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

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

 

CES 2016: Going Through the Looking Glass

By Kathleen Hickey

I was in Las Vegas last year during CES, but only for a day, and I did not attend. As I walked around Vegas, mainly shopping, I saw groups of CES badge wearers, and thought how amazing it would be to actually attend.

Fast forward eight months later, and I had started my blog. I registered for CES in October, and I'll say that the email confirming my registration was one of the best I had received that year. I was in, and three short months later, I was in Las Vegas, standing on the showroom floor.  

CES is a trade only event, and has various requirements to attend. Attendees are asked to provide credentials in advance to verify that they are affiliated with the consumer technology industry. It takes place in several locations throughout Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas Convention Center, and a number of hotels. Those locations were named "Tech East," "Tech South" and on, so they would be easy to find, and navigate through. Vendors were separated into categories based on  the type of technology they represent. DJI was under "Digital Imaging/Photography", and "Other Consumer Technology". There was not a specific Drone, UAS, UAV category. Most of my time was spent in Tech East, where the UAV and drone technology was located.

My first stop was at DJI. As always, they had an amazing booth, which featured all of their products and platforms. The new OSMO, released in October was a feature at the booth. OSMO is a handheld gimbal which features digital imaging, and advanced 3-axis stabilization system making it the first of its kind in a handheld camera. With OSMO, you can capture images with timelapse, tripod free long exposure, and 360 automatic panorama. The OSMO comes with the Zenmuse X3 camera, and provides 4K video at 24, 25, or or 30 frames per second. CES attendees had an opportunity to borrow the OSMO for an hour to document their CES experience. It was also featured with the new Zenmuse X5 camera.

DJI offered attendees the chance to take a DJI New Pilot Experience class, which took place in a remote location, about 30 minutes away from the convention center. Attendees could sign up for a specific class time slot, and were taken by bus to the location. Also featured was the newest addition to the Phantom Series, the Phantom 3 4K which is the only one in the series to offer 4K video and Wi-Fi connectivity for live video feed.

Also on hand was the Inspire 1 Pro Raw with the Zenmuse X5 in black (try saying that three times fast). Which is perfect for pilots that want to fly on the dark side.

My next big stop was at Yuneec which unveiled the new Typhoon H at CES. 

One of the most exciting things about the Typhoon H, would be its autonomous features. The sense and avoid technology, which allows the Typhoon H to detect when large objects are in its way was highlighted, and well as its Journey, Orbit, Curved Cable, and Point of Interest Modes. It also features retractable landing gear, and a 4K Camera. The Typhoon H is not yet available for purchase, but is believed to retail for around $1,799, which is less than other leading drones with similar features. Yuneec has become a leader in the drone industry, through advanced technology and competitive pricing. I'm looking forward to seeing the Typhoon H at work, and what's in the future for Yuneec. 

Another notable drone was the Hexo+. It seems to fit somewhere between a standard drone, and the Lily, which sees itself more in the GoPro market than drones. The Hexo+ is controlled by an App on your smartphone, although it is also RC compatible. The Hexo+ tracking feature, and 45 MPH maximum speed make it more idea for people that would want a drone for extreme sports, and other action based activities. 

Ehang unveiled a single passenger drone, Ehang184 which is an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) that can fly for about 20 minutes, and carry a person up to 260 pounds. Of course their are many considerations, (and laws), to be considered before something like Ehang184 could come to market, but it was very impressive to see in person, and something that we may have to look forward to in the future. 

Another amazing booth, and one of my favorites at CES came from Parrot. Although drones are just part of the Parrot family, which includes headphones, Bluetooth devices, robots, and even something that helps you water your plants, Drones were a focal point. 

Taking center stage was the the Parrot Disco, the first "Ready To Fly" Fixed-Wing drone. It has a 45 minute flight time due to a 2700mAh battery. It also has embedded ground sensors, detachable wings for transport, and automatic takeoff, landing and return home modes.  

Parrot also offered attendees an amazing show, with choreographed autonomous drones within their flight cage. It was colorful, fun, and full of life. Also on hand was the Bebop 2, and an FPV compatible Skycontroller. 

Going to CES truly felt like stepping into another world. There was so much to see, and participate in. It was incredible to see all of the new technology, and not just in drones, but in various tech fields. Information is already up for CES 2017. There is an email sign up that will let you know when registration is open. I will be posting tips and things to know when planning your trip to CES for next year. If you'd like to see more pictures, they are available on my Adventures Page! Thank you CES for a wonderful time. I'll see you next year...

Happy Flying

Me with my badge. I put it on as soon as I got it. Maybe not the cool expo move, but I was too excited to not have it on. Although I still wonder about what Services I'm Providing...

Me with my badge. I put it on as soon as I got it. Maybe not the cool expo move, but I was too excited to not have it on. Although I still wonder about what Services I'm Providing...

DJI OSMO with the Zenmuse X5 camera and additional accessories. Available through the  DJI Website . 

DJI OSMO with the Zenmuse X5 camera and additional accessories. Available through the DJI Website

The new Phantom 3 4K

The new Phantom 3 4K

Inspire 1 Pro Raw with the Zenmuse X5 in black

Inspire 1 Pro Raw with the Zenmuse X5 in black

Yuneec Typhoon H

Yuneec Typhoon H

Part of the Yuneec booth at CES

Part of the Yuneec booth at CES

Hexo+

Hexo+

Ehang184 AAV

Ehang184 AAV

Parrot Booth

Parrot Booth

Parrot Disco: CES Innovation Award Honoree - Unmanned Systems and Accessories.

Parrot Disco: CES Innovation Award Honoree - Unmanned Systems and Accessories.

Parrot flight cage with the Disco

Parrot flight cage with the Disco

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

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





Thankful

By Kathleen Hickey

This week has been one of the most difficult, and challenging I've gone through. And if you knew what some of those other weeks looked like, you'd know that this was pretty bad. It seemed like one thing after another would come up, and I got to the point where I couldn't breathe. 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and while some people are finishing up their shopping lists, and preparing their homes for guests, I'm wondering how I'll get through another empty night. So I decided to do what people do on Thanksgiving. I would make a list of the things I am thankful for. I took out a pad of paper, and I just stared at the blank sheet. There are many things that I'm of course thankful for. I don't live in a country in the middle of war. I won't go to bed hungry. I live in a nice neighborhood, and I have a great family and friends. But as I started to write those things down, it felt like checking off boxes I was supposed to check. 

So I sat alone, and closed my eyes, I took a deep breath, and thought about my life these past months I thought about the things that have truly made a difference in my life. I started Sex Love and Drones as a way to express myself, and put myself out there in a way I never have. I'm generally a very shy person. I wanted to do something that would force me to do things I've never done before, and to meet new people, and make my own memories. 

Since starting SLD, I have had the privilege of meeting  some amazing people. Some I've met in person, and some I know through Twitter,  Instagram, or texting. People from France, Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, and all over the United States. Some people have touched my life with a comment, or a simple gesture. Some have become an important part of my life. These poor folks have showed patience, and humor while I constantly inundate them with questions like:

  • What is that?
  • How did you do that?
  • How many batteries are you taking?
  • How did you break that?
  • What does that do?
  • What are you eating (the foodie in me). 
  • What is that again????

We've shared stories about life, family, adventures, and of course, drones. They have shared their passion, their wisdom, their vision, and their kindness with me, daily. They took the time to listen to me, when I thought no one cared about what I had to say. They encouraged me to do my best, and keep working, when I thought I could not fit one more piece of drone information in my mind. They listen to my bad drone jokes, and put up with my sailor mouth. They have inspired me with their work and passion. From photography, to racing, and education, they have made me want to be better, and to learn more. I don't know what tomorrow brings. I don't know what will make me smile or laugh again. I don't know what will bring a smile to my face, or how many more days I'll cry. I don't know what friendships will end, and which will begin, but I know I have a great community to lean into. 

You hear a lot about drones in the media. Well let me tell you a little about some of the people that fly them. They are some of the most open, caring, compassionate, and giving people I have ever met. They have made me laugh, and smile, and have helped me to believe in myself again. They have literally saved me. I am proud and honored to to have them as friends....and yes...THANKFUL. 

I hope you all know who you are. Thank You, from the bottom of my heart. Happy Thanksgiving. 

 

 

 

Drones: Responsibility vs. Regulation

By Kathleen Hickey

When discussing drones, one of the most common topics that comes up is regulation. I've found that a parallel conversation to regulation, is that of responsibility. If you're new to drones, or a pro, responsibility and regulation are both important and highly discussed. 

For someone thinking about buying a drone, or perhaps for someone that has just purchased one, the idea of various local, state, and federal flight regulations can be very overwhelming, and confusing. So what exactly is a regulation, and how does that differ from an actual law? Regulations are administrative codes and rules issued by various government agencies, like the FAA. Regulations are not laws, but they have the same force as laws. There are enforceable penalties for not following set regulations at any government level. Federal regulations are adopted through the Administrative Procedure Act (A.P.A.), with states having similar guidelines. Now that regulations have been defined, it's important to look at responsibility.

How much responsibility for safe flying and education falls on the government and regulatory agencies? Are flight rules and regulations easily accessible to the average consumer? Is there enough communication to the average public that these laws and regulations even exist? Is it easy for people to understand exactly what the rules are in their county, state, and on the federal level? 

On Monday October 19th, the Department of Transportation announced the creation of a task force that will make recommendations for a UAS, (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) registration process. The hope from the DOT is that registration will create more accountability, and responsibility for people that fly drones. The task force, which is comprised of representatives from the UAS industry, government, and other interested parties is expected to have their report completed by November 20th. Although many welcome and support safety and education for people that fly drones, it seems clear that the DOT is racing against the clock to prepare for the upcoming holidays, when it is estimated that over one million drones will be sold. At this point, it is not know if the registration process will provide resources, education, and tools for people to be safe flyers, or if it will be more heavy in regulation. 

As the government works to create a system to enforce safe flying, how much of the responsibility of education falls under the care of the manufactures? Drones have become increasingly accessible,  more affordable, and easier to use. Manufactures are marketing their drones to the masses. Should increased revenue come with increased responsibility? Some manufactures have links on their websites to Know Before You Fly or reference safe flying. DJI offers the New Pilot Experience, a free class though various authorized partners, which in part covers safe and responsible flying. What amount of obligation, if any, should private companies have in educating their buyers on safety, and regulations? Do consumers understand what they are buying, and what responsibilities come with their purchase if they are able to walk into a mall, or local big box store to but it?

Of course manufacturers can only do so much. As nice as it would be to have a personal one on one drone liaison with every purchase, it's not practical. When you purchase a car, the dealer does not go into length on local driving laws and proper safety. Links to websites, information about safety, classes, and manuals, only work if customers actually use them.  There is also something to be said for common sense, and courtesy for those around us. 

Over time, government, manufactures, and consumers will all take their place in safe and responsible drone ownership, and regulation. More information will be available after the task force has made their recommendations. Until then, for someone wanting to better understand flight regulations, the best resources are Know Before You Fly, as well as information from local and state government agencies. Before traveling, be sure to check local ordinances, and for possible no fly zones in the area you will be visiting to ensure a safe and worry-free adventure.   

Happy Flying!