Video piloting (first-person view)
First-person view (FPV) flight is a type of remote-control flying that has grown in popularity in recent years. It involves mounting a small video camera and television transmitter on an RC aircraft and flying by means of a live video down-link, commonly displayed on video goggles or a portable LCD screen. When flying FPV, the pilot sees from the aircraft's perspective, and does not even have to look at the model. UK legal video transmitters operate at a frequency of 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz at a power level of 10mW and 25mW respectively.
A basic FPV system consists of a camera, video transmitter, video receiver, and a display. More advanced setups commonly add in specialised hardware, including on-screen displays with GPS navigation and flight data, stabilisation systems, and autopilot devices with "return to home" capability—allowing the aircraft to fly back to its starting point on its own in the event of signal loss. On-board cameras can be equipped with a pan and tilt mount, which when coupled with video goggles and "head tracking" devices creates a truly immersive, first-person experience, as if the pilot was actually sitting in the cockpit of the RC aircraft.
Helicopters, multi-rotors and fixed-wing RC aircraft are used for FPV flight. The most commonly chosen airframes for FPV planes are light weight foam models . Pusher-propeller planes are preferred so that the propeller is not in view of the camera. "Flying wing" designs are also popular for FPV, as they provide the best combination of large wing surface area, speed, manoeuvrability, and gliding ability. FPV aircraft are frequently used for aerial photography and videography.
Lawful First Person View RC Flying
Please note that operation of model aircraft out of the line of sight of either the pilot in charge, or the competent observer, where applicable, is unlawful, FPV pilots should also ensure that all equipment they use is legal for use in the UK, especially in relation to the operating frequency and power output.
Air Navigation Order (UK Air Law) Article 166 (3) states
“The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft (SUA) must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.”
The implication for FPV RC is that the pilot wearing the video goggles or "under the hood"cannot, by definition, be the pilot in charge of the model and that there must be a separate ‘pilot in charge’ at all times.
However since 30th September 2012, after negotiations between the CAA, BMFA and other associations the CAA effectively relaxed the requirement for the use of a buddy lead when flying a model aircraft using “First Person View” techniques by the issuing of an exemption to ANO Article 166(3). This only applies for fixed wing aircraft of less than 3.5kg and rotorcraft of less than 3.5kg and there are certain other conditions which must be complied with.
Conditions for FPV flying without a “Buddy Lead”.
1) The person in charge is the person piloting the SUA.
2) The person in charge is accompanied by a competent observer who maintains direct unaided visual contact with the SUA sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions and advises the person in charge accordingly.
3) The maximum take-off mass of the SUA does not exceed 3.5 kg for an aeroplane, or 3.5 kg for a rotorcraft, including any batteries or fuel.
4) The person in charge must not fly the SUA:
- a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained;
- b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained;
- c) at a height of more than 1000 feet above the surface;
- d) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
- e) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
- f) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft;
- g) within 50 metres of any other person, apart from the competent observer, except when taking off or landing; or
- h) within 30 metres of any other person, apart from the competent observer, during take-off or landing.
5) For the purposes of this Exemption, a ‘competent observer’ means someone whom the person in charge of the SUA has designated as the competent observer.
6) Before designating someone as the competent observer, the person in charge of the SUA must be satisfied that he or she:
- a) has been briefed in accordance with paragraph 7;
- b) is competent to perform the tasks which he or she may be called upon to perform in accordance with paragraph 7; and
- c) is competent, by direct unaided visual observation of the SUA, to assist and advise the person in charge with the safe conduct of the flight.
7) The person in charge must ensure that:
- a) the competent observer is fully briefed on the planned flight and what is expected of him/her taking into account the prevailing conditions;
- b) the competent observer understands that he/she must stay directly adjacent to the person in charge and maintain direct unaided visual contact with the SUA at all times, to visually and aurally monitor the airspace for other aircraft and the takeoff and landing area for any persons;
- c) the competent observer has been instructed on the actions to take in the event of another aircraft being spotted and a risk of collision is assessed; and
- d) the competent observer understands that he/she must advise if the SUA is proceeding beyond the point at which he/she is able to monitor its flight path sufficiently to identify a risk of collision.
This exemption only applies to article 166(3). The other provisions of article 166 and the whole of article 167 continue to apply, so far as may be applicable. In particular, article 166(5) prohibits flight for the purposes of aerial work except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
The following condition negotiated by the BMFA still applies:- “When flying FPV RC aircraft over 3.5kg , the pilots MUST use a buddy box system with the pilot in charge using the master transmitter.”
BMFA FPV, Multi-rotor and Emerging Technologies Special Interest Group
The BMFA have formed a special interest group made up of experienced members in the fields of FPV and Multi-rotor aircraft and experts in emerging technologies.
The aims of the Special Interest Group are to feed back to the CAA where appropriate and help develop the BMFA Member’s Handbook and formulate guidance that may be required now and in the future. The minutes of the meetings will be published below as and when they are available.
FPV-MR SIG Minutes 20-4-13.pdf