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Rules for FPV?

#1
I am having a hard time figuring out the rules for FPV flying. Rule 6 in the FAA rules for recreational flying says to "Keep your drone within your line of sight, or within the visual line-of-sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you."
My situation is that I am generally flying at a park by myself. I know it can't mean that every time I blink I am violating the rule, and how does this apply to FPV?

Thanks for the help,
Tim
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
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#3
It's rather funny, too, because if you read what the AMA says, your spotter should be able to take over the craft for you if you should lose control of it. I kind of have an issue with that because if you're flying at 60-70 mph (which many FPV quadcopters and planes can do) and you lose control, it's pretty much over in a flash.

Really, the spotter is there for a myriad of reasons - to tell you, "Hey, you've got a child coming up the path," or "be careful where you're flying there, there's a dog walker at the end of the field," or "Your quad went down about 50 feet in front of you in that pile of tall weeds." Those are the biggest helps you can get from spotters.

I know there are guys who want to fly long range, and see just how far they can get their equipment out there. Right now, the FAA and the AMA are buddying up on this to prevent long range flights, so they can 1) see who the pilot is that might be flying in restricted airspace, and 2) prevent midair collisions with other aircraft (which has already happened; there was a guy who was flying his DJI Phantom 2.5 mi. out on the East Coast (I think it was in New Jersey?) and hit a BlackHawk helicopter that was doing military maneuvers. He couldn't see it, and it was on a "return to home" after it had lost video signal, being that far out. I personally don't think you should do long range - just because you CAN doesn't mean you should. For example, you may drive a Corvette that can do 80 mph in less than 1/4 mi. distance...But you shouldn't do 80 mph in a 25 mph school zone...

I'll admit that I have flown under goggles before without having that spotter. Am I violating the rules and laws when I've done it? Yes. I'll admit that I've flown in the wrong before, not knowing it was wrong at the time.

That said, when I fly, wherever I fly, I take precautions to prevent accidents - I don't fly when other people are around (unless I'm at a place where people KNOW it's an airfield and know to look out for aircraft, know the basic rules for safety), and I try to keep a boundary for myself (for example, if I'm flying at a baseball field, I keep within the boundaries of the field, and I try to keep below the top of the backstop fence or the top of the foul pole) so that I don't unnecessarily take risks. It's just safe...And if I see ANYONE coming up while I'm flying at a park and not at my club's field, I try to get down to terra firma ASAP. I'd rather not risk them deciding to run out under my quad with its whirling blades, or me turning and slicing them up into little pieces because I lose control when I see them at the last possible minute...When in doubt, best advice I have for you is to fly SAFE and SMART.
 
#4
what if you are in the middle of the middle of nowhere? Otherwise known as rural Indiana. There aren't people for miles so when I fly fpv alone over a cornfield in unrestricted airspace, is that allowed?
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
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#7
what if you are in the middle of the middle of nowhere? Otherwise known as rural Indiana. There aren't people for miles so when I fly fpv alone over a cornfield in unrestricted airspace, is that allowed?
According to the FAA, no. Even if there's nobody else around and you're flying over cornfields, you must have a spotter watching via line of sight - and you CANNOT have that spotter communicating via electronic means (i.e., a cell phone, 2 miles away, giving you directions).

Now, whether you can DO it? That's a different matter. You can probably get away with it, but if just ONE person complains, or sees you flying out there and they don't like it? They could turn you in. Whether they will or not is debatable, but technically, you're flying illegally, even if it's over private property.

I mean, I get the safety reasons - there's a chance you could have someone come into the field where you're flying, or you could have a crop duster fly low overhead, spraying the corn...I don't necessarily agree with it, but at the same time, I understand the "why" behind it.
 

LitterBug

Troll Spammer
#8
Don't forget that 99% of fpv transmitters requires an FCC Ham radio license to operate (minimum technician class). It often gets forgotten or fluffed over. Very very few video transmitters have been FCC certified and therefore require a license to operate, yes even the low power 25mw and less transmitters.

Always check your headset display and/or ground station to make sure no one else is on the frequency before turning on your video transmitter.

Use the lowest power setting you can on your transmitter for the conditions you are flying.

Just a few tidbits...

LitterBug
 

Hondo76251

Well-known member
#9
I have too much of a libertarian slant sometimes so this issue really bothers me... where do I get to cast my vote on the issue? Like so much of what happens at the federal level, you generally don't have much say in it (BLM, TSA, ATF, FAA...) and on principle there shouldn't be that kind of authority granted to something so far from the voters control, but I digress...

Understand that people... well, to put it in perspective, picture how dumb the average person is... now remember that HALF of them are dumber than that... enough said!

Stay below 400... that's a good rule. I'm on board with that 100% pilots that fly below that and aren't on approach are increasing their risks by such a margin that a drone is the least of their worries...

Beyond that, I feel common sense will go a long way. Don't be stupid, don't be rude, don't endanger others (and don't post doing any of the aforementioned online...)

If it comes to the point that people who are morally in the right, not harming others, are being tracked down and prosecuted, as a society, we will have much larger problems on our hands than model airplanes!
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
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#10
I agree that if you fly with common sense, and keep safety in mind, you SHOULD be able to do it; however, at this time, the legality of it is not in our favor.

That said, regardless of flying a quad, a fixed wing, a helicopter, paramotor, whatever - if you can fly with a spotter, DO SO, even if you're flying line of sight. I recommend it because not only do you have a second set of eyes looking around or paying attention to other traffic, both in the air and on the ground, but should you lose control (whether it be through mechanical failure, skill, or just dumb luck with that gust of wind that decides it wants to push your plane into the "plane eating plant growth" that's 50 feet tall next to the flight area), you have a set of eyes that can point out where you went down.

I liken the spotter to that of an air traffic controller - we have them for the various full size aircraft worldwide, telling us, "Hey, so and so is on the runway," or "Air USA Airlines is on final approach for landing", so why not have someone who can help out with RC? :) And sometimes, you just have some weird, wacky stuff that decides it has to pick on you while you're flying. A prime example of that for me would be the red-tailed hawk that tried to attack my UMX Timber, the crows that hated my 5" quad, and the hummingbird that decided my Inductrix Pro was a threat to his feeding and nesting area. When you're under goggles, looking out of a camera, you can't see what's behind you, directly to the left, or directly to the right, or even directly above and below you...you've got a narrow field of vision. Use one if you can, even if it means bringing a kid along to say, "Hey, you wanna see me pull some loops and rolls?" Lay out the instructions, make a game of it, and they're likely to help you out. :)
 

IanSR

Active member
#11
When you're under goggles, looking out of a camera, you can't see what's behind you, directly to the left, or directly to the right, or even directly above and below you.
You can't do that when you are flying line of sight either.

The rules were written by someone with no concept of flying, they just looked at it from a purely practically point of view and though "ah you can't see behind you" yup well it's the same for general aviation and generally I like to see where I am going not where I've been, and if a light aircraft is flying below the tree line behind my quad, he's got more to worry about than the quad, a lot more. If I need to look behind me while flying a quad, I can often do it faster by turning the quad around than the spotter can talk.

Here in the UK the rules are even worse, not only do you have to have a spotter but if you are not a member of a flying club or one of the organisations, the spotter must be connected by buddy box to you and must be able to take over control in the event they need to, as others have pointed out, by the time you've realised you are in trouble, you've already hit the tree, plus it is far easier and safer to fly a quad FPV than it is line of sight.

Want to laugh at something though? Because of the crazy exemptions the BMFA has negotiated with the CAA, my 450gram 5" quad is limited to a maximum of 400 foot regardless of whether flying FPV or line of sight, but my 2kg 1.5 meter wide wing can legally fly to 1000 foot regardless of whether I'm flying FPV or LoS, I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure in a collision with a light aircraft (who regularly fly over our field at 700 foot becuase they can) it's gonna be the "we have a better safety record than drones so the rules shouldn't apply to us" fixed wing model that will cause the most damage.

Edit: Another little caviat our clubs legal guy found in the regulations, a fully autonomous UAV needs neither a remote pilot, nor a spotter whilst flying (or rather than it being specified, they have been so specific regarding the remote pilot / SUAV relationship in the regulations, that it doesn't cover fully autonomous SUAVs so they are in effect, unregulated).
 
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Merv

Well-known member
#12
what if you are in the middle of the middle of nowhere? Otherwise known as rural Indiana. There aren't people for miles so when I fly fpv alone over a cornfield in unrestricted airspace, is that allowed?
You should always have a recording on the ground of you flight video, preferable with the GPS coordinates displayed. This will be extremely useful if your plane ever goes down in the sea of corn. Don't ask me how I know. Beware of crop dusters, if you see or hear them, come down immediately. The 400' limit is useless for us in corn country during crop dusting season.
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
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#13
You can't do that when you are flying line of sight either.
When I wrote that you can't see behind you, I meant that you cannot see directly behind your plane when you are flying under goggles, via FPV. LOS, you have a much more open view to see things around your plane. Turning around under FPV, right into a plane, bird, etc. that's coming after you, even if you are quicker, could result in a midair collision.
 
#14
You should always have a recording on the ground of you flight video, preferable with the GPS coordinates displayed. This will be extremely useful if your plane ever goes down in the sea of corn. Don't ask me how I know. Beware of crop dusters, if you see or hear them, come down immediately. The 400' limit is useless for us in corn country during crop dusting season.
I know the guy who owns the field and I ask him about crop dusters before I fly every time