The growing world of first person view model aviation

From Dave Mathewson’s Upcoming Model Aviation Column

First person view (FPV) flight involves flying a radio-controlled aircraft while viewing the flight through a set of goggles or with a monitor that simulates the pilot’s view as if he or she were sitting in the cockpit. It’s hard to describe FPV modeling as a new technology, but in relation to a number of other modeling disciplines it is still considered by many to be in its infancy.

Although there may have been others, the Pilot View FPV system sold by Hobby Lobby is considered by many to mark the beginning of the FPV era in the US. While some were flying FPV by designing and building their own equipment, Pilot View was one of the first off-the-shelf systems that could be bought and installed in a model by the average modeler. It first became available in roughly early 2008.

Since that time, the number of people who enjoy this aspect of model aviation has grown exponentially. Mirroring that growth is the advancement in technology in FPV systems that has resulted in more reliable, easier-to-fly models, making them more attractive to model aviation enthusiasts.

In October 2008, AMA recognized this relatively new form of aeromodeling and, at the encouragement of some of our members, worked to create a policy that would enable those who wanted to fly FPV to do so under the umbrella of AMA’s safety programming. In fact, some those members helped us draft our initial policy (AMA Document 550,, which is still in effect today.

AMA tends to move cautiously when addressing new modeling disciplines. It’s a philosophy that has been used and followed successfully for decades. AMA works hard to embrace new technologies, but we need to consider the collateral effect anything that we do will have on existing modeling disciplines as well as ensure that any change in direction assimilates smoothly into our liability protection programming.

Since the FAA first began its sUAS regulatory effort in April 2008, we have been cognizant of looming potential regulation of model aviation that will likely become a reality sometime in the later part of 2013. All of this plays a role in every decision we make.

Since the beginning of the year, the AMA leadership has been considering whether or not it’s time, after three-and-a-half years, to take a new look at our current policy on FPV flight. As part of the process, we ran a survey in the May edition of AMA Today, AMA’s online monthly e-newsletter, asking members for their thoughts on the subject.

The response to that survey was more than double the number of responses to any previous one that has appeared in our e-newsletter. The replies told us that many of our members are becoming involved in FPV. Many told us that it was time we took a fresh look at our current policy to see if some of the requirements could be relaxed. There were also responses from a smaller, yet significant number of our members who were concerned that we not do anything that would jeopardize any other facet of aeromodeling.

The AMA Executive Council has agreed that it may be time to revisit FPV. Many of our members have been forthcoming in offering constructive suggestions about what might be done to modify our current policy so that it is more reflective of what is occurring today in the field. These suggestions will be taken into consideration as we move ahead with the review.

Many prominent members of the FPV community have offered their help. We intend to take advantage of their background and expertise as well.

Most recognize that there will be some limitations to whatever changes we eventually make. It’s doubtful that we will be able to find a way to assimilate FPV modeling, unfettered and unrestricted, into our current programming as some would prefer we do. What we can do, however, is to work together to find a way that may allow some latitude from what is our current policy so that it will enhance the enjoyment of our members who want to be involved in model aviation through the FPV medium.

As the process evolves, we will continue to keep our members updated on our progress.


  1. […] The AMA blog on 6/7/2012 has published the outcome of a survey that asked members to voice their opinion on FPV. FPV Manuals is happy to see that the response to this survey proved an ever increasing interest in FPV. We are also glad that the AMA has decided to re-visit the 3-year old FPV rules and policy. FPV Manuals is offering any help requested to assist the AMA while going through this review. See the full blog article below. Original article located here. […]

  2. Regarding FPV:
    Given the tenuous Congressional support we received earlier this year, vis-a-vis the DOT’s rule-making on UAS, it seems unwise to be looking at any changes to existing AMA positions on model aircraft operations. Most especially, aspects of model aviation that may be perceived as presenting a security threat. Whatever we do, we must not appear to be a “moving target” until the rule-making process is completed, and new regulations are in place.
    PJ Wright
    Chattanooga RC Club

    1. Being from Oklahoma and having known Sen.James Inhoff for a long time and his avid support of any types of flying, I know that he would support anything that we might ask, but I agree with PJ Wright that with some of the crazy things that can happen no matter how innocent it may be, this one that might be left alone.

    2. I feel many of the, overblown, fears of either grievous accident or the weaponization of FPVs could largely be solved by an understanding, and perhaps if necessary a weight limit regulation; most FPV craft are foamies and have neither the kinetic energy or excess weight carrying capacity to make them nearly as dangerous the much larger gas fueled “normal” LOS rc craft.

      BTW the gov, so far, seems most worried about regular LOS rc; we just had 3 days of no rc flying in the NYC area.  I really question the wisdom of essentially sending out an email informing thousands of general public that a VIP ( the prez) will be landing at certain airports around certain times.  The chance of these notifications unintendedly providing an opportunity for malicious behavior would seem far outweighed by the pretty nominal risk posed by AMA members flying from their fields–unless the gov really wants to be able to fly nap of the earth in case of an attack from shoulder fired missiles or something without having to worry about balsa and foam.  

      The reality is that to develop a meaningfully dangerous FPV (esp. given the toy-like capabilities and carrying capacities of the current state of the art hobbyist) some whacko would really have to build a much larger craft using way more sophisticated equipment.  This would be way more noticeable than a 1 pound foamy at your local field and in the end it takes a lot less to deliver an explosive in a backpack, briefcase or car.  I think as a group we should move our internal discussions back from hyperbolic and inflammitory (to the press and other people of impractical sensibilites) worries that are more applicable to giant sized or closer to full scale Rc craft than the TOYS we’re really flying.

  3. FPV flight has no place in our hobby just beacuse we can dose not mean we should. It is also the best way to have the FAA all over us. After 41 years of being in the airlines I know how the FAA works we do not need that. Lets just fly as we have alwase done!!!!

    1. I’m in agreement with Thomas A. Camp. FPV modeling/flying is just a fad like most things in our society today. This hobby has been fun for decades without FPV, so why get the government and politics involved in our sport that will usher in all kinds of limitations and restrictions that could eventually hender what little freedom we already have. I’m all for technology as I have worked in it for 30 years, but FPV rc flying could be a technology that we rc enthusiasts just may want to pass up.

      1. A. Gross, Feel free to pass it up – I don’t think it’s your decision to make on FPV pilot’s behalf, though.

        Thomas A. Camp, “Let’s fly as we have always done”. that would mean with control lines. Remember, the 400ft rule was a result of us starting to use remote controls. No need for that. Strap some strings to your plane, plenty of fun to be had with that. Right?

        PJ Wright, in numerous FBI pamphlets distributed among R/C shops large scale aircraft were mentioned as possible security threat. Nowhere do they mention FPV. If you are trying to stay off the radar from governments, I suggest to move forward and ban any kind of aircraft that is big enough to carry large amounts of explosives or fuel.

      2. Let’s just fly airplanes like we’ve always done….attached to two strings connected to a handle safely held by some guy in the middle. Who needs technology? Yeah…..right…..

      3. I’m sorry, but I cannot agree with this statement. This hobby has evolved over the year. From tube-based radio equipment to spread spectrum radios, digital servos, turbine engines, electric flight, foam construction, and many more features that didn’t exist decades ago, yet show that this hobby is only evolving. Those are not fad. Where do you draw the line? Do we prevent turbine RC models? Do we prevent electric flight? I think it is highly presumptuous of you to decide what’s a fad, and what should RC enthusiasts pass up.

      4. I agree with Thomas Camp and A. Gross – I can’t believe we would risk this wonderful hobby for FPV – Its all a fad and adds to exactly what we don;t want – RC pilots exploring a distance greater than field limitation and vision and you know that is coming – why tempt faith – and push this – I have had a instance that a young man shows to our AMA field with FPV and a modified 18 mile range transmitter – so whats that for ?? – this is not the thing to do -just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I truly belive that the FAA is asking us to control this with an Iron Glove and contol it now – if we do not they will.

    2. I agree fully with Mr. Camp we are going to have our flying privilages taken completely away if we dont stop FPV flying. If anyone wants to experience the in cockpit view they should take flying lessons and experience the real thing.

    3. Perhaps it has no place in your hobby, but if you ask anyone that has actually tried it then they would strongly disagree with you. You should not discount it just because it is not something that you are not interested in. They do not need permission from the AMA to fly FPV so saying that is not allowed will be largely ignored.

      The best way to influence those that do fly FPV is to assimilate them, not reject them. For many people FPV is what got them interested in the hobby.

    4. Wasn’t there a talking back, that electric motor power has nothing to flying planes, and all should fly glow/gas?
      Accept the modern technology, not reject it. How many other things changed in the hobby in the last 41 years, Thomas? Just think how many things are not there, substituted with new technologies.
      FPV is something new and for a lot of people very exciting way of hobby-ing. Do you have also something against multi-copters, too? They are new, and also heavily used for FPV.

      My thinking is, make FPV not loose, but also not very restrictive. If you make it too restrictive, then people will “rebel” and fly without any restrictions, thus more dangerous and reckless. We don’t want that. This is an era of FPV pioneering, and rejection is normal, people are scared from the unknown.
      Now you know how the pioneers of the early tries of putting man on a plane were feeling. Are you rejection cries very similar to the old “Men are not birds, their place is on the ground, not in the air”.

    5. What??? FPV has no place in our hobby? Are you serious??? Perhaps we should not allow R/C operation anymore for fear you may loose signal and have a fly away…or not allow fueled motors as they pollute the air…or get rid of propellers because they can cut you…or go back to horse and buggies because cars are just plain dangerous (do you know how many people are killed/injured everyday because of automobiles?). FPV is not a fad. It’s a different experience and one I fully enjoy after many, many years of ‘normal’ flying. It’s a different aspect of our hobby…just like electric power is…just like control line is…just like sloping is. So much for the pioneering spark with your attitude. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go milk the cows and collect the eggs from the chicken house. Those grocery stores are dangerous…I think they should be outlawed!!!

    6. Can you just see a 1/3rd scale YAK in freeFlight?
      The Chicken Little naysaying mentality has always tried to styfle/limit the progress of brilliant minds. It may have slowed it down by generating paradiams but, this has yet to stop the progress.
      Let us address the “T” word.
      #1 We the AMA members are not TERRORIST!,
      #2 We are the best extention of Home Land Security there is, where RC and FPV are concerned.
      #3 The “T” would be a fool to even try to recuit in an AMA sanctioned club.
      #4 The “T” is and expert in arms aquisition on the black market. What makes anyone think they the AMA to order RC/FPV from Chinese open markets VIA the Internet?
      #5 You find the “T” in some isolated building room/remote smooooothe country road (may even in a desert), preparing there craft. NOT IN OUR AMA CLUBS!
      Mr. President,cc FBI,ccCIA,cc Home Land Security, WE THE AMA AND MEMBERS ARE NOT THE THREAT!
      I am an old Private Pilot who can no longer fly the real birds due to Diabetes. I view the FPV version of RC flight as a tool to satisfy the itch to fly by a now handycapped Pilot. Don’t fence me in by unconstitional bigitry.

    7. Turbine were not allowed in the past. However they have been with an AMA waiver. So whats the big deal. Turbines are dangerous. explode!

  4. Thanks, Dave!

    I appreciate the AMA leadership taking a proactive role in moving FPV forward. FPV is a growing, exciting and important portion of the hobby.

    We will once again provide FPV “Video Rides” at the upcoming NEFI (National Electric Fly-In) at AMA HQ in Muncie, June 22nd & 23rd, with Jay Smith’s help … Jay is the CD of the event, and is very supportive of FPV …

    I am on a mission to allow everyone to experience FPV first-hand.

    I hope to meet you again at this year’s NEFI!

    Thanks for all the work you do!

    How can we improve the status of FPV in the community?

    Kevin Hines

  5. Having been in the hobby for 30+ years starting from that first bungee launch plane to Helicopters and now FPV, I recognize that this is by far the most controversial version of the hobby I’ve been interested in. I love everything about our hobby and I’ve recently built my first FPV. I truly believe it is a fantastic progression in the sport but it is riddled with many rules and regulations that keep it from being explored completely. I don’t disagree with the AMA rules regarding FPV but I do believe they will need to change. If not, we will likely be in violation of those rules. Keeping Line of Sight while flying FPV for example limits where FPV can and will undoubtedly go. I also agree that the rules should move with the direction of the hobby if they intend to be remotely observed.

    Driving 50mph in a 45mph zone is common, driving 80mph in a 45mph zone is either reckless or the limits are too strict.

    1. Hi Adson, I have no doubt that you are a safe pilot. But it does not mean the “traditional flying” is safer than FPV. Please read this article. This “traditional flying” nitro plane ran away for more than 3 miles away. While most of the FPV planes now a days are equipped with OSD and even RTH, the plane will come back to the launch site when video or RC transmitter run out of range. All I want to say is that FPV is safer than the “traditional flying” and the second LOS co-pilot is useless.

  6. The 2 pilot requirement in the current AMA FPV rules effectively bans FPV flight from AMA flying sites. If the AMA wishes to represent and speak to FPV enthusiasts the 2 pilot requirement must be eliminated.
    Mike Burk

    1. How does the two person requirement ban it from AMA Club fields? We follow the two person requirement for the Introductory Pilot Program.

      1. Because the specific AMA rule (what we refer to as the “buddy box rule”) states that the FPV pilot (the one with all their time/experience/money in the platform) be forced to relinquish control of their plane to a LoS pilot on the primary controller at any time. It disrespects the FPV pilot by asserting that an FPV platform is only safe when piloted LoS. It assumes the LoS pilot on the primary controller always has greater situational awareness than the FPV pilot which is not true. From a practical/technical perspective many FPV planes require extra controls for OSDs/gyro gain/pan&tilt/etc which are not available on a buddy box (many radios only allow trainer to control first 4 channels). Additionally, if using a head tracker, most of them use the trainer port to supply position information to the pan&tilt channels, precluding the use of a buddy box.

        I actually do use a buddy box with my FPV rig quite often, but only to allow other pilots to fly my FPV plane under their own set of goggles. However, I will *not* relinquish the primary controller and thus cannot follow the AMA’s buddy box rule. I doubt any other experienced RC pilot would either. This rule only seems reasonable when it’s not applied to you.

        1. The buddy-box/LOS rule is the correct one. When flying our model aircraft we operate in a three dimensional environment. We are not playing two dimensional video games. Our airplanes have mass, can be controlled with regard to altitude, attitude, speed and direction. When you add FPV to this mix of capabilities you have taken what is essentially a VERY sophisticated, expensive toy (Sorry but that’s what it is) and turned it into a potential weapon. Making FPV models into instruments of destruction in this day and age would be no trick at all. This aspect does not even address the potential control loss and resulting accidental damage and injury issues that are sure to come up. There can be no denying these facts regardless of what line of reasoning is used. It is right and proper that the government would have concerns about this matter. Adopting a “Rules be damned” and “If it feels good, do it” attitude will be sure to bring the FAA, the Department of Homeland Security, the NTSB and god knows what other government agencies down on our hobby like a ton of bricks. It will be far better to let a respected organization like the AMA head off problems by establishing reasonable rules showing the powers that be that we are taking a responsible approach to this relatively new aspect of our hobby. Buddy box/LOS is a good place to start.

      2. I also agree that to have two heads available for decision making when FVP flight is involved makes nothing but good sense. As a lawyer who has dealt with the FAA I also agree that now might be a good time to keep our heads down.

        1. A simple “Two heads” rule might be perfectly reasonable, but that’s not what exists now. See above. What exists now is akin to setting the speed limit to 35mph on the interstate. Absolutely nobody will follow it. A rule or law so restrictive that nobody follows is as good as none at all.

          As for keeping our (AMA’s) heads down. AMA choosing to ignore FPV, or discourage it under their own auspices (the net effect of the buddy box rule today) won’t make it go away. FPV and multi-rotors (with a lot of overlap) are the two fastest growing segments of the hobby. Today AMA representatives often respond to questions about high profile FPV “events” by saying something to the effect of “The AMA does not condone the actions of this individual or this type of flying. We promote safe flying, and encourage FPV within the bounds of our own programming.” The problem is, having created a rule for FPV that absolutely nobody can/will follow, means that the real message the FPV community hears is “While we don’t condone this type of FPV flying, we really have no viable alternative for you.” or more simply “We are anti-FPV”.
          Judging by some of the other comments here, there’s plenty of evidence to support the latter interpretation.

  7. It’s a difficult sales pitch to make when every single youtube video that I see regarding fpv flying does not follow AMA rules. It might be an easier sell to if some latitude were given.

    1. The FAA/AMA NPRM/FAR’s will only allow non regulation of Model Aircraft to be flown within the bounds of a International Community Based Origination. All other Model UAV SUAS drone flying of UNmaned aircraft over 16 oz’s will be subject to the FAR’s
      Federal Aviation Regulations pertaining to Un-maned aerial platforms.
      IN OTHER WORDS IF an INDIAN ie (AMA Members Plane leaves the confines of the reservation ie 1200′ left or right of station 1000′ to the front and 1000′ AGL will be at that time and for all duration of the remaining flight out of the box subject to the FAR’s pertaining to SUAS and will be subject to license of both aircraft and pilot, according to said FAR,s in other word if we take our toy airplanes off the reservation the 7th Cavalierly won’t loose again at the
      “Little Big Horn”.

    2. That’s the point exactly. The AMA rules are too strict to practice FPV, and actually hinder safe FPV. The buddy-box requirement has been relaxed in the UK and doesn’t exist in most countries where R/C laws are far stricter than in the US. This is why the FPV community has requested the AMA to re-evaluate their stance on FPV and their rules regarding FPV.

  8. I have watched this subject very closely for several decades.I go as far back as watching early experiments out on dry lake beds way back in the 80’s.
    My conclusion is that in the right hands it is usefull. However as a toy it is a major threat to the precious freedom of our flying. Flying or driving any craft while we can still see it controls where we fly and how far away from the operator it goes.
    Once out of personal visual range anything can happen. An inflamatory analogy would be to let someone drive an FPV automobile downtown or on the freeway.
    Although it is technocally a totally cool toy that is now within the range of many personal budgets it could and most likely will prove to be very expensive for the rest of us.

  9. Given the obvious role of big government in our current political environment, I agree with the above comments on maintaining a low profile until at least after the FAA comes out with their proposals.

    1. There must be a second safety pilot while the modeler flys a FPV aircraft and it also should never be flown out of sight. What will happen to the regard of regulations when the accident rate become unacceptable to the public when these FPV becomes a problem is that the local police will stop all model flying outside a private flying field because they won’t be able to tell a regular model from a FPV.
      Problems with FPV and fullsize aircraft have already started and don’t think that the FAA is not taking notice. My background for making this opinion? 50+ years modler, 40+ years fullsize pilot (and FAA safety advisor), 10+ FCC Radio Tech, and AMA member. Playing with onboard videos since the 90s, including experiments with FPV.
      Real story: I recently moved into a “upper class” community with lots a parks. Great I thought, there tons of open areas to fly my little park flyers. However being the good Boy Scout I am, I went to City Hall to see what are the local regulations. They were shocked that I had such a dangerous hobby. I had to attend three meetings, including meetings with the Fire Dept. Chief. They were willing to issue me a premit for One Day to fly. I explained that this is my hobby, I finally received a premit, renewable every six months. One condition is that I call both Fire Depts. 1/2 hour before each time I want to fly. I don’t want to see this happen across the country because of reckless FPV flying, I moved from NYC to get to “wide open spaces” and couldn’t believe that much smaller cmmounities have such restrictive local laws.

      1. Most of FPV equipment have range about a mile, or at least several thousand feet. While most our planes not much bigger than 60″ wing span, it’s very hard to spot it 1000 feet and beyond. In contrast, FPV pilots can have the plane’s situation much better than LOS pilot, even without OSD. As matter of fact, many FPV planes equipped with RTH (Return To Home) feature. This makes flying FPV even safer. Last year our club had a nitro plane ran out of receiver battery. It made large circles at about couple hundred feet altitude and was drifted to about 3 miles away in a heavily settled neighborhood. Very luckily it missed a house and hit a phone pole with only minor damage to the plane. This “traditional flying” accident could be a disaster. This nitro trainer was about 6 pounds and can easily reach 60-70mph. All I want to say is that FPV is actually safer than most of the “traditional flying”. “buddy box” pilot requirement is absolutely wrong.

  10. I feel that we will endanger our RC flying line of sight privileges in the eyes of the FAA. We should not alow this activity to be part of the AMA. If we do, we all will be a suspect in the eyes of the community and the FAA. Just like noise, FPV will a huge problem for flying sites. AMA leader,member and Active Modeler since 1948.

    1. In another few years there will be so many UN-Maned aircraft flying the “FRIENDLY SKYS” that enforcement won’t be able to tell one from the other UNTIL after the fact Just as the FAA prosaquetes it’s pilots today after the offense has been detected … Like speeding on the freeway is not processaquitable until a ticket has been issued because of a camera or an officer has observed a violation. ie other words if they don’t see ya do it they won’t respond … but Lord help ya if they suspect ya of an infraction of the FAR’s because U are Guilty till U Prove your Innocence satisfactorily to the FAA.

  11. Basically my observations as both an FPV / video pilot and private pilot are as follows:

    As I understand it, the AMA’s position on FPV flying has requirements for two ‘AMA pilots’, within VLOS and below 400 foot and a buddy box in use. This has one element I favor, and that would be the altitude suggestion (restriction?) for FPV flight. This obviously is a great idea to avoid any conflict with manned GA aircraft. The other restrictions, from the AMA that is, I feel are way too restrictive, or simply not needed. The buddy box requirement for the FPV pilot is simply not required as will be explained. Let us examine what I see are two methods of flying an RC aircraft:

    VLOS – Visual Line of Sight
    Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) method obviously is the old golden standard and has unique advantages, but comparatively some weaknesses as well. Within the domain of collision avoidance with GA aircraft VLOS flying’s main disadvantage is the limitations on depth perception of either the VLOS pilot or spotter. This disadvantage is frequently reviled when a pilot misjudges a distance and inadvertently strikes an object. This fact of VLOS is simply unavoidable so some allowances / considerations should be in place to compensate. Certainly this concept can be found in the AMA’s rules for flying both off and on AMA fields.

    RLOS – Radio Line of Sight
    What I see missing here, again within the domain of anti conflict with GA aircraft, is the seemingly overlooked advantages of FPV / video piloting by the AMA. One of the strongest advantages of the FPV method is situational awareness. I still remember my flight instructor stressing this while flying. Having exact control of the RC aircraft and real time knowledge of its exact position reference trees, distance speed etc is key to avoiding conflict in the airspace. This information is not available while flying VLOS so adjustments to AMA policy while flying in this manner are needed.

    FPV flying is not an ‘add on’, accessory or novelty to VLOS, rather an entirely separate and different method of RC piloting. Each has strengths and I feel the AMA should address it as a different method with its own unique, well though out / researched operational rules. Again the AMA policy seems to be an after thought and does not properly address this method properly as it relates to safety or the future of RC flying. I must also introduce a concept I referred to as RLOS, Radio line of sight. This is simply the range of a pilots video / radio / antenna gear that allows control of the aircraft to the surface in the event it is needed. Again, this equipment must be able to provide a clear video link to safely guide the aircraft to the surface for landing if needed. This will vary with terrain, equipment selection and many other variables. It does introduce many added concepts to flying, but that is the way of it when new technologies are invoked.

    Now back to GA flying and another suggestion. From basic physics and common sense I would suggest a weight restriction of around 10 pounds be adopted in AMA for FPV flight. I have read many opinions of what could happen if an RC aircraft were to strike a manned aircraft, but as a GA pilot view it as a bird strike event. I just want to make sure that this new ‘bird’ I may strike has limited damage potential. We can not take all the risk from either type of flying, but applying some common sense will minimize risks for the combined benefit of all.

    1. I agree with you 100% keeping it under 400 ft.; the other restrictions need to be revisited by people that actually have experience with FPV.

    2. I can’t agree with the 400″ agl suggestion unless it is specified as within TCAs. 400′ is completely unnecessary for someone in a rural area away from major flight paths, but with this wording would be limited to 400′ anyway.

  12. While I understand the point of view that now may not be the time to draw too much attention to ourselves before the FAA’s NPRM comes out, that shouldn’t preclude discussion and working together towards an ultimate goal of updating the Safety Code’s approach to FPV.

    FPV flying is not inherently unsafe. Any technology — any activity — can be misused. Any car can be driven faster than the speed limit, but that doesn’t make all drivers dangerous. I’ve been flying RC since 1979, and FPV is actually safer than most model operations I’ve seen. The reason is that the vast majority of FPV pilots know much, much more about the systems at work in their aircraft than most scale or fun-fly pilot. This isn’t because they’re more adept or dedicated, but because you have to develop a solid understanding of the technologies at work in an FPV setup simply to get it to work well.

    Going back to the late ’70s, I remember when giant scale models were considered a fad, then a threat that was going to ruin it for the rest of us (they’re so big, the FAA has to regulate them so what’s going to keep them from regulating me??? was the refrain). I remember when 3D aerobatics were considered an impure bastardization of pure pattern flying and should be banned (“for the good of the hobby”). I remember when an explosion of helicopter flying was seen as the ruination of the sport. I don’t remember — but I’ve been told by someone who’s been around longer than I — that RC was going to ruin model aviation (this was the standpoint of dedicated CL flyers). Now it’s FPV.

    Most FPV pilots I’ve flown with and spoken with around the country actually welcome reasonable AMA regulation. Yes, the majority view is that the buddy box makes flying less safe rather than moreso, but the majority also views the requirement of a spotter as quite a reasonable requirement. The same goes for altitude, weight, and LOS requirements. I’ve heard many FPV pilots even say they’d welcome the requirement of a waiver (similar to turbine flying) in which the pilot would have to demonstrate their knowledge of the technical intricasies involved in FPV in addition to actual flight operations (like, why don’t you use a patch antenna to recieve a video signal from a RHCP skew planar wheel transmit antenna?).

    Some may think that FPV is the end of RC as we know it, but most of us really aren’t that far apart on what we would consider reasonable regulations for FPV. Let’s keep the conversation going, OK?

  13. While I appreciate the step forward with the application of new technology with FPV, I cannot support it use in our hobby and should be prohibited. FPV will take a hobby that I have enjoyed for many years and seen it become a weapon system for our military with the application of mega bucks in the not to distant past to a off the shelf terrorist weapon! It would be a very short step from a hobby FPV aircraft to a terrorist missile, details which should be left unsaid! We no longer live in a peaceful world where everyone believes in live and let live.
    Having said the above, I noticed that nobody has addressed the reliability
    issue. The systems involved can fail, what happens next? A crash into a
    home, car on a highway, shopping mall? What happens when the FPV pilot becomes disorientated and does not recognize were they are flying and does not know the way back to the field? FPV and solutions to the above questions and others not mentioned are no longer a “HOBBY” endeavor but rather a complex industrial device!
    I have been involved in the RC hobby since 1960 and worked on military and industrial computer systems during my career.

    1. Hi Roger, In many ways, FPV is safer than most of the “traditional flying” RC planes. First, most of the FPV planes are pusher prop lightweight planes. Damages they might make are less severe. For instance, my NexSTAR 67″ wingspan nitro balsa trainer, which is relatively small even in our small RC club, weighs about 7 pounds while my FPV Raptor’s flight weight is only 3.6 pounds. NexSTAR easily can reach to speed of 65-70mph, while latter only can fly at 40-50mph max. It’s very easy to tell the difference of their momentum and mechanical energy on impact. Further more, NexSTAR’s front prop is way more dangerous than latter’s pusher prop. Second, as other bloggers stated, FPV pilots have much better awareness of the plane’s situation. LOS pilots cannot estimate distance accurately when the plane is far away, even with some reference landmarks, such as trees or houses, while FPV pilots can see clearly what’s at the front of it’s flight path. Most of the FPV planes are equipped with OSD and that is the best telemetry we can get. Third, Many of them even have stabilizer and Return To Home (RTH) enabled. In case the radio, either RC or video, ran out of range, it will return to the launch site automatically. Forth, as other blogger said, most FPV pilots have better RC flying experience on average. They are more knowledgeable to the whole system, including airframe, power and electronics. For the insurance point of view, they are safer drivers. All I want to say is that FPV flying is not more dangerous than “traditional flying”, but rather safer instead.

      Here is a true story from our RC club. The 65″ nitro trainer lost control and drifted more than 3 mile away in to a residential area. It was very lucky that almost no damage occurred, but potentially it could be disastrous.

  14. There are clearly 3 groups of people on the FPV debate.

    A) Those who feel it is a fad and doesn’t need to be looked at as part of the RC hobby in general, and feel the vast majority of FPVers are cowboys, mavericks, showboats, and essentially dangers to us all, the communities they are in and AMA fields/members.

    B) Those who aren’t sure what FPV is or can totally do, how it’s used, but are open to new technologies and ways to incorporate them into RC as with any part of our lives in the modern world embracing technology… of course expecting this will be done safely.

    C) Those who are involved in FPV, realize how safe it is and can’t quite understand why there is so much backlash from a facet that’s been going on for years now with many many thousands of man hours in the skies with all types of FPV craft, without incident.

    It’s hard to accept those who say they are involved in technology who won’t support this facet of RC flying when there simply is no evidence of overwhelming problems in the FPV world regarding safety. Quite the contrary. There are no more problems in FPV than any other part of RC in the skies. What/where is the evidence? I’m sure there are more LOS flyers plowing into the ground 10 fold over FPV planes going down, and in general the common FPVer has spent significantly more on their plane to put into the air compared to the same LOS flyer meaning they have more invested literally in keeping it flying safe and sound.

    To those who feel it’s a fad, there is nothing to say more then you’re flat wrong. Others said that about helis and nitro jets when they came out and are not going anywhere, and for whatever reason those who make those comments are NOT in the know and don’t participate in current FPV activities even though they imply otherwise. If they did they’d know that’s one of the silliest statements in this debate. I don’t know of 1 FPVer who’s said “You know what, I’m stopping FPV because it’s not safe”. FPV is and can be done very safely, and when you add in the 1st person perspective one could argue the control position of the onboard camera actually gives a pilot much more control as opposed to 3rd person pilot flying LOS. The term “lost orientation” exists because it happens. You don’t hear FPVers say this.

    The sad part to me is the outright negative position of AMA members not involved in FPV to shun us and actually suggest we aren’t safe, conscious and intending on doing the right thing to be safe and respectful of our own communities and flying locations.

    99% of FPVers are the same people as you and me and generally working stiffs who enjoy strapping a wireless camera system onto an RC plane and getting to fly as the birds do, getting to fly together in formation, and even have fun doing some acrobatics. They are good people with good intentions just enjoying the hobby, and because some people can think of the most exotic and dangerous situations an FPV craft could be in they take it so far to one side it’s essentially “Fear Mongering”. If you intend on hurting people there are a million ways before an FPV craft to hurt others. We can’t live our lives scared of the dirtbags out there, we can only try to foster a culture of positivity, safety consciousness and education. The real rogues won’t be a part of AMA anyway, so this really isn’t a concern for this FPV debate.

    All the FPV community is looking for is support for the AMA to redraft the guidelines in a way that’s more reasonable to perform FPV at clubs to better suits what is the current standard of safety for the craft we fly all the time without incident.

    There should not be a backlash for the AMA attempting to bridge this gap and maintain guidelines that are current and reasonable. I support the AMA for standing up to do the right thing here even in the face of a small audience of those who are against this variation of the standard RC craft that FPV is.

    Please have an open mind to the progress the AMA is doing and realize this is good for all AMA members as the organization stay’s fresh on it’s positions as the times change and supports it’s members.

    FPV will be positive in this country:

    1) For the economy as we all spend a lot on our toys
    2) Jobs will come from this industry as demand grows
    3) Security and safety can be improved utilizing these technologies and Americans can be a part of this from search and rescue and civilian based help all the way onto military power and better focused spending
    4) Give us a potential engineering edge on the future of aeronautics. At one point the US was a key player in technology development and FPV is a direct path to this area for both adults and kids who might be interested.
    5) Our National and local parks aren’t open to us but they are also failing in terms of being able to support their spending needs and another article of recent noted how less and less young people are using them and they are being closed due to lack of funds and interest. If they changed their stance however and recognized what we do (all RC) as a positive outdoor activity like hiking, boating, climbing, etc, they could attract a whole new audience who would both help add to the funding and also get to enjoy the parks their tax money goes to run.

    Those are just few off the top of my head.

    I challenge other Americans to think about the positivity FPV can bring and not the fear mongering. Remember our country had historically been very strong promoting our homegrown technology and we’re slowly loosing this overseas. Don’t lose sight of the big picture and remember we are all RC lovers… lets enjoy RC together in a positive way. FPV is a good thing done by good people that can be the same as other RC and even more helpful in many cases.

    1. Wonderfully expressed and proof that an individual can justify and rationalize just about any activity regardless of the potential consequences. I seriously doubt that FPV is going to have much effect on the economy. Our hobby spending is hardly one of the leading economic indicators in this country. As for FPV advancing technology, I’m pretty sure that aspect is fairly well along. Think Predator drone. You might be right about one thing. FPV might attract more young people. After all, this type of RC flying is very similar to the ubiquitous two-dimensional video games that most American kids are familiar with. I can see it now, thousands of young people with no knowledge of RC or aeronautics trying to learn to fly through FPV. Youth being what it is it’s useless to say that they would start out by learning the basic RC skills before being allowed to fly-by-video. What a disaster in the making! FPV has potentially dangerous downsides and no amount of cheer-leading is going to change that.

      1. Mr Dechant — While I agree that the economic benefit of FPV to the overall economy is minimal, I feel inclined to point out that the implication that kids would be encouraged to learn to fly via FPV is inaccurate. Were you to look at any of the online forums about FPV (FPVLabs being the largest dedicated to this aspect of the hobby), you would see a few philosophies that are continually tauted as non-negotiable. First and foremost among these is: learn to fly LOS first, and well, before you even think of FPV. FPV flying can include many additional technologies in addition to the basic ones used in LOS flying, so the actual flying has to be second nature before you even enter the FPV arena.

  15. The comments so far on the survey about FPV RC flight appear to range from “I’m going to do what I want” to great concern that we may lose our hobby/sport altogether. For several reasons, I agree with those who propose a cautious approach to handling FPV. First, I worked on both sides of the government bureaucracy for forty years and saw many decisions made without apparent rational reasons. Most recently I flew, and was an officer, with the Tri Valley RC Modelers (AMA 170) which is currently operating under a local airport/ATC agreement as described in the “Conference Committee Report” section of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and in SEC. 336. paragraph (a)(5). It took a year of meetings and iterative negotiations involving the Club, the Club’s landlord, the airport tower operator (a contractor), his company, the FAA Contract Management Office, and the Regional FAA Safety Office, to reach an agreement everyone could live with. Having been involved, I can assure you the club would not have its flying field if FPV had been mentioned during the negotiations. Now, in the Reform Act of 2012, read SEC 336. SPECIAL RULE FOR MODEL AIRCRAFT, PARAGRAPH (c)Model Aircraft Defined; (2)flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and . . . Now, read the AMA District VIII Vice President’s column on page 150 of the June 2012 “Model Aviation” magazine to see the FAA’s reaction to an FPV incident, and the effort required to respond. Remember how the news media ran with the item about the young man who proposed to load jet model aircraft with explosives and fly them into the Pentagon? Never mind how impractical, AMA had to expend energy to react to the negative publicity at a critical time in the rule making process. There have been other negative news reports about FPV flight. It will not matter to the FAA whether these kinds of events are related to the AMA or not. But it will influence their decision regarding the ability of AMA to be the community based governing organization for model aviation safety.

  16. I am new to FPV and off and on in general Rc for a couple of decades.

    I believe that having a buddy box on a particular pilot’s first few FPV flights would greatly increase the safety margin during a critical testing and acclimation phase. Perhaps there could be a waiver or rating system whereby a pilot, after demonstrating certain skills with FPV–and/or possessing equipment of proven reliability at range– could fly with somewhat lower restrictions.

    I think there is also a very important distinction between the potential risk that models of various sizes and types pose. A large let alone even moderately sized heli or quad out of control poses much more physical risk (slice and dice) than a park flyer that weighs less than a goose or s micro that weighs less than a tennis ball.

    I’m flying according to the AMA FPV rules but I may in the future build a micro FPV system to buzz around backstops and fence hop; this will not be possible at my club field, but as it will be with a ultra micro plane with a pusher prop that, even if aimed directly at someone deliberately, has incredibly little chance to cause injury. Not factoring the wide spread of weights, speeds and propulsion types in FPV guidlines will invariably lead to rule making that will be impractical and will drive more Rc pilots to rebel flights even worse than what is currently on YouTube.

    For those that argue that we should just stay without FPV as if there hasn’t been vast changes to the hobby–always met with resistance–over all the decades of its existence I would say that if some unfortunate mishap occurs (in all likelyhood by a non-ama pilot) the general public and the FAA won’t care if the pilot wasn’t a member of out little club. Whatever future restrictions that then might come down from on high –for both FPV and regular RC– will then be our problem and hiding our heads in the sand will not protect us and not serve us well. We need to embrace the changes, modulate them and create logical safety rules that will serve as decent guidelines for those interested in the hobby. The AMA has a pretty sterling safety record and while rule making will never please everybody I trust that in the end we’ll end up with something that is useable for members and that will also serve as model norm for those flying outside the fold.

  17. FPV is here to stay. It is growing exponentially. I would hope that the AMA would embrace this new crop of flyers and I certainly hope that the AMA decides to loosen up it’s requirements for FPV flight. Most FPVer’s are experienced pilots that don’t need cumbersome “buddy box” and VLOS restriction (especially since some of the equipment used requires the trainer port…). Having a spotter in some situations? Yes! That makes sense. But only in some situations.

    Thank heavens for the people who have enough guts to change things. If the status quo didn’t get changed once in a while we’d all still be living in caves and limited to control line models…

  18. I must agree with Mr. Thomas Camp that considering the governmental authority of the FAA, It is quite irresponsible and untimely to be pressing the issue with a minority of folks supporting FPV. It would be a shame for some of our own people to sink us. My club is R/C. If you want FPV, either go towards a real pilots licence or get over it. R/C is R/C. FPV is used by the military,
    but that doen’t mean wa are entitled to it–or need it. Stick to the hobby.

  19. AMA Leadership and it’s members have been fighting to keep RC modeling from being perceived as UAV’s and regulations being put on our hobby by the F.A.A. , and now with FPV technology we are trying to make our models more and more like a UAV. I also have been in the Aviation industry for 40 years and I am all for modern technology , but how much ammunition are we going to give to the FAA to restrict us. This is one time we need to pass on this discipline.

  20. We also need to look at the saftey nets.
    Most baseball fields have better saftey nets set up.
    Anything can have a video set up and fly it. Each idea should have its own set of saftey gear to support the type of flying untill the risks are known from time.
    Remove all regs but 400′ and use a none flying pilot to view the flight and area used.
    No flights out of sight.
    test time with input from the field reps. and what more can be done to make things better for everyone.
    But it needs to be done to know the risks from doing the fights with other pilots.
    No flying is 100% safe. RC or not.

  21. Once again,I must say that the AMA should distance itself from FPV systems altogether.

    If not, it will most certainly make the AMA much more vulnerable to public and political scrutiny ‘when’ (and it will happen at some point) a malicious act is carried out while using an FPV system.

    I suppose the AMA could fully restrict FPV systems after such an incident to show good faith and due diligence, but it would be far better if the AMA disassociated itself proactively.

    There’s already a fine line between UAV’s and R/C model aircraft; namely ‘line-of-sight’ control vs. FPV. Allowing FPV within the AMA guidelines removes this most important distinction and violates one of the three characteristics that defines a ‘Model Aircraft’ according to the FAA; namely 1)Capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere 2)FLOWN WITHIN VISUAL LINE OF SIGHT OF THE PERSON OPERATING THE AIRCRAFT; and 3)Flown for hobby or recreation.

    I realize that restricting the use of FPV systems today would not be very popular among a growing number of AMA members, but I believe it’s the best course.

    FPV systems have a place, but not under AMA’s community-based organization.

    I’m counting on my AMA representatives to make tough decisions on my behalf in order to safeguard the liberties we have to operate model aircraft within the NAS.

    1. You, and others, bring up a point I feel deserves more discussion — line of sight. How is it defined? The FAA defines it as there not being an obstacle (including the curviture of the earth) between two objects. The dictionary takes a similar stance (“a straight line connecting two points sufficiently high and near one another so that the line is entirely above the surface of the earth” — Random House). Note that niether definition requires the person viewing to be able to see the object within its line of sight, just that the line be maintained. When the FAA says that you need to be able to actually see something, it requires you to “maintain visual contact” with that object — very different than just maintaining line of sight. So, ‘line of sight’ is a thin reed on which to hang the banishment of an entire (growing) segment of the modeling population.

  22. This isn’t just “model aviation” anymore – it’s technology. And, as such, it has been moving at a blistering pace for a dozen years now. In consideration of this new-normal (change) there is a new tenet that should be adopted:

    If we’re not ahead of the curve, we’re behind it.

    Right now, both the FAA & AMA are way behind the curve. Any resistance to moving quickly to adopt, at minimum, best practices, will be ignored by everyone ahead of the curve… in fact, we’re pretty clearly seeing that already.

    ~jake in Northern CA.

    1. Good point — regardless of what does or doesn’t happen with FPV, the AMA’s Safety Code needs to become more able to respond to the rapid changes in technology or it will simply argue for its own irrelevance as one technological advancement leapfrogs another.

    2. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Academy of Model Aeronautics are not governing nor sanniiontcg bodies for the rest of the free world, and any backlogs or delays will only serve to increase foreign competition in the growing market of FPV equipment. The economic damage has already been done in commercial aviation, particularly in the design and construction of composite aircaft. It is far less expensive to certify a new model, overseas, and simply re-brand the same ship for sale in the United States. This may not be a problem for the domestic gaming generation, but it creates a huge impact for the honest, hard-working American.FPV offers the best of both worlds , for gamers and modelers alike, so I can see the appeal for some. However, there is no reset button when flying in the National Airspace!(NAS) The FAA’s concerns with sUAS’s are warranted and the AMA has not taken them lightly.My main concern is with the liability insurance which I pay dues for. Following safety procedures, outlined by the AMA, has never been a problem for me since joining the organization. Unfortunately, FPV has created a huge grey area within the safety code, and may threaten the AMA’s proven safety record.An obvious proposal is to create a Special Interest Group (SIG) for the operation of FPV vehicles. The SIG’s mostly operate under the umbrella of the AMA, anyhow, and benefit from the liability insurance, however, more dues can be appropriated for special interests.The less appealing option is to create an entirely new sanniiontcg-body, for the operation of sUAS in the NAS, with its own set of bylaws, safety code, and liability insurance. The AMA should not hesitate to propose this if the proven safety record is threatened or violated. Most importantly, foreign interests are not going to suspend their development of FPV and sUAS equipment, simply because the FAA has created another backlog .

  23. I had to sleep on this subject to quell some of my feelings toward some of these comments. It breaks my heart to think that people feel this is the ruin of the hobby or simply a fad. Do you guys realize how deep the fpv part of the hobby is? Do you realize how many different technologies are involved in the quest to fly fpv? Do you realize how many kids are sitting inside on a nice warm day wasting their lives away because they have nothing better to do? Introduce them to this hobby and it may change their lives. If we want to cultivate engineers and scientists today, we need to challenge kids to dream big dreams. Let’s face it, it’s 2012, not 1952. Technology has changed and their are so many more things at kids fingertips. Let’s challenge them with something that will still stir their imagination and ambitions. Embrace the trend and listen to those that are engaged in the hobby and we can come up with some rules that work and preserve the entire hobby.

    Btw – sent from my backyard on my iPhone while taking a break building my shed.

  24. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Academy of Model Aeronautics are not governing nor sanctioning bodies for the rest of the free world, and any backlogs or delays will only serve to increase foreign competition in the growing market of FPV equipment. The economic damage has already been done in commercial aviation, particularly in the design and construction of composite aircaft. It is far less expensive to certify a new model, overseas, and simply re-brand the same ship for sale in the United States. This may not be a problem for the domestic gaming generation, but it creates a huge impact for the honest, hard-working American.

    FPV offers “the best of both worlds”, for gamers and modelers alike, so I can see the appeal for some. However, there is no reset button when flying in the National Airspace!(NAS) The FAA’s concerns with sUAS’s are warranted and the AMA has not taken them lightly.

    My main concern is with the liability insurance which I pay dues for. Following safety procedures, outlined by the AMA, has never been a problem for me since joining the organization. Unfortunately, FPV has created a huge “grey area” within the safety code, and may threaten the AMA’s proven safety record.

    An obvious proposal is to create a Special Interest Group (SIG) for the operation of FPV vehicles. The SIG’s mostly operate under the umbrella of the AMA, anyhow, and benefit from the liability insurance, however, more dues can be appropriated for special interests.

    The less appealing option is to create an entirely new sanctioning-body, for the operation of sUAS in the NAS, with its own set of bylaws, safety code, and liability insurance. The AMA should not hesitate to propose this if the proven safety record is threatened or violated. Most importantly, foreign interests are not going to suspend their development of FPV and sUAS equipment, simply because the FAA has created another backlog….

  25. One real problem that I see with FPV is something that no one has addressed so far, at least directly. In a full scale airplane, the pilot is in the plane. He has his flight instruments and his own supply of fuel with a fuel gauge, and what’s more, he is able to fly anywhere he chooses, without worrying about straying too far from the airport (unless, of course, he’s a student). This is not the case with an R/C model. R/C planes have a limited range and flying outside that range will cause the flier to lose control of their model. And that range will vary, depending upon a number of factors. An FPV flier may be able to have a better perspective, in some ways, than an LOS flier, but once they’re up in the air, it’s very easy to start ranging further and further from the field and end up flying past the transmitter’s and/or receiver’s range. Unless the FPV system includes feedback to the pilot with data about airspeed and altitude, and monitoring equipment that will report how much fuel and battery power is left and that signal strength is beginning to be lost, I think that FPV is an accident (or multiple accidents) waiting to happen.

    1. We do have those capabilities and they are not costly to implement. At the crudest, we know to turn around when the static starts to degrade the video reception. On the upper end, we have GPS coordinates that will tell you exactly where the vehicle is.

      RC is full of accidents. From wasting a nice model, to harming an innocent bystander, to starting fires. So your comment of “FPV is an accident(or multiple accidents) waiting to happen” is really not valid. The average FPVer is probably more aware of the risks to people and property and of the performance and reliability of their equipment than the average AMA member.

      It saddens me to see all of the closed minds on this subject. Even if you stick your heads in the sand, FPV won’t go away.

    2. Respectfully, I must point out the errors in your post. As a former airline pilot and flight instructor, and +30-year RC pilot, I feel qualified to compare the instrumentation and data available to an FPV pilot.

      I would guess that 80% of all FPV flights use an instrument called an OSD (on-screen display). These are made by different manufacturers and have different capabilities, so it would be erroneous to say “all” OSDs have x, y, z data displayed, so I’ll compare what I have on every FPV flight to what I have on every LOS flight. You compare them as well and see if you have this information when flying “the regular way.”

      When flying FPV, I know exactly how much power I have left in my flight battery, and I know if the amp draw and watts used are appropriate to the throttle setting.I also know the rate at which I’m using power and my approximate range given that burn rate. Do you when flying LOS? I don’t.

      When flying FPV, I know my altitude, heading, airspeed, and coordinates, updated ten times a second. Do you when flying LOS? I don’t.

      When flying FPV, I know how strong the RC link is between my transmitter and receiver so I can see when I need to change altitude or come home. Do you when flying LOS? I don’t.

      Except for the last one (which doesn’t apply), I have the same (albeit analogous) information regardless if I’m flying FPV or a full scale 172 or an A310.

      So you see Bob, FPV pilots have exactly the information you say they should have. Problem solved?

      1. Dave & David,

        No, as an LOS flier, I DON’T have the same instrument data available to me as I was stating that a FPV pilot should have. I don’t need it, because I check my models before flying to be sure that my planes and transmitters have fully charged batteries and that the rest of the model is in good flying condition. I also insure that my planes, either nitro or electric, are flown close enough to the field so that in the case of a flameout or low flight battery, I can still get the model back to the field without having it land in someone’s back yard.

        My comments about having instrument data available was basically directed to some of the statements that seem to be being made that FPV flyers should be able to fly when and where they want to, without being on a buddy box or having someone standing next to them telling them what to do. Flying like this will only lead to accidents and more bad publicity for model aviation.

        FPV video and telemetry is fine….as long as it works. What are you going to do if you are off flying some place and your video link dies? How are you going to get your model back? Just take off the FPV goggles and look at it? Sure, provided that you haven’t flown so far away that you can’t find the plane or see the plane well enough to save it. Don’t say that this can’t happen, because newer fliers who don’t have much experience are going to become more interested in seeing the sites from the air than in monitoring their location and distance from the field.

        I don’t see any problem with FPV as long as it is done in such a manner that it is confined to the same flying area as LOS models, and that a spotter is on hand to prompt the FPV pilot to keep their model within the confines of safe modeling. People who just take off and fly FPV and start enjoying the sites without any outside control ARE an accident waiting to happen.

        1. Bob,
          Again, your ignorance of FPV technology and practice lead you to incorrect assumptions. My FPV planes transmit telemetry on a datalink and provide a traditional HUD (heads-up-display) on the video signal. So, I see the roll, pitch, altitude, airspeed, GPS location, power and battery (fuel) status continuously during flight. I’m also “looking” at a video picture of what my plane is doing that’s almost identical to what I see when flying a full-size Cessna or Cirrus. No LOS pilot has anywhere near that level of situational awareness. At my home field, we lose a LOS plane or two each month when the pilot loses orientation or the radio control signal fails.

          In my flying, the on-board autopilot knows where it is and where “home” is at all times. If the control signals are lost, it immediately turns back to the field and establishes an overhead circling pattern. The plane stays there until we regain control or until the battery runs out and it glides down to the ground. Most of the time, we are flying a autopilot flightplan that can include semi-automatic takeoff and fully automatic landing. This is all controlled, monitored and recorded on a laptop computer. I say “we” because my attention is directed to watching the video and monitoring flight plan progress while my safety pilot has the RC transmitter ready to take over. And all this capability is flown in a two-pound foam airplane.

          All of this comes in an off-the-shelf autopilot costing $200. The hardware design and software are open source. It works on planes, helicopters and cars. This is the “state of the RC art” today and it’s moving forward farther and faster every day. You can learn more by searching the web for “ArduPilot”.

          Not every FPV plane is equipped this way, but this is more the rule as we go forward. It’s truly frustrating to read opinions and recommendations put forward by people relying on incomplete and inaccurate knowledge. The AMA would do well to bring FPVers on board and start a regular monthly column on the subject. As others have observed, this aspect of the hobby attracts and educates our future engineers and scientists. If we restrict ourselves, other countries will not and that will be our loss.

  26. As founder of 2 AMA chartered clubes, and an AMA member for over 40 years
    my observation is that all this discussion and AMS’s position on this will
    become quite meaningless when the FAA rules come out. My gut feeling is
    any remote control flying of models will be illegal if not LOS and below
    400 feet. Just because you have a nuclear aresenal does mean you should use
    it. I think hat FPV flying will either be banned or placed under some very
    restrictive rules dut to privacy and safety issues. I also have been a private pilot for 45 years and would no want an FPV in my airspace. It is
    hard enough to look out for full size aircraft. Unfortanately this is a lose, situation for AMA and I think they should stay away from the issue completely. In the end the FAA will determine the outcome for everybody.

  27. From an FPV point of view much would be solved by just revising 550 to require an observer but no buddy box.

  28. Seems to be allot of fear issues being focused on. When in fact, the RC hobby has risks. FPV or not!

    Consider that most FPV pilots use foamies when flying anywhere around people. Electric only. Most are pushers as far as front prop dangers. Most use radio systems capable of miles not meters. Most have extra stabilization systems. Many have autopilots in case of signal loss. And the pilots of most FPV aircrafts have years of experience flying RC the “normal” way too!

    The FPV community’s ranks have evolved from the ranks of the regular RC community! Brothers and Sisters who where not afraid to learn something new. To spend the extra time and money to reach out and explore something more! Took the time to get their FCC licence, the months and even years of study to achieve success!

    Truth is, the AVERAGE FPV plane built by current enthusiast is FAR safer than the AVERAGE plane flown at any AMA field!

    As for security, a cell phone presents more risk than any RC plane or system FPV or not! And like gun laws, those who would break the law are NOT going to be the ones who are publishing videos of their fun. Cars and drunks are taking lives by the thousands.

    FPV is just fun! And if youre and RC pilot already…youre halfway to the ultimate RC fun!

    Are you kidding me? You could BE THE BIRD!

    YOU TOO could BE THE BIRD!

    Rather than struggle against us like some old dog on the porch afraid of what them new fangled kids are up to now, get out from under your banner of contention and get involved in the FUN!

    FPV pilots have more fun than you! Our builds are harder, having to contend with more issues. If you dont enjoy building…you can buy ready made. Our technical equipment is more challenging. If you cant handle the challenge…you can buy ready made. Every aspect is a blast! I just dont know how a person can have the personality and mentality that enjoys RC flying….and not be attracted to FPV!

    JOIN US! Don’t be afraid to learn something exciting and new! You will LOVE IT!!!

    Sincerely… Dusty Donnay

    1. Firecrackers, M-80’s and cherry bombs are way fun too. It so happens that it is mostly illegal to set them off and they are inherently very dangerous.

  29. I’m with Dave!

    It’s obvious that most of the negative reaction is typical of those not ever having participated in the activities in question and those ignorant of the practice of same.

    To start with, a camera itself is not itself a weapon. It is not illegal, even when attached to a model. And certainly the combination it is not a “weapons system”.

    Most hobbyists doing FPV are flying light-weight foam planes that are within the line of sight at altitudes less than 400 feet, and or in geographical areas where there are no inherent dangers of running into things… like out in the desert, or out in the country… we call these places “flying fields”. Check out some of the videos on RCGroups for some examples. Furthermore, most of the video transmission systems have a very limited range. Subsequently, these activities do not present a threat to general or commercial aviation activities any more than current models do, especially sailplanes which routinely fly at altitudes greater than 400 feet.

    There has been much concern about privacy issues which have to do with using cameras on quad-copters (or the like) which fly at low altitudes and are employed for surveillance. Seems like the helicopter is the culprit here, rather than the camera? And, so it begs the question, is it all right to use a camera on a model as long as you are not spying? If a camera is to provide visual input for navigation, it’s a lot different situation. Even so, if one were spying, it’s still not dangerous to general aviation, is it?

    It seems like those who are the most concerned about “models flying in MY airspace” are the ones who are yelling the loudest, while having the fewest facts. They are using the same, old familiar scare-tactics trying to get you to believe that someone is going to “take away all of your flying privileges”, and other such hysterical statements. (after all, it’s not THEIR hobby) If you want to something to be scared of, it’s these guys! They are the ones making the most noise and drawing the most potentially negative attention for problems that exist in only their imaginations. And to get their way, they are willing to make outrageous claims and state their narrow, selfish opinions at the cost of all others. Had there been incidences, I might be of another opinion, but having flown sailplanes at altitudes considerably greater than 400 feet and since I have never had, in thirty years, nor ever heard of a problem, I’ll probably continue to have the same viewpoints.

    As for UAV modeling, same principles apply. Generally, this type of flying is done well below minimum general aviation altitudes, mostly in remote areas, and have so few participants that the possibility of having problems in this area are about the same as winning the lottery. You should be more worried about getting snake-bit or being hit by lightening.

    Incidentally, the “two heads” rule might seem like a good idea, but I don’t think it realistic. buddy-box has never really been practical anyway, as most folks have different brand TX’s. And don’t ask me to buy one to just keep around, either. I’ll leave that to other, dedicated hobbyists who like to teach for a hobby.

    And by the way, Searching for lost sailplanes by using a video-recording device mounted on a Radian is much better than hunting though the woods on foot. I know of where I speak!

  30. None of the proponents of FPV seem to be willing to address the problem
    of flying in the NAS along with full size aircraft. This is highly dangerous, especially private pilots. Maybe the FPV’s have just been lucky
    so far, but a collision is ineviatable. I think the FAA will solve this problem for everybody.

    1. Actually, FPV pilots address this problem every day. Typically it’s addressed by flying in remote areas and staying under 400’AGL. Are there exceptions, sure — but most FPV flights don’t go above 400′. Most of the suggestions I’ve seen on online forums that discuss FPV see the 400′ ceiling as perfectly reasonable.

    2. How is it any different if my FPV plane is flying over a field and your LOS airplane is flying over a field at the same altitude? There can be a full sized regurdless, nothing is different what so ever, it’s such a null and stupid argument to say FPV shouldn’t be allowed because of full scale aircraft, if that is your argument you should just say you can’t fly anything at all period.

  31. As a long time RC pilot, an FPV enthusiast, and an occasional passenger in private aircraft for recreational, I think four rules would make FPV AMA safe, and defensible for the FAA:

    1) No flying over 400′ AGL. — For safety reasons, I see no way around this one. I think it would be very wise for FPV pilots to get on board. Private pilots (good ones anyway) communicate with each other; particularly in rural areas to ensure they do not collide. Without that kind of awareness, I do not think FPV belongs in GA space. That regulation SHOULD be in place in my view.

    2) No flying over populated areas. — This removes all kinds of concerns from privacy to safety. And again, in my view it is purely common sense not to take up lithium batteries over populated areas.

    3) Models may weigh no more than 4lbs. — Lifted from the FAA limitation on governmental drones. It seems arbitrary (and probably is) but this restriction will limit both overall range and potential danger to others. The limitation has the advantage of already being approved.

    4) Spotter required. — Having someone outside the goggles is very helpful. The buddy box is an unnecessary addition.

    Just my two cents.

  32. I, for one, am glad to hear that the AMA is thinking of revisiting the rules around FPV. I do not like being tethered to another radio every time I want to fly FPV. As long as the model does not fly BVR, and one has the assitance of a spotter, there’s no need for a buddy box system.

    And before the critics of FPV chime in, please understand that long-range FPV systems are highy specialized and quite expensive. They cannot be purchased off the shelf but require piecemeal assembly. Not everyone has the knowledge, expertise, and deep pockets to put together a long-range FPV system. And most FPV aircraft are lightweight as well as slow-moving.

    Which is more dangerous… a 3 lb. FPV foam airplane moving at 30 MPH, or a 40 lb. turbine-powered jet moving at 200 MPH? I’ve been much more concerned for my safety with watching some jet pilots as opposed to FPV pilots.

    Mike Then
    Tarheel R/C Flyers

  33. I have to admit that I’m a tad baffled by the logic required to make the “it’s a short step from FPV to a terrorist missile” argument. There are really only two things that distinguish an FPV plane from any other RC plane: the camera and the video transmitter. Both of these are, and have been, available from any number of retailers around the world for many years.

    The thing that’s tripping me up here is that most FPV planes, as anyone who has flown FPV can tell you, really don’t have any more room or weight capacity to spare for an explosive payload. A giant scale airplane that is flown LOS and packed with explosives (which has been tried, you’ll remember) is a much greater danger than any 2-4 pound FPV foamie that can’t even carry another battery, let alone a weapons payload. So, how is it that the camera and video transmitter somehow transform my foamie into a terrorist weapon, and don’t do the same thing to a 30% Extra?

    Would the AOPA take the position that their members should no longer be allowed to fly large airplanes because they could be used by terrorists? Would AAA say that their members are to be prohibited from driving because vehicles can be turned into car bombs? Both of these things have been done, and neither of these organizations took these positions.

    Want to build in some safeguards? Add a 10-pound weight limit to FPV aircraft – you won’t hear a peep of protest from the FPV community. How would the LOS community respond if you used the same reasoning to say that no RC aircraft shall weigh more than 10 pounds?

    As has been said by others, ANY of these technologies can be abused, and NONE of these are inherently unsafe. The distinguishing characteristic is the intent with which they are used. The world has always been a dangerous place. Responsible modelers (FPV and LOS) can work together to keep our little corner of it safe without blackballing anyone out of baseless fears that don’t stand up to examination.

    1. THANKS! This is the best response in the entire thread. Maybe we should just ban everything that has the potential to cause harm. It’s really depressing to read so many uninformed, misinformed, fear mongering, negative views.

  34. As a fullsize Flight Instructor and a R/C modeler, its easy to pickout someone who has been flying a FPV aircraft or flight simulator before from their non-transferable habits. It takes longer to train someone because the FPV experience are not the same. To say that a FPV pilot has the same situational awareness as a fullsize is just not true. There has been more cases of the downlink lost between models than, using the C172 example, a control yoke breaking in a pilot’s hand and losing control. I have been playing with FPV models for years, even getting my FCC tech licence so that I could use more powerful transmitters to obtain better range and video systems. I won’t fly anywhere near a populated area, airport, flyways or even near a busy road, maybe that’s why I have never had an accident in 50+ years of model flying that involved someone who wasn’t participating with my hobby. I don’t expect all of my activity would be covered by my AMA insurance and thats a key point.
    FPV doesn’t make a model safer and nobody is saying the FPV should be banned, right now some of the activity maybe outside the AMA code of conduct. That’s OK with me too because everyone doesn’t need to be in the AMA to enjoy model flying. But everyone is up in the National Airspace and the general public won’t care if its a FPV or a FF model that brings down a airliner and demands restrictive regulations. As I posted earlier, I don’t want every modeler in the country have to go to City Hall to get a premit to fly a model, any model, or face having their model taken and fined by the police. Just because we have all this great stuff that we can play with doesn’t mean we have to be caseless and bring unwanted attention to the modelling community.

  35. Let’s get real. Luddism has no place in aeromodelling or any other tech-based hobby. We have actually been a long way behind the radio technology curve until the recent explosion in 2.4GHz radios (though as a radio engineer I’m not convinced that we should be using a shared ISM band for our appliation).

    Within a year or two, integrated downlink telemetry will be the norm for RC systems. Given that 2.4GHz wideband radios have enough bandwidth on the downlink, support of FPV as a common function will follow (though an interesting balance between latency & video resolution will need to be struck). Then expect 3D/stereoscopic FPV. All for a few tens of dollars. Look at the open source RC developments to see what will be possible in over-the-counter systems in the near future.

    So how do we make sure that this stays “safe” & does not cause us to be hit with regulation? Simple, just make sure that FPV flies under the same rules we use now; with minor adaptation, viz.,
    – the 400 foot height limit
    – “over the field” or within “visual range” rules so that the pilot can revert to “normal” remote observation if required;
    – a weight rule (maybe 64oz but higher for sailplanes)
    – use of a spotter if there is more than one model flying or if the safe flying area is limited (e.g. not needed if flying on your own in the desert).

    If AMA were to propose such simple, sensible rules (really only minor changes to the current requirements) then we would clearly be able to distinguish model FPV flying for pleasure & training from commercial UAV operation.

    As I’m primarily a glider pilot, I suspect that I will always fly primarily by remote observation; but ancilliary FPV & telemetry (e.g. via a bright display on the tx) would be great for obstacle avoidance and would help us keep within permitted flying zones.

    Forward ever forward . . . but I still fly FF, & would like the time to enjoy some CL if only . . .


  36. You guys wont “get it” till you try it. I have flown control line, flight sims, full scale , LOS and now FPV. For me FPV is a culmination of everything I love. Scratch building my own plane, flying as if Im in the cockpit and making videos to in some way share the experience I had.
    I remember when Park Flyers started showing up and people with big expensive planes were getting shot out of the sky by $100 Park Flyers…. I think they called for a ban. Then 2.4 showed up.

  37. Wow, just wow! Whoever moderates this comment system is doing a wonderful job of making sure mostly negative comments get posted it seems… I find it funny that 80+ people LIKED this article, yet nearly every post is negative…

    Wake UP AMA Members, we don’t drive horse and buggies around anymore, we don’t fly our models with strings anymore, things improve, and change. FPV is that fantesy everyone of you had when you first flew an RC aircraft, to be sitting in it and getting the view it has.

    You want to say how unsafe it is, when most FPV planes are 3 to 6lbs of foam, while there are plenty of AMA members with turbines going 200mph and traversing their line of sight distance within seconds, while FPV you have a cockpit view (Did I mention cockpit view is 100% easier to fly then LOS??? Espially when that 200mph turbine is quarter mile + away and you are looking at it from the outside…).

    People want to complain about 400 feet, when was the last time you saw gliders thermalling exclusively below 400ft? Heck that is about where it all starts to get good for thermals…

    AMA has no choice but to really reconsider FPV, with dwindling membership numbers, the vast majority interested in FPV, and the future of technology demands that 10 years from now FPV will be a part of the hobby just as much as everyone switched from gas to electric.

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