• Build a micro-sized first-person-view quadcopter

    I know you've seen the videos on YouTube, stunning coastal fly-overs, or fast and low runs through parks and forests, dodging trees like speeder bikes on the Endor moon. If you don't know what I'm talking about, have a look at some of these FPV videos.

    FPV stands for First Person View, and simply put, means video piloting, or flying the aircraft from the perspective of an onboard video camera, and wireless downlink. FPV piloting is what makes these videos possible.

    When I first saw this kind of flying several years ago, I was compelled to try it myself and ran out and built a 450mm FPV quadcopter. I soon realized that controlling these things was harder than I'd anticipated and I crashed a lot. Nearly every time time I crashed, I had to repair something. Anxiety over crashing ended up preventing me from pushing my limits and developing better skills. I ended up shelving the hobby for a year or two.

    This year I decided to get back behind the sticks and refresh my skills with a cheap toy micro quad, and I now recommend this as the first step to anyone who asks me about getting into quadcopters. All of the skills that you acquire flying a toy quad will transfer directly to any multirotor that you fly. The truth is that crashing is just part of learning to fly, and one great thing about micros is that they are seemingly crash proof. They just don't weigh enough to damage themselves much. You don't need acres of empty land to safely fly them, you can do it pretty much wherever and whenever you feel like it, which makes it possible to rack up lots of practice time quickly.

    When you've got the hang flying LOS, and you're ready to try FPV, you can turn your micro quad into an FPV trainer by adding a micro camera and a video transmitter module.

    Ready-to-fly FPV micro quads

    You'll find that there are several micro quads available that are already set up for FPV such as the Walkera QR Ladybird V2 FPV or the Hubsan X4 H107d. These both come with cameras and video transmitters already installed, and feature video displays built right into the RC controllers. Both great flying quads, but their value as true FPV machines is a bit overstated. The cameras that come with these packages do not really have a wide enough field of view for comfortable FPV piloting, and they are angled downward, which makes the situation even more difficult. The video transmitters are only 10-20mw and the antennas minimal. This is going to make for pretty marginal video with short range, and looking down at the little transmitter display to see is not going to make for a very immersive experience.

    By choosing your own airborne and ground station components, you will be able to put together a much higher performing and easier to use micro FPV rig that will grow with you as you move on to bigger quads.