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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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. 

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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 

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