Hack-It-Yerself

First Person View flying, the ultimate RC plane.

As long as I can remember I have dreamed of making an RC plane just big enough to strap myself into. This probably had its genesis back in a chance encounter I had as a small child with some dudes and their giant RC aircraft at a local park. As I sat there staring at the beautiful huge red toy one of them joked “Wanna go for a ride?”

“Can I?!?!?”

“No. Not really, that would be a bad idea.” came the soul crushing answer. Indeed, although it looked almost big enough, the plane crunched into the ground shortly thereafter – which kinda highlighted a few inherent issues with strapping a small child into an unmanned flying toy. (Although as a direct result, a few dizzy lizards did get to fly Frisbee Airlines as test pilots, courtesy of our old friend Mr. Duck-tape).

In my mind, the basic problem was that the pilot wasn’t actually on board the aircraft ,which caused all kinds of dyslexia-inducing panic for the person flying the toy. “Oops, I turned the wrong way”. Had *I* been flying it never would have crashed, came my overly simplistic conclusion.

This concept provided me with years of entertainment and fantasy as my imagination tried to figure out a way to actually fly on a miniature aircraft. Eventually, it was realized that ultralights or wingsuits were probably as close as I could ever get. But, wouldn’t it be cool to have a video feed instead?

Sure, the military now has some great UAV toys, but you can’t exactly borrow one for the weekend and run around buzzing a bunch of sheep with it…

… or can you?

Take one high-performance RC aircraft, add a small HD video cam, RF video link and video goggles, and behold, FPV flying! The recipe for sheer awesomeness…

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Miniaturization and technology have finally gotten to the point where we can ALL take a ride on-board and experience flying in real time. I’m not talking about just recording your flight, this is actual flight control via remote/virtual pilot!

Known as First Person View flying, these relatively inexpensive contraptions allow the feeling of Close Proximity Flying normally reserved for wingsuit jumpers, but for extended periods of time and without all that danger of actually dying.

 Some folks upgrade their setups with options such as pan & tilt and gyro stabilization for the cameras, or headtrackers that allow the camera to move where you look while using video goggles. There are even auto-pilot and GPS tracking modules available, allowing the plane to navigate by itself or return home safely if the RF link is disrupted, or you just plain get lost.

All of this makes for some of the coolest videos I’ve seen in quite a while.

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If you would like to build your own setup, Google FPV, or visit either RCExplorer or RPVPilot.com for basic tutorials on what you need to get started.

It’s not exactly cheap (expect about $4K to get started), but probably less costly than flying straight into a cliff or tree with your head. Also, just in case someone wants to know what to get me for Christmas… hint hint.

(full disclosure, this author has ZERO affiliation with any product, website or company featured within this article, but would GLADLY accept one for Christmas because they are just so damn cool).

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