FPV Quadcopter racing is a thrilling, adrenalin filled sport that involves piloting remote controlled quadcopters in first person view through a pre set-out course. Courses can be set up artificially in fields or carparks using gates and obstacles to fly through, under or over. Alternatively, they can be set up in natural terrain where the pilot flies through trees and around natural obstacles like rocks and other natural features.
If you've seen the videos online and are itching to begin flying an FPV Quadcopter, these steps will help you get started in quadcopter or multicopter racing.
So what are the steps required to become an FPV Quadcopter pilot?
Step1: Learn the rules.
Most countries have rules surrounding when and how you can fly any remote controlled vehicle. Learning the rules about how and when you can fly your quadcopter is important to ensure you don't inadvertantly get into trouble, hurt or kill someone or damage property. There are numerous model flying associations around that will give you advice and a rundown on the rules or you can contact your national aviation asscociation. Here in New Zealand the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) have a guide on the rules that kiwi pilots can view here. For other countries a quick google search should display relative results.
Step 2:Decide what size and spec quadcopter you want to fly.
Quadcopter racing like other sport has classes which quadcopters will fit into to ensure that racing is as fair as possible. You will need to find out what class you would like to race in and design your quadcopter to fit into this class. The most standard sized FPV quadcopter is the 250 size quadcopter. This measurement is taken diagonally from the center point of the front left motor to the center point of the back right motor. Other sized frames may qualify for other classes so its best to check your local racing organisation. Classes also specify the types of batteries you use to the size and spec of your motors.
If you find there is no racing organisation in your area, you are be free to choose whatever you like, just bear in mind that 250 sized fpv quadcopters have the best power to weight ratio of all quadcopters and are the preferred size of racers due to their size and portability. Also know that if a racing organisation appears in your area, you may be able to race in the open class if your quadcopter specs don't fit into any of the spec classes.
Step3: Decide on RTF or DIY
RTF or DIY. What do these terms mean? RTF is an acronym for ready to fly and DIY means do it yourself. Thats right!, one of the most satisfying things about mini quadcopter racing is that you can build them yourself using parts supplied from a hobby shop or online. If you decide to do it yourself you will need to spend time researching how to build one and how to tune it. There are many good websites out there that explain how to build an fpv quadcopter. We will add to our blog in the future on how to build your very own.
However if your not the DIY type or would rather reverse engineer a quadcopter then the Ready To Fly (RTF) option may be for you. You will need to spend time researching which RTF quadcopter you would like to buy. There are many options out there but one that has been marketed very well on the internet is the Storm Racing Drone by Helipal which is similar to your DIY racing quadcopters. There is also the immersion R/C Vortex which at the time of writing this blog is in development and is more of a refined, manufactured quadcopter.
If you don't have the skills or confidence to build one yourself but are fussy about what components you want to use, you could locate a quadcopter builder and commission them to build your FPV racing quadcopter for you.
Building and tuning quadcopters are two complete blogs by themselves, but we will post how to do this yourself in future posts.
Step 4: Practice flying
Your quadcopter has arrived or been built and tuned and your batteries are completely charged, now its time to take to the air. Its time to hone in your piloting skills. The best way to begin flying is to practice hovering using LOS (line of sight). Hovering allows you to get a real feel for the controls and how the quadcopter will respond to the movements of the Radio transmitter. Once you can confidently hover, you can then begin to move forwards, backwards, left and right using the pitch and roll controls of your transmitter. After getting a feel for pitch and roll you can then introduce yaw as well.
Flying in a figure 8 pattern will greatly improve your LOS flying skills.
When do I go FPV? As soon as you have a good understanding of the controls you can then attempt to use FPV. This can be a bit disorientating to new pilots but you will soon get the hang of flying your quadcopter FPV. Just make sure you know the area you are flying in well first, as you could easily lose contact with your quadcopter if you go out of range or get lost.
Step 5: Get in touch with other Quadcopter pilots
Now that you have built or purchased a quadcopter, you should find a community that has the same interests in racing quadcopters. You will encounter issues while flying or break things and need them fixed. You may also have troubles tuning the flight controller and ESC's. Or find that your FPV equipment doesn't work properly.
Communities can be found by searching facebook groups or joining an online forum. The knowledge that people have on the internet is astounding and can help you get your quadcopter flying again quickly.
I had trouble with my very first build where I could smell smoke coming from my esc's whenever I powered up my FPV quadcopter. After asking advice from other like minded quadcopter racers, I discovered it was because carbon fiber conducts electricity and my esc's were shorting out on the frame. Something so simple but I would have never known had it not been for the help from other experienced pilots.
Step 6: Go and RACE!!!!
Finally, after building, buying, tuning, practicing and breaking things. Its time to race FPV style. Find a group of friends or pilots that can race with you informally or head along to an official race meet.
This video shows what races are really like and what to be prepared for on race day.