Team Determined

By Kathleen Hickey

de·ter·mi·na·tion:

                 The act of coming to a decision or of fixing or settling a purpose.

FPV saved my life. If I am in an in-depth discussion with someone about how or why I got into drones, and FPV, I will always say that it ended up saving me. Growing up, and being raised by a single father that suffered from PTSD, made life difficult. Struggling through being homeless, and poor throughout my childhood was not easy. As an adult, the insecurities and fear that I had as a child never went away. I was afraid to make choices, and suffered from depression. I was constantly in survival mode, never really living my life, but just getting through it. I finally got to a place where I thought there was nothing in the world but pain, and I didn't want to live in that world anymore.

There was something about drones, and later FPV, that made me see that there were so many beautiful things in the world that I had not seen. You could fly your Phantom, or put your quad in the air, and your own backyard seemed like a new place. As a child, at night I would wish for wings, so I could leave where I was, and find a nicer place to be. It took a long time, but I finally got those wings I asked for. 

The past few months I took some time off from writing. I felt disconnected from the community, and I felt like I didn't have a story worth telling. It was in conversations with people you're about to read about, like Jerrod, and Robert that I realized again, why I fell in love with it all in the first place. And I thought, if these guys can wake up everyday, and build their quads, and go out and fly, I have no excuses for being able to do it myself. I hope you enjoy learning more about these incredible men and woman. 

Robert Pringle

17308983_1127598274017230_3694903589757461103_n.jpg

Robert Pringle is from Cleveland Ohio, is married and has two little girls. Robert works freelance in sales and marketing. When Robert was 17, he was the passenger in a car accident. Due to his injuries, he would not have use of his right arm. Robert went through intense physical therapy. With time, he has been able to regain some movement in his arm, after practicing Russian Systema, a type of martial arts that he started 6 years ago, and still practices to this day. 

Although his journey into quads is somewhat new, he has ten years of experience in RC aviation. When Robert turned 35, he decided he would try to do more things that he had been wanting to do, but hadn't for various reason. "I guess you could say I was at a spiritual point in my life to where I had to make a transformation." One day he and his wife were walking along a lake, and saw someone flying RC airplanes. Right away, Robert was hooked. " I was like, why am I not doing that? It was one of those things I had always told myself I wanted to do, why am I not doing it? And then I said, well I know why I'm not doing it. I've always told myself I have one hand and I can't. Literally two weeks later I went out and bought my first RC airplane." 

When race quads first came out, Robert wasn't sold. Robert's cousin, Matt Nowakowski (SidewinderFPV) was excited about the new hobby, and got Robert out to fly as well. Even then, drone racing didn't seem that appealing to Robert. "You get there and you have to wait all these rounds until you get to fly a battery pack. You crash out 30 seconds into the race. You have to wait until the next round. And coming from an RC plane background, you don't want to crash your airplane." Two weeks after he had told a MultiGP chapter organizer he would probably not attend another race, he found out Chad Nowak and Rotor Riot were going to visit his local chapter. "I'd been kinda watching Rotor Riot for 6 months because I was following FPV drone racing...so when I found out that Chad wanted to come out to Akron...I'm the type of person that no matter what, I like to meet the top people in that industry." 

At the time Rotor Riot came to visit, Robert had been flying quads for about 4 -5 months. Once the episode aired, Robert's life in FPV would dramatically change. "I tell Chad (Nowak) all the time, this whole thing has changed my life completely upside down. From travel, to sponsored trips, to being a sponsored pilot, to just meeting the different people in the industry and mingling with the top pilots." 

Initially, Robert was unsure about being featured on the show. "At first, I didn't want them to put me in the limelight on Rotor Riot. You know, I was kind of scared of that. Most people with disabilities don't want everyone to know they have a disability, they try to hide it or whatever. But, I was talking with Chad (Nowak) about it, and Chad was like 'Robert man, people probably really need to hear your story. I know you might be embarrassed by it...but there's two ways you can go about this Robert. You can take it as it comes and you can take the quad, and go flying in a fields all by yourself, or Robert, you can take this opportunity and use it as a growing experience, and know that you can be an inspiration.'" 

Robert decided to take the chance, and follow through with being on the episode, and follow the path that it set for him. "I just ran with it. I took caution to the wind and I thought who cares if people know I'm one handed anyway...I needed to learn and grow and get over some things myself, which actually I've always been self conscious of my injury, but now I'm not as self conscious about it anymore. So I think the whole process was meant to bring me to this point."  Robert is now sponsored by Armattan, and often travels to races and other events.

As he started his new journey, Robert knew that he wanted to give back and help other pilots that may have a physical or mental disability. He and Cory Grywalski, also featured in the blog, started a Facebook group called Team Determined Phoenix FPV Project

Team Determined is a highly skilled group of FPV drone racing pilots that have some sort of physical or mental disability. FPV has given them chance to regain some of what life has taken away and we want to share that with you. To Inspire you that you too can do any thing that you put your mind to and overcome your setbacks.
This page is for any one that has overcome any setback in any area of life and want a platform to share your story.

"There was really nothing in the FPV community about guys like us. So me and  Cory were like, hey man, maybe we need to start a team with disabled pilots...we can relate to each other, feed off each other, maybe bring light to their stories the way Chad kind of brought light to my story, and maybe it will help, because it helped me." The Phoenix in the name is meant to represent rebirth, and overcoming difficulties. "These guys have these issues...and FPV is more to them than just racing, it's more than freestyle, it's getting back mobility issues that people have. There are guys coming home from the military...and it's amazing, really the power that FPV can really do for people like us." The page, as well as an awareness for people with disabilities in FPV has grown thanks to the efforts of Robert and Cory. "I think the community needs stories like our to rally around. I think the community needs a cause that's bigger than just drone racing and freestyling. I think stories like yours, and mine, and Jerrod's, and Cory's, and a lot of the people I'm meeting that fly FPV and have disabilities, I think our stories rise above any negativity that's out there. The biggest thing for me, is that I want to make a difference." Robert is known for his great attitude, and support of FPV. I know that he has, and will continue to touch the lives of everyone he meets in a positive way. 

If you'd like to learn more about Robert, follow him on social: 

Facebook * Instagram

      Jerrod Guerney

22396474_10214724154357913_2010265219_o.jpg

Jerrod was born in Estes Park Colorado. He split his time between Estes Park, and Riverton Wyoming when his parents divorced. After high school, Jerrod was a ski instructor, and later joined the Navy. It was there that he became an aviation mechanic. Growing up with a love of airplanes, which he shared with his father, the position was perfect for Jerrod. After serving his time in the Navy, he became an aviation mechanic at the local airport in Cheyenne Wyoming. 

When Jerrod was 25, his life would change forever. Living in an area surrounded by the wilderness, where outdoor sports are popular, Jerrod spent a lot of time out in nature. "I like to fly fish, and I decided that I was going to go fishing this one day. I had just gotten off of work. I worked nights at the airport, and my girlfriend at the time was pregnant, so I decided since I have the next few days off, I was going to stay up, and go fishing, and spend my time staying awake that way, and get on the day schedule so I could be awake when she was." On his way to his fishing spot, which was 30 minutes outside of town, a car in the opposite lane started going into Jerrod's lane, around a steep curb. In an attempt to avoid hitting the other car, Jerrod swerved, and lost control of his won car. He went through the windshield, and broke his neck. The other driver had not stopped to help, although someone at a local bar said they had seen someone come in, seemingly intoxicated, make a phone call, which may have been to the police. The other driver was never found. 

Jerrod's dog, and Akita (named Kita) was also in the car, but made it out of the accident safely. Not willing to go to go with the EMTs at the time, they left Kita behind in a forested area. "I was in the hospital for two weeks before anybody found him. We all thought...we basically wrote him off as dead. After two weeks, even though he was a big dog, how is a domesticated dog going to live that long." Hikers had come across Kita, and he was returned to Jerrod while he was still in the ICU. 

Jerrod spent almost three months in the hospital, moving after two weeks to a specialty hospital, going through various surgeries and rehabilitation. Because of his type of injury, doctors were unsure of the long term effects they would cause. After time, Jerrod learned that he would be paralyzed from the waist down, although he still has feeling in legs. He can also use his arms to a certain extent, but his hands are paralyzed as well. 

Jerrod's relationship with his girlfriend at the time did not last after his accident, his son is now 15. Jerrod had eventually been sent to the VA in Albuquerque New Mexico where he stayed for a year. It was there that he was able to find medications that worked with his injury, and he was able to stop taking medications that he could form a dependency for. He went back to school, and earn an Associates Degree in Psychology. He was able to have dogs again, and function more normally in his day to day life, a process that took 10-12 years. 

It was during a break from school that Jerrod discovered FPV. "One day I was watching YouTube just wasting time and that's when I kind of discovered quad copters and FPV. I don't know if it was a Charpu video that I saw first, or if it was Rotor Riot, but it was one of those. I eventually found Rotor Riot and I was jut like, here's my credit card, take my money, I've got to do this. So I went out and I bought goggles, and I bought a Vortex 250, and everything that goes along with it, a Taranis and a handful of batteries. And I proceeded to just beat the shit out of that poor quad. I think I ran into every post and sign and tree in my neighborhood." Part of Jerrod's affinity for quads is because it reminds him of when he used to ski. "It reminded me of skiing, actually because I used to like to ski in the trees where there was soft fluffy snow. And you pick out a line, and sit between the trees on the way down...and when I saw FPV I thought, oh my God this is exactly the same." Jerrod has had past experience with RC cars, but never anything that flew. 

To use the Taranis, Jerrod has to use specially made dowels. "Those are the key to the lock for me, basically without those I'm not able to do anything. It was kind of funny, I bought everything, and then I was like, oh shit, how am I going to do this." Jerrod went to the metal shop at the community college he attends, and asked the other students for advice on how he could modify the Taranis. After a few days of trial and error, Jerrod made a "T" out of the dowels, and drilled holes so he could fit them over the existing sticks. 

After his Vortex, Jerrod wanted to build his own quad, and after one build, went to the QAV R. This summer he bought an XHover Stingy Frame. "I've always been a tinkerer, so I like to build and work on stuff. That I really enjoy. It drives me crazy but in a good way. I like trying to figure out the problems of, you know, I can't hold a screwdriver, so how am I going to get the top plate off. And how am I not going to burn myself with the soldering iron, but get the stuff I want done...and I like when I'm done, to plug in a battery and see it work." Although Jerrod had previous experience with soldering, and building balsa planes, he turned to YouTube for help with how to build his quads. Because he is unable to use many tools with his hands, Jerrod uses his mouth to hold his soldering iron, as well as other tools. Some tools he is able to use with his hand, which stays in a fisted position. Soldering motors to the ESCs can take Jerrod up to an hour to complete, per motor. Jerrod's dog, Molly is able to help him by picking up items that are accidentally dropped. If Jerrod works 4-5 hours a day continuously on a frame, he can have it done in an average of 3-4 days. For Jerrod, the hard work and long hours is worth the experience he has when he flies. "I sit in a wheelchair all day, and there's not a whole lot of opportunities to go ski those trees like I used to, or up until recently I haven't even been able to drive a car. Being able to put the goggles on and take off and go fast, do flips and rolls, and have that out of body experience that everybody gets when they start flying. 5 minutes at a time, it's just amazing." 

Although he has not raced yet, Jerrod is looking into MultiGP groups in his area that he could be a part of during the summer. Another goal is to continuously improve his skills. As far as advice for people with disabilities that would like to fly, and really people in general, Jerrod had this to say. "I always hate using my disability and talking about it because I don't want it to be forefront in my life. But that's pretty naive. It's forefront no matter what. I would just like people to understand that if they're interested in flying quads, or they're interested in flying real airplanes...you can't focus on the fact that you don't have a quadcopter that will do what Charpu's will do. You can't focus on the negative things, or else that's where your focus goes. I learned in Psychology that the body follow thought, and the thought follows body. So if you want to do something, start focusing on doing it, and not the reasons why you can't."

If you'd like to learn more about Jerrod, follow him on social: 

Instagram

Zoe Stumbaugh

23846258_542394092766768_1635473606_n.jpg

I remember when I first started researching FPV. I watched a video of highlights from the 2015 Drone Nationals. That was the first time I saw Zoe Stumbaugh. She was also the first female pilot I saw fly FPV. Zoe started flying a few years ago while struggling with various health issues. " I was bed-bound due to a plethora of heath problems, have had several surgeries trying to repair colon, leg, pelvic and other issues. Had to drop out of college, couldn't ride my motorcycle or engage in life." Once Zoe caught on to quads, she took the time and effort to learn how to fly, and build. "Took me months of research and flying LOS before I built my first machine.... this was back in the days of SimonK and the Naze32, when Blackout Mini-H was king and SunnySky was all the rage lol." 

Like many others in drones and FPV, Zoe has a background in gaming. "Have been a gamer most of my life, playing a past down Atari 2600 and quickly moving through the ranks of consoles till I became a computer nerd proper at the ripe age of 12. Loved a lot of different types of games but always gravitated towards racing sims like Grand Turismo, recently have been playing Assetto Corsa, Project Cars, and Dirt Rally in VR. Good fun." 

Zoe has not only paved the way for female pilots, but has created her own unique style, which includes 3D flying. "Always sorta thought a drone should have the ability to fly inverted... Had seen the awesome 3D Heli videos of Alan Sazbo, then stumbled onto Curtis Youngblood and his collective pitch Stingray 500... Started researching how to do 3D with Fixed Pitch quads over a couple years ago now and tinkering with it... since then Flyduino has nearly perfected it on the ESC's and FC- and new Props, Motors, and frames designed from the ground up for 3D. it's become a bit of an obsession of mine lol." 

Although some people may see Zoe as more of a freestyle than a racing pilot, she has competed in both rather equally, and successfully. "I've taken home 7 trophies in 2017 so far- 4 for racing and 3 for Freestyle, and placing in the top 5 of most national and international competitions I enter. Not to mention winning the first AMA race in the USA, and was the black sheep on Team Black Sheep at the first US Drone Nationals." Throughout the time that I've known Zoe, I've seen her share, and be open about her medical issues on social media. I asked if she spoke out to help others, or if ti was comforting to share her story. "It's hard to find a balance of what I want to share- it's definitely helped me deal with things. Right now I'm fighting with Pudendal Neuralgia along with some other nerve damage and pain, along with almost no feeling in my left leg and a constant ache-pain where the nerve was damaged along with severe stomach pain and nausea. Seems like I've helped a lot of people just by being myself and carrying on."

I've found myself, that when you're open about a personal subject on social media, people that share the same issues and struggles will often confide their own stories. I asked Zoe if there was a story or person that has been memorable. "My friend Steve that flies FPV, and 3D. He's a local Ex-Pro Surfer that suffered from a severe TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) several years ago, and has found FPV to be therapeutic. He beta-tested the Xcaliber frame that I fly- I try to keep him fed with spare parts to stay flying. 3D is hard on the rigs haha. Really though, there are countless stories that have inspired me and continue to do so." 

When speaking to Zoe about the benefits of flying FPV while going through a medical hardship, she said this. "From the community of people, to the mind altering experience that is FPV... it got me out of the house in the limited capacity that I could muster, it gave me a purpose. Kept my hands and mind busy and away from the mess that was/is life." Zoe first met Robert Pringle at the first FPV Jamboree. "They had invited us both out as guests. Ended up hanging out with him a bit, ripping the sky apart, and an amazing Rafting Trip in Oregon I'll never forget." When Team Determined was started, Robert reached out to Zoe to invite her to the group. "Team Determined is close to my heart- when the group first formed and Robert invited me, it was like finding another home with people that could relate to some of my struggles, which I was strongly missing." 

Through any pain or discomfort, Zoe continues to fly. "When I started flying FPV I had a cain and could barely walk, would prop myself up on a tree and have an assistant work the machine." Her vast experience in racing has taught Zoe how to manage through an injury while at an event. "Managing myself physically at events can be rough, have started incorporating mindfulness body awareness and dancing.... Besides that, just knowing comfortable seating is around... if not you may see me on the floor chillin' it's cool- am just getting comfy. I've been better about traveling with friends and almost always having a "travel buddy" of some sort." As far as the mental benefits of flying, Zoe describes how it has helped her when going through a hard time. "Flying FPV on a regular basis creates a pattern of positive chemical release within the brain, flooding it with adrenaline and other chemicals that are naturally uplifting that forces you to engage in being in the moment. It's like a magical dissociative anti-depressant to that makes forces you to think outside yourself for a few minutes at a time." For pilots that may also going through a tough moment in their lives, Zoe gives this advice. "Can't say it get's easier, I know with my nerve damage I may never recover fully and that I'll constantly live in pain... it's a constant struggle. What I can say is this, you can't change what happens to you, only how you deal with it. Silver lining being that you can't truly appreciate the good things in life till you have experienced true personal loss. Embrace the suck, live with it, and don't let it define you." For people that may feel discouraged, "Simply "Keep Flying"-it's a message that is held with my first machine in the National Model Aviation Museum's Permanent Collection. It's been almost 3 years and it still serves as a constant driving force for my passion in life." 

If you'd like to learn more about Zoe, follow her on social:

Facebook * Instagram * YouTube

Ryan Pressler

21245693_10155272063824902_1212912685_o.jpg

Ryan is 32,  and started flying FPV last year. He has a wife, and two children. Around 28, Ryan started suffering from back spasms. A combination of dirt biking, fire fighting, and a work injury meant that at 30, Ryan's doctor told him he needed to have back surgery. At the time, Ryan worked as an EMT. "I'm a medical assistant EMT by trade. My work was unique. We did something called tissue recovery. We could surgically recover nerves, bones, eyes, corneas, hearts, veins, skin, and organs for transplant usage." Ryan was also diagnosed with work related PTSD. "I was laid up with 2 spine injuries. Deep into drugs and self loathing. I was just diagnosed with ptsd and I literally couldn't walk unassisted." Ryan's friend offered a drone to lift up his spirits. "My buddy Patrick called me up and offered me a Syma X5C. Being the proud man I was I initially said no. Although I wanted a quad so bad. He gave me the drone because he knew I was depressed, about to kill myself." Ryan was on pain killers, and other medications. He was also not able to work. 

Being able to fly was a positive distraction. Ryan told me about his first flight. "It was horrible! I put the quad in a tree and I burnt out a motor. But aside from that part it was the most free I had been in months. I was able to move up, down, do a flip. All I had to do was think really hard and translate to my fingers. Which weren't working great but working." Ryan started flying LOS, and later moved to FPV. Being able to fly has completely changed Ryan's outlook on life. "It's changed everything. My outlook which was bleak as hell before is now positive. I'm always planning new builds and tinkering. Drives my wife nuts. I'm always thinking for my next race. It's made me happy. I can never ride a dirt bike again. My back and neck can't handle it. Being confined to the house was just horrible. It's given me a way to go out and be free, I'm happy." 

Ryan has recently been sponsored for Tiny Whooping. "When I'm hurting physically, or mentally I fly. I'm plagued by nightmares. I get them a lot. One of the best therapies I have is I'll wake up at 2am and go Whoop." Although he does not have a larger quad, he's saving up for one. "I want to get into bigger stuff more. Right now financially whoops are just so much easier. You can't freestyle on a whoop like you can a 5incher." The FPV community has also helped Ryan through his injuries. "They don't judge you. Even if you suck. These guys, they want you to do better. It's really helped my self esteem and drive. Just a bunch of peeps looking like goobers at the park crashing our toys. And laughing."  Although he can't say that flying has directly impacted his health, Ryan is now off of most of the medications he was on, and generally more positive. 

As far as advice to others going through a similar situation, Ryan had this to say. "There is hope, it may not be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It's never easy, probably never will be. I'll still dealing with my own demons. But, this gives you a chance to be who you used to be. This gives you freedom. Being locked within yourself sucks. Flying, gets you out of that. I'm not saying this will replace therapy. That helped me too. I still see my therapist, but he's actually encouraged me. When he found out what i was doing he hugged me. Don't ever stop moving forward. If you can't run, then walk, if you can't walk, then crawl. If you can't crawl then do something! For me, that was flying." 

Cory Grywalski

18424197_1180967062013684_1007574549102719790_n.jpg

Cory was born and raised in Cambridge Ohio. He has an identical twin brother, and two older sisters. His father was a custom home builder and has recently retired. His mother owns a hair salon. Cory was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC). Symptoms can vary in degree from person to person. Cory's brother Keith was not born with ACM. "Growing up in a small town where I grew up, I think I was the only child in a wheelchair. I was raised as a child of like, I didn't have a disability. I was raised exactly like my twin brother, and my sisters." Even though his father was a custom home builder, Cory grew up in a non-accessible home. "My parents kind of raised me in a way, that if you want something bad enough, you just have to work hard enough and get it. There was no babying me in that aspect. I was very lucky to have the parents that I did."

After high school, Cory moved to Florida to attend college at Edison University. After a few semesters, he realized that school was not the best fit for him. "I kind of had a pathway in my life, with my disability especially, I didn't know what the future outcome really had for me. So I thought, do I want to waste time in school...or do I want to live my life, and experience experiences, and do things that I may never get to do in life, because what if my disability gets worse." Cory stayed in Florida for a couple of years, and then moved to Colorado. 

While there, Cory got into off road wheelchair mountain biking. "When I was a kid I was watching this nature show called Next Step and they showed this off road wheelchair...and I was like blown away." It took 11 years, but eventually while in Colorado, he found an adaptive sports center that had the bike, three hours from his home. "I literally worked every week, so I could go there every weekend. I would drive three hours one way. I was lucky enough to qualify for a scholarship, because normally it's pretty expensive to rent this bike, with people to go out with you." 

Cory eventually moved back to Ohio. It was there that his brother Keith introduced him to quads. "I looked, and that's when I first saw the french guys racing in the woods, and that was my first video...and I was hooked." That Christmas, Cory's mom bought him a small drone off of Amazon. "From that Christmas, Keith and I were looking on Amazon, and wherever you can find drone parts to buy frames and motors. Three years ago there wasn't much out there." Cory and Keith realized that Ready Made RC was close to their home, and started purchasing their gear there. 

13668722_10210413030468488_1174523820744754282_o.jpg

Cory and his brother started their own frame business, Twin Quad Frames this January. It came about during one of the hardest times that Cory and his family have gone through, while his father was battling Pancreatic Cancer. Cory and his brother used quads as an outlet while their dad was in the hospital. "Keith and I have always just been builders. We always wanted our own frame, just because what we were flying out there didn't really seem to work exactly how we wanted." What had initially been a project for them to build a frame each for personal use, turned into a business. "I had posted some pictures on my private Instagram...we got a ton of feedback...people asking how do I get one, I want one." They decided to produce 5 frames, which quickly sold out, and then produced more and more. They now have 4 different frame types available. I'm happy to note that my interview with Cory took place on his father's birthday, and that he is now a cancer survivor, and doing well.  

Cory met Robert Pringle at a MultiGP race in Cleveland. They quickly became good friends, and started the Team Determined page together. "Me and Robert kind of combining, and talking, and we joked around about it at first, like we should start an only people with disabilities team." What may have started as a bit of a joke to them, turned into a a realization that there was a need for a group like that in FPV. " We realized very quickly it's not all about a physical disability. Because at first that's where we were shallow in thinking, it's a little but harder if you're physically disabled to do these things with these two little joy sticks. So we have had to adapt, and make things to make this work for us. And then we realized what it could really do mentally for us. That's when we realized, this takes people with PTSD and types of depression, and whatever, outside of their world that they live in, and just blast them off somewhere else." Besides the Team Determined Page, there is also a private chat where members can talk privately about person struggles, and accomplishments, and support each other. 

When speaking with Cory, his passion and love for FPV are clear. When asked what FPV meant to him, he said this. "I was born unable to walk. Imagine if I woke up tomorrow out of bed, and unbeknownst to me, I'm able to walk, and I'm completely able bodied. If I woke up like that, I would start running and never stop. I swear to you. I would go out immediately and buy a bike, and a skateboard, and everything that I couldn't do, and do them. So FPV, imagine getting a brand new pair of legs, the very next morning, would you ever stop running? FPV to me is like that. I put on a pair of goggles, and I can finally run, and I am just not stopping." 

If you'd like to learn more about Cory, follow him on social:

YouTubeInstagram

I would like to thank everyone featured in this blog, for their honesty and being brave enough to share their stores with everyone.

Happy Flying 

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!

 

 

 

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

 

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 2

By Kathleen Hickey

The Recap

I hope those of you that read "Do You Like to F.......Part 1" enjoyed learning a little about the history of FPV racing, watching the You Tube videos that helped create the fan base, and basic flying information. If you didn't read Part 1... (tisk tisk)...but don't fear. Part 1 is available below. 

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. 

I also need to thank AJ Goin, aka Awkbots, team pilot for Ready Made RC (RMRC), for sharing a pilot's perspective with me. 

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.

The Anatomy Of A Quad 

Now that you've seen a bit of what racing quads can do, here's a look at some of the main parts, and equipment you'll need to start flying.

  1. Frame: Quad frames are primarily made from carbon fiber. Frames are available in different millimeter sizes. Frames can be purchased already made, or if you're more advanced at racing, you can go with a custom built frame. 
  2. Motors: You'll need four, one for each propeller. 
  3. ESC: Electronic Speed Controller - Also four of these. 
  4. Props: You can't have enough...
  5. LiPo Batteries: Each battery varies in flight time. If you have added components attached to your battery, that can shorten how much air time you have. Which LiPo you decide to go with will depend on how much power you need, but you will probably want to purchase a good amount of batteries. Also, LiPo batteries can potentially be dangerous. You should never fly with a damaged battery. Any battery that has a damaged cell must be properly disposed of, even if the other cells are functioning. There are various ways to properly store batteries, but they need to be stored in a safe container of some kind. You should also never leave your batteries charging unattended. (Safety First!)
  6. Antenna
  7. Flight Controller: The most important part!
  8. Transmitter
  9. Receiver: This may come with the transmitter when you purchase one, but they can also be purchased separately and switched out. 
  10. Goggles: Fat Shark makes a variety of goggles. There are also Fat Shark kits you can purchase that come with the FPV camera, receiver, and transmitter. 
  11. Battery Charger

While looking for information on how to build a quad, I found this video on You Tube from Tested, which has a great step by step tutorial on the parts, and the building process. 

There are several other tools that you will need for the actual build. 

  • Soldering iron
  • 2mm hex driver
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Exacto knife 
  • Wire Strippers
  • Small Screwdrivers
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Double Sided Tape
  • Zip Ties (can never have too many of those...)

Additional tools and parts will be needed depending on the build. There are also various added components that were mentioned in the video, such as battery straps, locator, antenna tubes, spacer, etc. Some of these items you can purchase in sets. AJ recommends a tool set sold by RMRC, which you can take a look at here.

There are also ARF or RTF models available if you'd rather not build your own. It's also good to keep in mind that you'll have to replace parts due to crashing, so make sure to look into something that has components that can be replaced easily. 

As mentioned in the video,  it's important to understand what you would like to fly as a unit, and not purchase parts that are not compatible with the size and power needs of the quad you are building. There are various calculations for frame size, motors, ESCs, and batteries, to be sure you are purchasing parts that are the right size, and will give you the right amount of power to actually fly. There are also various race categories and/or requirements depending on the size of various parts, like your frame, or prop size, which is something to consider if you'd like to race. 

I asked AJ Goin (Awkbots), what advice he would give to someone wanting to get into FPV Racing, and here's what he had to say about building your own quad. "One thing I would say is, when getting into a hobby, don't buy the cheapest everything in fear of not enjoying it. I always buys the best the first time, because it makes the experience more enjoyable, and if you don't end up liking it, it's much easier to sell. Obviously not everyone can afford to get the best gear immediately, but do your research and get the best bang for the buck gear."

When just starting out, AJ believes the key thing keep in mind, is to keep it simple. "Get something in the air, line of sight first, and really try to get the hang of that, then graduate to FPV. Don't worry about trying to fly miles away or have GPS position hold...if it's something you want to do, watch as many You Tube videos on it as possible. If you're still interested after that then maybe try it. For me personally, I don't use a single bell or whistle, and never get more than 100-200 yards away. I don't feel like walking that far after I crash (and you will crash). No matter how many videos you watch and see amazing pilots do what seem like perfect runs, just know WE ALL CRASH!"  

Part three of the blog is all about the actual race. From the different types of races, requirements, pilots, and how to get started in an actual race yourself, I'll go over the race from top to bottom. I'll also be sharing a list of events in 2016, and the races I'm most looking forward to. Until then, take a look at what you need to make your quad dreams a reality...and as always...

Happy Flying!

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. 

Glossary

  • ARF: Almost Ready to Fly - a drone that requires some assembly before flight. 
  • 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. 
  • RC: Remote-Control
  • RPV: Remote Person View - another term for FPV
  • RTF: Ready To Fly - No assembly required before flight.
  • 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