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Why you need a spotter...

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#1
My field has been having more people interested in FPV - not just on multirotors, but on fixed wing aircraft as well. Pilots are wanting to step up to fly with a camera in the cockpit, so they can see exactly what it's like to fly a scale version of their favorite warbird.

However, it was brought up by multiple people this past weekend, "Do I REALLY need to have a spotter when flying FPV?"

The answer is yes, and here's why:

1) The AMA and the FAA require it. (I know, there's a lot of hate for the AMA and the FAA right now, but whether you love them or hate them, it doesn't change the current requirements from them for safety)

2) The spotter is there to help keep midair collisions from happening - we've had some close calls in the past, and having someone watch out to make sure someone isn't trying to land below your plane, or coming in on a fast, low approach behind you, is a good thing. I liken it to the full scale aircraft having a tower coordinating takeoffs and landings - they're watching out to make sure nothing bad happens.

3) At my field, we have boundaries where you're not supposed to fly (i.e., out over the freeway, over the pit or staging area/parking lot, etc.) It's hard to see those boundaries sometimes through the FPV camera, especially when you have a bit of a fish eye lens field of view.

The last reason that I gave to everyone asking, however, was the one that seemed to resonate best with everyone who wanted to get into it:

4) When your aircraft goes down, your spotter can point and say, "It went down about 100 ft out, just to the left of that bush," or "you're just in front of the 3rd gate!"

This last bit has been CRUCIAL for us the past few weekends, since we've been flying TinyWhoops, and the grass at the field is JUST a tad high. I'm 5'9", and the grass is hitting me up to my knees. When a quad that fits in the palm of your hand goes down in tall grass, you want ANY help you can get to find that sucker. And believe me, we're ALL grateful for that spotter who can narrow it down to, "Right there, about 2 feet to your left!"

I'm sure there'll be some people who will disagree with me, but even the die hards generally admit that having someone who saw where you went down is beneficial. :)
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#3
Yup, no matter what you think of the first three number four is crucial.
Yesterday, one of the new members to our club was telling us how he'd bought a 3" quad at the local hobby shop. He took it outside, punched the throttle, and it shot up quicker than he expected, out of sight. He chopped the throttle, and it fell into a neighbor's backyard.

So, he pulled on his goggles to see where it was, and while he was looking through the goggles, all of a sudden he sees it moving, and then it goes up over a fence, and is moving through the air, where it gets dropped down by some trash cans on the street. Next thing he sees is a black beak pecking at the camera.

Turns out a raven had flown by, picked it up, and dropped it down by a neighbor's trash cans, 10 houses away from him, but it took him the better part of a day trying to figure out where exactly his brand new quadcopter was dropped...
 

The Hangar

Well-known member
Mentor
#4
Yesterday, one of the new members to our club was telling us how he'd bought a 3" quad at the local hobby shop. He took it outside, punched the throttle, and it shot up quicker than he expected, out of sight. He chopped the throttle, and it fell into a neighbor's backyard.

So, he pulled on his goggles to see where it was, and while he was looking through the goggles, all of a sudden he sees it moving, and then it goes up over a fence, and is moving through the air, where it gets dropped down by some trash cans on the street. Next thing he sees is a black beak pecking at the camera.

Turns out a raven had flown by, picked it up, and dropped it down by a neighbor's trash cans, 10 houses away from him, but it took him the better part of a day trying to figure out where exactly his brand new quadcopter was dropped...
Lol, that makes a funny story - as long as it doesn’t happen to you... :ROFLMAO:
 

Hai-Lee

Old and Bold RC PILOT
#7
Your explanation of the need for a spotter is very accurate but is focused upon the Quad and does not mention the original reason behind the legal impost.
Originally the legal requirement for a spotter was to protect other people and their property from being endangered by the quad flying on FPV. An errant pedestrian/spectator often would not be seen by the operator. The quad pilot could possibly impact with the pedestrian/spectator especially if the pilot lost positional/spacial awareness.

As with all safety rules/laws the interpretation of the reasoning behind them is often somewhat skewed to the personal view and not the original reasoning behind the legislation.

Most legislation and other restrictions have their origin in SAFETY and not in protecting the user or his equipment.

Have fun!
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#8
Your explanation of the need for a spotter is very accurate but is focused upon the Quad and does not mention the original reason behind the legal impost.
Originally the legal requirement for a spotter was to protect other people and their property from being endangered by the quad flying on FPV. An errant pedestrian/spectator often would not be seen by the operator. The quad pilot could possibly impact with the pedestrian/spectator especially if the pilot lost positional/spacial awareness.

As with all safety rules/laws the interpretation of the reasoning behind them is often somewhat skewed to the personal view and not the original reasoning behind the legislation.

Most legislation and other restrictions have their origin in SAFETY and not in protecting the user or his equipment.

Have fun!
It's always about safety, regardless of the type of aircraft. I made it more personal for the people in my club who want to "argue" because they don't like the FAA or AMA rules that have been imposed. One guy said he could see just fine for where he was flying on his Opterra, and I had to tell him, "Maybe, but that camera's fixed. You can't turn your head to see next to or behind you like a full scale pilot might. ATC can. That's what a spotter is - your ATC."

He still argued, so that's when I brought up the spotter knowing where to tell you where your aircraft went down, and it instantly became, "Oh, yeah, good point."

Safety IS important - believe me. But some of these guys don't see the safety aspect, and so putting it into a more personal view makes them be a little more vested and pay attention.
 

LitterBug

Troll Spammer
#9
Equipment failures happen! Ghost branches happen! Leaves get stuck on cameras! Antennas get bent or knocked off. People plug in on top of you when you are flying. It does not matter if it's a quad, tri, plane, heli, etc... An outside set of eyes (aka spotter) can also help guide you back in should you loose FPV and still have control of the vehicle.
 

Hoomi

Well-known member
#10
Equipment failures happen! Ghost branches happen! Leaves get stuck on cameras! Antennas get bent or knocked off. People plug in on top of you when you are flying. It does not matter if it's a quad, tri, plane, heli, etc... An outside set of eyes (aka spotter) can also help guide you back in should you loose FPV and still have control of the vehicle.
Precisely. If nothing else, a spotter can give the pilot cues on maintaining straight, level flight while the pilot removes the FPV goggles, and then point out exactly where the aircraft is, so the pilot can control and land it the old fashioned way.