Whilst I’ve had some experience flying photography platforms such as the DJI Inspire 1 and Phantom range, I was interested to learn about FPV Racing as the hobby has really taken off in the UK.
So on Wednesday we headed to the South Downs just outside Brighton, to join a group of guys in one of their regular FPV meets. Whilst we did take our Nighthawk 280 Pro along with us, I was more interested to see what and how the attendee’s were using.
Ever since the original DJI Phantom, Tony has been a regular and welcome customer at RCGeeks. It was he who invited us down to join this group of Brighton enthusiasts. His YouTube channel has aerial videos from his various drones over the past years shot all across the world.
Tony was flying a Lumenier QAV250 frame with various modifications to the motors and electronics, plus Lumenier 1300mAh batteries with a high burst. He was using (to great success) some bullnose propellers (545 profile) which were similar to cut down 6inch props and offered more power.
He also had his base-station on hand and a spare set of Fat Shark goggles for his brother (or infact anyone) to spectate with. It was a rare opportunity to see live FPV flight by a skilled pilot, but with dives and flips, it was one that initially left me a tad motion-sick.
Oscar runs his own blog (also containing videos from his YouTube channel) which is an incredible resource for FPV and quadcopters in general. If you are serious about the hobby then his site really is a must-read. You can also (try to) keep up with him on Twitter and Facebook.
He is incredibly knowledgeable and was kind enough to help David with reconfiguring the video downlink on our Nighthawk, to avoid interference with the others.
Oscar was running a Demon EVO250 Mini Quad Frame Naze flight controller running cleanflight, immersion RC video transmitter, FrSky D4R-II radio receiver and a 4S LiPo. See here for more details on his build. He’s got a GoPro 4 on the way so expect to see some even-higher quality videos from him in the future.
Another knowledgeable hobbyist with his own YouTube channel , Jack has some great videos with some unorthodox flight locations. Like other members of the group he appeared skilled at modifications with a huge list of bespoke customisations to his quad; In particular I loved the quality of his hand-made 5-blade antennas, one of which he leant to us.
He flies a ZMR frame with thicker arms, custom low aluminium deck mounts, FrSky D4R-II radio receiver, KISS Esc’s, custom antenna extensions, power isolators and custom cleanflight controlled LED setup.
With a long commute beforehand, Dan was flying well into the fading light, eager to make the most of his trip out to the South Downs. As with the other guys, he posts his FPV videos on his own YouTube channel and they are well worth viewing if you are a fan of 3D printed custom parts.
Dan had two small quadcopters with him but was flying his Armattan Morphite FPV 180 around the course. His craft is easily recognisable due to the prolific use of custom 3D printed parts for camera mounts, legs, etc and bright rear LED.
Finally we had brought out Nighthawk Pro along to get some practice.
Properly configured it will be a great racer, but lots of tweaking will be required to get the most from it.
A large loop was setup in the field consisting of our customised Hoverspeed Air Gates, post and Immersion RC flag.
The pilots were situated to the west of the field, shaded by a tree canopy. The course was flown anti-clockwise at first, with some reversing during the evening.
We positioned the grid a little in-front of them, off to the side of the start finish gate.
The failing light didn’t hold back the combination of CCD cameras and Fat Shark goggles in the open field.
Certain protocols were in place to ensure safe flying. I joined Terry in spotting for walkers and any animals that strayed into the vicinity, shouting to alert the pilots when their goggles were down. Crashes are inevitable, thus when pilots entered the course airspace they let the others know beforehand with a quick shout.
Tony and Oscar really had their gear dialled in and put in the most laps during the evening. It was impressive to see just how fast Oscar could clear the course with his 4S power. Watching them gave me a new a respect for the pilots you see online, capable of following tight courses in close proximity to each other.
With the sun setting and my camera really struggling it was time to pack up. The evening has certainly given me a new appreciation for the hobby. So much so that I am tempted to try and put together a cheap racer to practice with after work. A big thanks to Tony and the guys for letting us join in, and a shout out to Terry for his help in course construction and more.
Apologies for any errors or omissions, as I say I have a lot to learn regarding FPV racing. Please leave any corrections or comments below.