you'll need. before you start investing, consider the costs and reality of the hobby. You don't want to get to a point where you're so frustrated you'll want to stop. 

Up next; The Struggle is REAL! My challenges...until then...

Happy Flying!

*Very Special Thanks to Erick Robles:

Custom RC Hobby: (626) 993-2999 - IG: customrc1

259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave
Ste A

PasadenaCA 91107

 

Sex Love and Drones: The Story Behind the Blog

By: Kathleen Hickey

The past couple of months have brought a lot of change, which is why my blogs have been a little widespread. Those of you that have been with me from the start know that I've shared personal things about my past. I do it to be honest, and genuine, and if it helps one person know that another person has gone through the same, then it's worth it. I recently moved, and have started another new chapter in my life, which seems to be happening more and more frequently for me. I've seen on Social Media posts that others are possibly going through the same process I am. So for those of you that are new to SLD, and for those of you that may have been waiting for answers, I thought I would provide a little insight. 

What's In a Name

Probably the most common question I am asked, is why the name Sex Love and Drones. I usually tell people two answers. 1) It's a long story 2) Who doesn't like Sex, Love, or Drones? Or any combination of the three? It's actually very personal, and I've shared the origin of the name with very few people, but I think it's time to share.

Here's the real story behind Sex Love and Drones...

A couple of years ago I was at a job that was killing me to go to everyday, and I was in a relationship that for various reasons, was not working. I was able to start on a new career path, which was a leap of faith, and a huge cut in pay, but something that I enjoyed and was happy to go to. I cared a little more about my health, and tried to focus on friends, and my family. In that process I reconnected with a guy I had dated years before. He was engaged, and was planning a wedding, and I was in the process of evaluating my own relationship. We exchanged  few emails. He got married, and I went on vacation to Mexico. For the sake of the blog I'll call him That Drone Guy (TDG). When I got back from vacation, he started to aggressively message me, and ask to see me. I will admit the attention was nice. I knew he had just gotten married, and I knew that going down a certain path was not right. I held off on meeting him for three months. Finally I decided to meet with him, and we just went for a walk. We talked about our lives and how they had changed in those 7 years that we were apart. There was chemistry, there was attraction, and there were also a lot of issues with what we were doing. Our messages and phone calls continued. We confessed our love for each other. I told the person I was with that I thought we should see other people. We both had not been happy in a long long time. And a couple months after I met TDG again. 

He works in drones, and although at the beginning, it drove me crazy to hear him talk about them over and over during the little time we had together, I started to get interested, and ask more questions. He encouraged me to get into it myself, and fly. We met each other in Vegas for CES. I did not attend that year, but he spent the day. It was nine months since we had started talking, and I had planned a romantic trip to Palm Springs for my birthday in March. I had planned to share with him my big plans to start a blog about drones during that trip.

He never showed up that weekend. As I cried and drank champagne in my beautiful and empty hotel room, I tossed my drone blog idea to the side, and focused on my broken heart. On Monday I dragged myself into work, devastated, but also angry. I didn't want him to have anymore control over my life. I was talking to a couple of coworkers about my blog when one of them asked me what I was going to name it. I went to my desk and I thought about it. I knew that I wanted it to be fun, and show a bit of my personality. In a moment it came to me. Sex Love and Drones was everything that relationship was, and everything that had gotten me to this moment. It was real, and honest, and perfect. 

That Drone Guy and I stayed in contact after Palm Springs. (He actually took his wife there the next weekend...GASP). I told his wife the news, and of course she was unphased by it all, blinded in dilusion, just as I was. He and I sent messages and spoke for another 6 months. We continued to see each other, and have a physical relationship. We made it a rule that we would not talk about drones, or anything related to them. I know you're thinking that I was extremely stupid. I made a choice to continue seeing a married man under the belief that he had changed. He said he realized the error of his ways. He was on his way to being a better person, and confronting his inner demons. All this while still staying married, and still having an affair. He promised me honesty, and transparency, and I believed it. I was in love. 

So how did it finally end? Interdrone 2015. It would be our first event where we would see each other. His wife would be there as well. He insisted on talking on the phone about it. I had suspected that she was pregnant. We spoke on the phone about ground rules, what to expect and not expect. I asked him a few times if he had anything to tell me that I would need to know. He repeatedly said no. I was planning on attending Interdrone the last day, on Friday. I had kept up with events on Twitter. It was my first big event with Sex Love and Drones. Then someone I know that was at Interdrone, and knew the situation sent me a text. TDG's wife was pregnant. He had lied. And although I knew that he would never change, I wanted to believe that he was being honest with me. It was in that moment that I knew I could not go back again.

I wondered if I could continue my week old blog. Could I keep doing this knowing that it was over, and knowing I would see them if I stayed in this. I think That Drone Guy and I met once more after that. I needed to know how I would feel if I saw him, and when I did there was nothing but anger. I poured everything into my blog. He had taken so much away from me, but he was not going to take this away. I instantly went from being a shy people pleaser to deciding I would do something that I loved regardless of what he would think of it. Ive gotten the occasional missed call from him, and his door is always open...but we all know what that means. 

At the end of the day, Sex Love and Drones was all about me, and really had nothing to do with him. I love Sex. I love Love. I love Drones. I love the sound of motors. I love that I can build something...or try to with my own hands, and have it actually work (most of the time). I'm a girl in a mostly guy world, and not because of That Drone Guy or any other guy. I show up because I love it. I wear heels and dresses, and I do my hair because I love that too. A year ago I would have been too shy to ever go to something where I knew no one, and say hello, and now I go to races and meet people. I love to watch people fly, and hear them talk about something they are passionate about. There are times I get negative feedback about the name of my blog. But overall, I have so many positive responses. People that would never have heard about drones, or care about them, ask me about my blog and what I do almost daily. I talk about the benefits of drone technology, flying responsibly, and I try to address any concerns that people have about drones. My goal was to attract people that may not normally take a moment to see what drones are all about. People like my friends that have no background in tech, or RC, or gaming. I wanted to make drones accessible to people that want to learn about them, and for them to have fun in the process. 

Big changes are hard. Finding your passion and sticking to it is hard. I'm not proud of every decision I have made on this journey, and I've made mistakes. I've cried many tears, and taken some really scary steps. But if I have only one reader a week, I will continue SLD. It has brought me confidence, new friends, and a great community. More recently it has given me someone that is showing me how to love again, and how to let myself be loved by someone, and that alone makes it all worth it. If you're on the same path as me, keep going...

"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." - Socrates

Happy Flying

                     

Quad Life: My FPV Journey 1

By Kathleen Hickey

When I started Sex Love and Drones, I had no concept of the FPV Racing world. I may have heard about it, but honestly there was so much to learn, and write about with standard hobby drones, 333 Exemptions, and FAA regulations, I didn't focus on racing. A few months in, I started to hear more and more about FPV Racing through various drone chats, and feeds. Just as I started to look into the racing world, I met Paul Baur (SkinlabFPV). He was kind enough to share his knowledge and experience in FPV racing, and because he also has a UAV background, he was the perfect person to introduce me to the sport. I decided I wanted to write a blog about FPV Racing. 

From there I spoke with Joe Scully, Race Director for FPV Racing Events. Joe took me through the history of multi-rotor FPV from the the You Tube videos, to the leagues, people, and technology that make FPV racing what it is today. I also spoke with pilot AJ Goin (Awkbots) about his experience as a pilot. From those conversations came my three part blog, "Do You Like to F...., Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3." 

These three blogs were my highest read to date. I had only watched racing on You Tube, and through a live feed during the F3Expo in Atlanta, but I didn't have to wait long to see my first race. I had a trip planned to CES in January, and found out that the XDC2 race would be taking place during my visit. XDC2 was an amazing event. I was able to meet incredible pilots, the FPV Racing Events Team, and see a great track. After the race I was instantly hooked. 

XDC2 Course at Zappos Corporate Headquarters in Las Vegas. 

XDC2 Course at Zappos Corporate Headquarters in Las Vegas. 

From XDC I attended several other races. I wanted to learn about the different formats, see how different pilots raced, and get a good feel for the sport. I was contacted by Sid from Space One FPV. He had seen me at XDC, and around various social media outlets. We started to chat about racing, and he invited me to one of the U.S. FPV League qualifiers. At that point I had gotten the building bug. I am competitive, and I like to build things, so I thought ... why not try my hand at building a quad myself. I expressed an interest in  racing, and Space One FPV was generous enough to get me started with a 180 frame, motors, and ESCs. 

After I had the parts, I needed to figure out how to put it all together. The next week, I was at the World Drone Prix Qualifier in Burbank, where I met Erick Robles, owner of Custom RC Hobby in Pasadena, CA. We started to talk about my interest in drones, racing, and my blog. I had let him know that I had just received a frame, but really didn't know how to build it. I live really close to Erick's shop, and he very graciously offered to help me with my build. Within a week I was in his shop, and the build was on its way. 

And so it begins.... As I've been been going through the process, and documenting the build on IG, Facebook, and Twitter, I've had a lot of people reaching out to me that would like to start flying themselves. I'm still learning, and I imagine I'll never really stop, but hopefully sharing my failures and my successes will help encourage other people that are new to FPV racing, to get out and start their own journey. If you want to start building your own quad for the first time, here are some of my hints, and suggestions to get started. 

  • Go to a race! If you've been watching videos online, and through social media, and think this is a hobby/sport you'd like to get into, go to a race, practice, qualifier, really anything! Go out and spend some time with the people that fly. It's the best way to get a good feel for what it's all about in person. Not sure where to go? Social Media! There are a number of Facebook groups with meet ups. MultiGP is also another great resource resource to find people that are flying. 
  • Don't be shy. I'm usually very slow to approach pilots at races, because I don't want to interrupt them, but there's also a lot of down time. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to people. I have learned that race pilots on a whole are very open to people that are beginners. Everyone is willing to chat, and share their knowledge and experience. 
  • Look and learn. When I go to any type of race event,  if it's an actual race, or a practice, or qualifier, I am like a sponge. I like to see what people are doing. What the process is for them, and how they use their equipment. Flying a race quad is not easy. There's something to be said about taking a step back and observing the people that do what they do best. 
  • Take the help. I'm one of those people that are very slow to ask for help, or take people up on offers. I learned very quickly that doing it all on your own is more stressful, not as fun, and frustrating. Everyone who has been new to anything knows how hard the initial struggle is. People want to help, so let them help! There's nothing better than learning from someone that has been through the process themselves.

The next Quad Life blog will cover the beginning of the build, how to know what frames and parts are best for you, what you'll need to start building, and how I got through soldering, and a wonky ESC ... until then....

Happy Flying!

*Very Special Thanks to Erick Robles:

Custom RC Hobby: (626) 993-2999 - IG: customrc1

259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave
Ste A

PasadenaCA 91107

 

Do You Like to F.......Part 3

By Kathleen Hickey

When it comes to FPV Racing, there was so much to talk about, I decided to separate the blog into three parts. "Do You Like to F.......Part 1" contained a little about the history of FPV racing, the You Tube videos that helped create the fan base, and basic flying information.  "Do You Like to F.......Part 2"  focused on the anatomy of the quad, including a video from Tested on how to build your own, and the basic materials and parts you will need to race. "Do You Like to F...Part 3" is all about the pilots, race structure, and events to look forward to in 2016. 

I again have to give a big thank you to Joe Scully, Race Director of FPV Racing Events for giving me a full history and breakdown of FPV racing. FPV Racing Events hosts premier racing events in Canada, and the United States. Information on their upcoming events can be found by following the link to their website. Another thank you AJ Goin, aka Awkbots, team pilot for Ready Made RC (RMRC). And because Part 3 is pilot focused, I will also be sharing videos from Paul Baur, aka SkinlabFPVCobra Motors sponsored pilot and team pilot for Horizon

To help with some terms, I have included a glossary at the end of the blog. Because it's not fun if you don't understand what people are saying!

The Pilots

There are many components to racing, but without a doubt, the pilots themselves are the heart of FPV. It is their passion, daring, and dedication that has inspired people from all around the world to get out and fly. From racing to freestyle, pilots have been a driving force in the growth and innovation of FPV racing. 

When learning about FPV, and meeting people that fly, it's clear that some pilots share a strong bond, and have great relationships with each other. They are in a competitive setting, but because it's so new, most pilots are happy to help each other. Joe Scully spoke to the willingness of pilots to help one another, especially if there is a new pilot that may not be familiar with adjusting their equipment to accommodate race requirements. "The thing with multirotor is it’s a new industry, it’s a new organization, or family, and everyone is so helpful that if you show up at a race...we provide a VTX for most of our racers, and so people show up and they’ll only have a boscam which means they are going to have to solder a special wiring hookup so that they can accommodate it. A lot of these people will say no problem, and others might say this is a kit I bought at a hobby shop, and I’ve flown it in a park, and I don’t know what to do to it. And usually someone just grabs it, and they say here, and they solder the three solder points on there, and you’re good to go. So everyone is really, really friendly, and that has been everywhere we go." 

AJ Goin (Awkbots), is relatively new to FPV racing, and comes from a motocross background. He started flying about six months ago, and has been racing for about three. We spoke a bit about the relationships pilots have with each other, and his experience so far. "This hobby doesn't seem to be as extreme contrast of the type of groups in something, like motocross. We are all kind of nerds in a sense, and you have to be a little bit of a unique person to have had the patience to research and build these quads. For me personally I really enjoy meeting everyone and hanging out, and treating it how it should be, FUN!" 

To get a taste of the fun AJ, and other pilots have at large events, take a look at his video, one of my personal favorites from F3Expo, which took place in November at the Georgia Dome. 

Most FPV pilots, and generally all professional pilots, will post racing or freestyle videos on You Tube. Here is a selection of videos from pilot Paul Baur (SkinlabFPV). 

There are many talented pilots that will post videos not only on You Tube, but on their Instagram, or Twitter feeds. FPV gained popularity through social media, and following your favorite pilot is a great way to keep up to date on the latest videos, products, and events they will be racing in.  

You may see pilots sponsored by a particular brand. Generally they represent the brand when they are racing as individuals. Pilots can also be part of a team. For example, Awkbots is a team pilot for RMRC, and SkinlabFPV is a team pilot for Horizon. When they attend a race, they can race with their team, as individuals, or both. 

The Race

Because FPV Racing is still relatively new, there can be variations in the structure of each race, depending on the league or group that is hosting the event. Currently, there is not an umbrella organization, league, or association for FPV Racing as a whole, like the NBA, BFL, or NBA. There is also no standard way to rank pilots outside of each individual or team race, per event. The International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) had created a ranking system, based on results from select racing events, but the ranking is not used as an industry standard.

To enter a race, pilots will usually pay a race fee. Unless a race is part of an expo, or trade show, entry for spectators is usually free. Very few races are by invitation only, which means that non sponsored or beginner pilots can have a chance to enter into practice or qualifying rounds in professional races. Depending on each event, there can be one, or several classes that pilots may race in. A class is usually based on a build element of the quad. For example, one class may be based on the wheel base, or measurement of the frame (250mm or under/251mm or over). Some classes are based on prop size (4", 5" 6"). Classes can also be determined by lipo cell count. If you are interested in racing, it's important to look at the race website for racing and class guidelines, so you know if your quad would be eligible to race. Professional pilots build a number of racing quads, so they can enter various classes. Joe Scully broke down the class structure for FPV Racing Events. "As a local, you’ll see that race flyer out there, and it will take you to a website, and from there you’re going to know if you have what it takes to fly, you’ll know if you have the right craft, and if you’re fortunate enough to go to one of the events that we have, or one similar, we have 4-5 different classes can you build one for every class so the average person, they’re going to try and build as many as they can race as much time  get as much flight time in as possible." 

The structure of each race, and how to move through, or qualify can vary per event. Joe described the structure that FPV Racing Events uses for their races. "We usually do a practice round and...we do it in organized heats, so it’s just like a race because we use the VTX and the raceband signal separation, we can go with upwards of 8 as long as all of our signals work, so we do actual heats of 8 so your practice session is just like a race. It’s three minutes in duration. You get to do as many laps as you want in that three minutes. You get a tone start just like in a race and that’s your practice heat.  At other events they do a synchronous, … but we have found that at the locations and venues we’ve been at it’s not as safe, so we do it in controlled heats. Then we’ll go into a qualifier, and the qualifying round. We try to do as many qualifiers, as possible. Most of my events are two rounds, so with our new format that I’ve developed, at F3Expo...and this is where we rely on the software for it, so again you have three minutes, we do a tone start, you take off, and depending on the course you may, and your skill you may do 7, you may do 10 laps within that three minutes, and we take your fastest 5 consecutive laps out of that, and that’s your qualifying time. And if we are able to have more than one round of qualifying, it depends on our format during the day...we’ll try to do two rounds of qualifying. And from there, this is where everyone is different around the world it seems." 

Joe goes on to explain a structure in which the qualifying time is used to separate pilots, if there were approximately 30 pilots in a race.  "They would take your best qualifying time and you’d take the top 16, they would race, you take your top 8, and they would race, and then your top 4 at the finale. My style is the RC way, so regardless if you qualify first, or you qualify last you are seated into a main, and we would go up the order so we would do 23rd – 30th, they would race first, whoever won out of that group of 8 would advance into the next group, so they would be in that 16-22nd group, and so you can actually go from the bottom of the pack right up into our final 8 A main. It’s a very forgiving format...you can work your way from the bottom to the top."

If you're a pilot just starting out, MultiGP is the perfect league to get into. They welcome pilots of all skill levels, and you can join a chapter that's close to you. There are race events, meetups, and forums, and it's a group Joe Scully recommends. "Someone who buys a craft, and wants to get into racing, even if it’s a going out to that first race and watching , Multi GP is the only way to go." 

Events

One of the last, big races of the season this year was at F3Expo in Atlanta, where FPV Racing Events introduced the Thunderdrone 500, which was a team based relay competition, something race fans can look forward to more of in 2016. 

Below is the live feed from F3Expo. The video is two hours, and gives an feel of the structure of an event. There is also a lot of great information from Joe Scully, and quick pilot interviews where they may talk about how much flight time they are getting in, and the equipment they are using. The race pace is faster as it gets closer to the end, and the final pilots.

In a few weeks, we will be in the New Year, and with that comes a number of exciting events. There are too many leagues and events all over the world to list them all, and some leagues are still planning their events. Here are a few events with confirmed dates that you can plan for in 2016. 

XDC_2 - Extreme Drone Circuit FPV Race At Zappos HQ, Las Vegas NV - January 7-9 2016

Taking place during the same time as CES in Las Vegas, this race is going to kick the season off in a huge way. I'll be taking in a day or two myself, and i can't wait!

 2016 Winter Barnburner Drone Racing Series Presented by ReadyMadeRC 

There are six races making up this series in Canada. The Season Opener begins at the end of January, and the final event is in the beginning of May. 

World Drone Prix

Taking place in Dubai this spring, World Drone Prix is offering a million dollars in prizes. 

Drone Worlds

Drone Worlds will take place in Hawaii from October 17-22, 2016 at Kualoa Ranch, on the Island of Oahu. Top pilots will qualify for worlds through their countries Drone Nationals. 

There are many more amazing races and events to see throughout the year! Attending a race, or registering as a pilot is a great way to support the FPV community. 

Learning about FPV racing has truly been such an amazing experience for me. I can say that although most people I've had the pleasure of meeting in the industry are very giving, and welcoming, the FPV community, and pilots I've had the honor of speaking with, have been incredibly generous with their time, and patient teachers. Thank you again to everyone that helped make this three part blog possible! Be safe, have fun, thread the needle, and as always....

Happy Flying! 

Glossary

  • ARF: Almost Ready to Fly - a drone that requires some assembly before flight. 
  • Boscam: A type of transmitter and receiver 
  • CES: Consumer Electronics Show; A large electronics trade show. 
  • Fixed Wing: Usually referring to hobby planes, which have wings, and not removable propellers, or props. 
  • FPV: First Person View - a method used to control a UAV from the viewpoint of the pilot. The UAV is piloted from a first person perspective by an on-board camera, which is fed with wireless technology to a video monitor, or FPV goggles. 
  • Line of Sight: When a looking at a drone, or quad without using FPV technology. Line of sight video in terms of racing would mean a video of the actual race, and not from the pilots first person view through the quad camera. 
  • Lipo: Lithium Polymer Batteries 
  • Multi-Rotor: Another name for multicopters, or quadcopters. 
  • Prop: Propeller 
  • Quad: Another name for a drone. 
  • RC: Remote-Control
  • RPV: Remote Person View - another term for FPV
  • RTF: Ready To Fly - No assembly required before flight.
  • Tone Start: In FPV racing, there are a series of tones used as a countdown to take off. 
  • Threading the Needle - Basically bad ass flying. 
  • Video Piloting: An alternate term for FPV and/or RPV
  • VTX: Video Transmitter System

Do You Like to F....... Part 1

By Kathleen Hickey

Going Down The Rabbit Hole

My interest in FPV racing started a few months ago. Watching You Tube Videos of FPV racing and freestyle is a very different experience from watching tranquil, slow moving aerial photography footage. FPV racing is fast and looks uncontrolled, when it is in fact very calculated (usually). While it may be the worst nightmare of any drone owner to crash, in FPV racing, crashing is more of a matter of when, and not if. When flying a standard hobby drone, there may be occasions when there is more than one in the air because you're flying with friends, or doing a demonstration. In those cases, pilots usually fly a good distance away from each other, to avoid getting into each other's shots, and for safety reasons. In racing, quads are racing in close proximity, at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Instead of avoiding obstacles, racers and freestyle pilots want to go through them. Racing pilots seemed like the bad boys, and girls, of the drone world, and I wanted to learn more.

So take my hand and lets go together, into the world of FPV Racing. 

The Breakdown  

Because I realized there is so much content and information, I decided to break the blog down into three different posts. My method in writing is to seek out the information on my own, without asking someone for assistance. It helps me to understand what information is available for readers to find on their own, and the most helpful resources. Because racing is so new, it was difficult to find out about the history, and guidelines of drone racing on my own. 

I was very fortunate to have the assistance of Joe Scully Race Director of FPV Racing Events to give me a full history and breakdown of FPV racing. FPV Racing Events hosts premier racing events in Canada, and the United States. Information on their upcoming events can be found by following the link to their website. 

To help with a pilot perspective, I was lucky to have the input of AJ Goin, aka Awkbots, team pilot for Ready Made RC (RMRC)

To help with some of the terms, products, and lingo, I have also included a glossary, which is available at the end of the blog. I will add additional words per blog as they apply.

In the Beginning

FPV technology first became available almost ten years ago, when Fat Shark released the worlds first wireless FPV video goggle. Fat Shark's technology and importance in FPV racing was mentioned by Joe Scully in our conversation about the history of FPV. "It really developed that immersive experience where people could go inside the craft and see exactly what their craft was doing." 

Although the technology existed, application and accessibility were slow to follow. In the past ten years, as drone, and video technology have become increasingly better in quality, and more affordable, so has the demand and interest for FPV. People that are drone pilots are more easily ale to transition into FPV, or racing if they have found themselves looking for another type of flying experience, which is something Joe spoke to. "Once you put the camera, and the goggles, and the VTX on, you know everyone goes up and they see what their house looks like, and they see what their neighbors house looks like from the air. Then they get kind of tired of that, and then what’s the next step, and the natural evolution is racing and that’s how I’m thinking in short terms it has really taken off." 

Two years ago, FPV Racing found a place for racers and fans to share and watch incredible racing and freestyle videos, and like many other things in modern day life, we have You Tube to thank. Joe Scully broke down the four most influential FPV You Tube videos, and what they have done for FPV racing, and freestyle. 

"There’s one video that I like to refer to when I’m talking to people new into the drone racing world. It’s called “FPV Racing – Crash Session” and it is a German group that released this. It came out in about October 2014, so just over a year ago this video came out and it has had 2.2, almost 2.3 million views, and that’s the one that I think really sparked drone racing where it is now, and that was one of the first videos where the craft had LEDs on them, and the footage on-board with the GoPros was HD. it looked phenomenal and everyone really got excited, they were like 'this is like watching Star Wars' you know, in first hand."

"Shortly thereafter a group in France released another video. What they did, is they did the same sort of thing as the German people, but they raced on a bike course, like a mountain bike course, so it was actually defined,  and there was caution tape and so forth, and this was probably about the same time, about  November,  December 2014 and that video now has had 2.2 mil views."

"I think the third video in succession would be when Charpu was found on Tested, a video blog, and they followed Charpu, and his whole freestyle flow element of flying through really interesting locations." 

"Then people are now looking for the next bog location, so the next one I think was done by another German group they released another video around January 2015 and they did a race literally underground, in an underground parking garage."

Those four videos have helped to push FPV racing, and freestyle into the forefront of the drone industry. Due to its You Tube origins, most pilots go by their You Tube names. The names are used in their videos, and when they race, or compete. Freestyle is another component of FPV racing. In freestyle, pilots perform tricks, and try to fly under, through, and over various obstacles in unique locations. Drones for freestyle usually larger than ones used for racing, or competition quads, to accommodate a larger and heavier camera. Some pilots show videos in FPV only, and some use line of sight cameras, as well.  

Watching videos can help give a better sense of flying, and to learn about pilots, and their various styles. It can also work as inspiration to start flying, like it did for AJ Goin, aka Awkbots. "Justin Welander aka Juz70. I saw his videos 3-4 years ago and was instantly hooked. When I first saw his videos, I was still dealing with issues from a couple of concussions I had received from motocross. I couldn't ride any more but still wanted to be around the sport. At the time I was filming motocross races just for fun. I got a lot out of just being at the track, filming, and editing. That filled the void of not riding any more. Then I saw a Juz video and found a new thing. Every time I watched one of his videos I couldn't help but think how cool it would be to film motocross like that, and I eventually did film a race with a hoverthings 450 frame, that took me all week to get working, and managed to get flying the day before the MX race. It was line of sight only though. That was my first quad that I had built, and had bought a Blade MQX a few weeks prior to learn how to fly line of sight." After taking a break for a couple of years, Awkbots has become a Team Pilot for Ready Made RC, and has competed in two races, most recently at F3Expo in Atlanta, where he and his team won the ThunderDrone 500. 

Are you hooked yet? The next two parts will cover races, parts and components, how to get into racing, and a 2016 schedule of the FPV events you wont want to miss. Please keep in mind that all drone flying requires pilots to follow safety guidlines and standards. If you are in the US, please visit the FAA website, or Know Before You Fly to ensure a safe flying experience. 

And as always... Happy Flying

Glossary

  • Fixed Wing: Usually referring to hobby planes, which have wings, and not removable propellers, or props. 
  • FPV: First Person View - a method used to control a UAV from the viewpoint of the pilot. The UAV is piloted from a first person perspective by an on-board camera, which is fed with wireless technology to a video monitor, or FPV goggles. 
  • Multi-Rotor: Another name for multicopters, or quadcopters. 
  • Quad: Another name for a drone. 
  • RPV: Remote Person View - another term for FPV
  • RC: Remote-Control 
  • Video Piloting: An alternate term for FPV and/or RPV
  • VTX: Video Transmitter System

Dear Holiday Drone Shoppers...

By Kathleen Hickey

In a snap and a flash, it's over. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and takes with it - Black Friday. Many shops and websites had some amazing deals on drones. Did you take advantage of it? Do you wish you had? Do you think you bought that special someone the drone of their dreams? Did you buy yourself a drone of your dreams? Are you waiting for Cyber Monday? Here are a few things you should know before you give give the gift of a drone, to yourself, or someone you love.  

And I know that it's a lot to go through, and there's not a good amount of falala in rules, but if you or someone you know would like to take on the responsibility of owning a drone, it's important stuff to read through. 

Nothing Says Happy Holidays Like Regulations

It is estimated that a million drones will be sold this holiday season. Regulation can be a scary word. So can National Airspace, and Federal. And you know what, it should make a person stop and think a little. As much as some people would like to consider drones a toy, most of them are not. Drones are tools. They are very fun, addictive, useful, and can create beautiful images, and let the pilot explore a new perspective, but they can also be dangerous if not used correctly, or under the right circumstances. 

On November 21st, the FAA released the findings of a special UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) Registration Task Force. The Task Force was comprised of various members from 27 companies and organizations that ranged from DJI, to the Consumer Technology Association, and the American Association of Airport Executives. The group was given three days to come up with suggested registration requirements for drones. Here's a breakdown of some of their suggestions:

  • UAS that weigh under 55 pounds (55 lbs and over already require registration), and above 250 grams (8.82 oz) will require registration.
  • Registration is not required at point of sale, because the operator of the UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) is the responsible party to register.
  • Citizenship is not required for registration, and the minimum age to register is 13, (although many drones have a suggested age for use, so always check before purchasing a drone for a minor).  
  • They suggest registration should be free, but in the case a fee is required, they suggest that it's a penny. 
  • Registration can be done online, and DOES NOT require an outside company to process. There are companies already trying to take money from people to "help" with registration of drones. That is not needed. 
  • Operator will have to show proof of registration when asked (I imagine like a fishing licence). 

These are recommendations, and while it's fairly certain that the FAA will put a system of registration in place, The firm details have not yet been provided. If you'd like to read the full summary, you can do so here. There is a summary at the end, so if the drone talk has you scratching your head, you can check the last two pages. The FAA has also come out with a Safety Checklist so if you're giving a drone as a gift, it would be a great idea to print it out, and include it in your card. 

Safety First

Once you put your drone in the air, you are part of the U.S. aviation system. You are considered a pilot, and your drone is an aircraft. There are very strict and harsh penalties for not following flight laws. Not sure what those rules are? Take a look at Know Before You Fly, for safety guidelines. 

Now, have you may have seen some really cool things done with drones. Like maybe...

  • Flying at night.
  • Flying over animals (especially endangered ones).
  • Flying over groups of people.
  • Flying around power lines, airports, stadiums, freeways, and other heavily populated areas.
  • Pools, and beaches, and backyards with people getting some sun.

DO NOT DO ANY OF THESE THINGS!

What you may see from other drone operators, and what you can actually do are two separate things. Some drone operators have exemptions, and have asked special permission to take various shots. Some have contacted local authorities, as well as airports, so they can fly in what normally is a no fly zone. At times, a special group may ask a drone operator to assist in researching groups of animals. Different countries also have different flight laws. And some people are just breaking the rules. If you see something on Instagram or Twitter, it's not a green light to do the same. 

There are various tools to help pilots determine if they are in a no fly zone. Some drones have indicators that will let you know if you are not in an area that you can fly in. There are also Apps that indicate no fly zones. 

There are also temporary no fly zones, for special events, and times you should not fly due to bad weather conditions. It's also important to read the owners manual for your particular drone, and follow the manufactures pre flight instructions, and checklists. 

You Can't Always Take It Back

Drones are expensive. There's not just the initial cost, but everything else you have to buy to go with it. Make sure you fully understand the return policy, and warranty from the retailer you are buying your drone from. It's also important to note that it's possible to have an accident or crash, which is usually not covered by retailers. 

It's also important to note that there have been many thefts of drones from retailers, and not just one drone, but thousands of dollars worth. If you see a drone on Craigslist or Amazon, and the price just seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always purchase your drone from an authorized retailer. It will also guarantee that you will receive the help you need if any issues come up. 

Last But Not Least

Have fun! Have some good - responsible - safe - regulation compliant - non alcoholic - Know Before You Fly Fun. 

If anyone is a "good-time" person, I am. But I want to make sure anyone buying a drone is aware of the responsibility, and neighborly etiquette, before flying. The drone community is always happy to help anyone that wants to learn how to do it right.  Please join all of the responsible pilots, and be a good example. And as always...

Happy Flying





IDE A Guide To The International Drone Expo

By Kathleen Hickey

IDE: The Basics

International Drone Expo (IDE) will take place on December 11th, and 12th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. In its second year, IDE has expanded to a two day event. With over 100,000 sq. ft. of floor space, and over 80 exhibitors, it's sure to be an amazing experience. Exhibitors include DJI, Dronefly, Pix4D, AirVuz, and Yuneec, just to name a few. 

Registration for IDE is still open. There are four types of registration options.

  • Expo Only Access: For $30 you have admission for both days. There is also access to exhibit hall demonstrations, as well as select seminar presentations.
  • Conference Registration: For $325, have access to all conference sessions, luncheons, coffee breaks, exhibits, Keynote presentations, networking events, and demonstrations in the exhibit halls.
  • Student Conference Registration: For $150 get all of the benefits of the Conference Registration. 
  • Media Pass: If you are a member of the media, there is special contact information provided.

So, why should you attend a drone expo? There are many benefits, and IDE has made it very affordable for the general public to attend the event. Many drone expos and shows are trade only. To attend, you would have to show proof that you are in the UAV industry. If you have the Expo Only Access, you can walk the floor and speak face to face with manufacturers, educators, and other members of the drone industry. It's also a way to see demonstrations and see various drones side by side. Being able to see, feel, and try on products is very helpful in finding what works best for your needs, before you actually make a purchase, can save time, and hassle. Attending an expo can also be a fun social activity. Having people join you is a great way to get friends and family involved in your hobby. 

Conference: 

Attending conferences at any expo is a way to hear about what's going on in the world of drones from industry leaders. Some are Keynotes, which are usually on a specific topic, from one key speaker. Panels consist of multiple experts that will take questions on topics lead by a moderator, or Panel Chair. To get the most out of your experience at IDE, take a look at the topics that are most beneficial, or of the most interest for you. Some talks will take place on both days, so you may decide to pick one over the other on a specific day if one is offered on another. Here is my planned schedule, of speakers I'm excited to see: 

Day 1 Friday December 11th:

  • 8:40am - Keynote - Brendan Schulman - VP Of Policy & Legal Affairs, DJI

  • 10:15am

    The Future Of Education And Jobs In SUAS

    The mantra of the modern world is education for the future and advanced manufacturing along with all the technology that fuels it. What jobs are there for our young, and what training with they need? As we transition from a machine assisted labor force to an autonomously assisted one, who will take care of the software and hardware? These and many other questions are more than most algorithms can predict.

  • 11:40am

    Media Coverage And Drones

    News coverage and the creation of information Media are being disrupted by commercial drones. Disasters, Protests, Marches, Riots, you name it. If it's newsworthy, the reporters of the news want to be able to report it to you immediately. Aerial Robotics is changing the way we see the world and how it is being brought to us, get the whole story at 5. 

  • 1:00pm

    Aerial Sensors And Big Data

    By now we have all heard the term “Flying Smartphone”. This is not only true of commercial drones, but with the “Internet of Things” that fly creating an endless future of possibilities for Aerial sensors, application development, and adoption. Software and hardware creators alike have what is the hottest and arguably the fastest paced technology movement man has ever seen.

  • 2:00pm

    Keynote: Parimal Kopardekar

    Drones And The Future Of Aerospace - NASA UAS Airspace Integration & Operations/Logistics Unmanned Air Traffic Management (UTM) & NextGen NASA: Ames Research Center

    One might ponder the fact that we literally have two drones that have left our Solar System and are happily reporting data back to Earth. We have one on Mars, and we are designing one to study the corona of the Sun. With the explosion of technology in the past 150 years mankind has advanced but at a cost to our planet. As we turn our attention back to how we can create sustainability here on Earth we see that Drones and Aerospace are one of the keys to creating and aiding this agenda.

  • 4:30pm

    Room B - FAA And Commercial Drones

    Everyone know the issues that have faced the integration of sUAS in the NAS and the FAA is the main legislating body set with the task of creating the first layer of legislation that will set the groundwork for the future of commercial drone operations in the United States for generations to come. Just as we face at the advent of manned aircraft, the challenges that face us are many and the voices that must be heard are just as great. Hear firsthand from the FAA's author if the NPRM for sUAS in a healthy debate with the community and its creators where we are headed and when.

There are many more to choose from, and a full list of conferences and speakers is available on the IDE website. 

After the Show is the After Party

One of the best things about Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), are the food and drink options. If you're coming for IDE, and want to try a new restaurant, here are my picks!

  • Bottega Louie: Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Bottega Louie has pasta, salads, pizza, steaks, and a great wine list. They also have an amazing shop full of sweet treats and gifts to take home.
  • Eggslut: Breakfast, brunch, and of course....eggs. 
  • Kendall's Brasserie: Delicious French food. Part of the Patina group, Kendall's offers an Oyster Bar, extensive wine list, and a warm atmosphere. I recommend the salmon, and braised beef short rib. 

LA Live is right next to the convention center. If you don't want to drive at all, there are some great food and drink options there as well. 

  • The Farm of Beverly Hills: A Los Angeles twist on comfort food. The Farm has great drinks, a wine and beer menu, as well as cheese plates and burgers. I mainly visit for the cocktails, but the food is delicious as well. 
  • Rock'N Fish: Surf and turf at its best. Lots of great drink options as well. 
  • Yard House: 160 Beers on tap. That should be enough to get you there.....

 

I hope you are able to find this guide to IDE helpful. I'm so excited to attend. If you are not able to make it, I'll be tweeting throughout. Look for pictures on my Adventures Page. I'm always available to help, so please reach out to me with any questions! 

Happy Flying!

 

Want to Fly a Drone? There's an App for That

By Kathleen Hickey

So, you've found the perfect drone and you're ready to go out and fly. You've taken a look at Know Before You Fly, and perhaps you've taken the quiz to find out how safe a pilot you are. Flying a drone can be a really exciting, and fun experience. 

If you're new to flying, or a seasoned pro, drone Apps are a great resource. From flight logs, to weather information, safety, and airspace maps, downloading the right App can help you get the most out of flying. Some also have an aspect of community, through forums, and information sharing. Connecting with other pilots is a great way to become an engaged member of the drone community by sharing tips, flight information, and of course beautiful aerial photography. Here are a few great Apps, with some highlighted features. 

Hover:

Hover is one of the most popular Apps for commercial, and recreational pilots. It is very easy to use, and covers a wide range of helpful tools and information. Here are a few features:

  • Weather Data: Information includes wind speed (to avoid a Mary Poppins moment with your drone), local weather, KP-Index, current temperature, and more.
  • Flight Readiness Indicator: To let you know if its safe to fly in certain areas, or under certain weather conditions. 
  • Airspace Map: Allows you to see if you are in a no-fly area.
  • News Feed: Keep up to date on drone news, (when you can't look at my blog of course).Hover

Kittyhawk:

Kittyhawk is a beautifully designed App. It allows users to track individual flight information, with an option to join or create teams. Sharing information with friends, and other pilots is a great way to learn, and feel like part of a community when you fly. Here are a few features:

  • Flight Information: Record flights on Kittyhawk's cloud database. Keep track of flight time, battery cycles, and location information. 
  • Socially Friendly: Share information such as flight notes with your team. Support and learn from others by seeing their flight information. Make it fun by competing against your friends on various parts of your flights, like amount of air time. 
  • Fleet: Have more than one drone, or drones from different companies? Add your entire fleet to the App. 

UAV Zones:

UAV Zones is a basic location map. It allows the user to see no-fly zones in the immediate area. Although there are no additional features, it's a simple way to see if the flight area is restricted. UAV Zones had a recent update to fix a bug for startup crashes, which occurred on 11/6/15.

  • Location Indicator: Color indication of no-fly zones.

DJI GO:

DJI GO is specific to DJI Inspire 1, Phantom 3, Matrice 100, and a new feature for the OSMO. The DJI remote controller allows the user to attach a mobile device to view what the camera is capturing in real-time. DJI has additional available Apps for their own devices to optimize each flying experience.  Here are a few features:

  • Real-time flight record.
  • Remote video and photo capture with gimbal control. 
  • Instant video and photo sharing. 
  • Video tutorials.

3DR Solo:

3DR Solo is specific to the 3DR Solo Drone. The App allows the user to have live HD feed as well as access to flight features with a simple touch. There are available support options, and the App is very easy to use. Here are a few features:

  • Access to flight settings and a satellite map view.
  • Live wireless HD view from the Solo GoPro.
  • Smart Shots: Single touch ability to use 3DR Solo orbit, follow, selfie, and cable cam features.
  • Flight school video tutorials. 
  • Wireless updates.

Apps are a great tool, and can be helpful for a fun flying experience. Although Apps have no-fly zone maps, it's important to always use sound judgement when flying. There may also be temporary no-fly zones, which may not show up on an App. Although they can also be useful to track equipment, it's always important to go through flight checks before flying, to ensure the drone, batteries, and any other components are not damaged, and in full working order. 

Each App has various features, and benefits. Just as it was important to recognize specific needs when purchasing a drone, it's important to consider what information and options are the best for individual flying needs when picking an APP. The good news is that all of these are free! There is no harm in checking them out, and picking the one, or more than one that works best to create the best possible experience. 

Happy Flying!

 

 

New Pilot Experience

By Kathleen Hickey

The New Pilot Experience is offered by DJI, and facilitated by its authorized partners. Registration opens one month before the event, and closes a week before the event date. After online registration is complete, each participant will receive an email invitation from the authorized partner. Space is limited, so it's possible that not everyone signing up, will receive a confirmation email. 

The current class highlights the DJI Phantom. There is also a brief overview of other products, such as the Inspire 1, Ronin, Spreading Wings, and OSMO. There is a comparison of the Phantom 3 Series models, and a features overview, as well as information about the DJI App. The class itself is an hour long, with a flight demonstration, and hands-on flight experience. 

There was DJI swag, and a raffle to win various discounts on the purchase of a Phantom. Giveaways, and discounts may vary by retailer. If you can't make it to one of the events, there is a downloadable guide available. Here are a few pictures from the event I attended. 

Happy Flying!