I’ve been flying FPV for just about a year now – in fact, right around this time last year, I got my first pair of goggles(Attitude V2s) and began flying my tank of a ZMR250 on 3S with 1806 motors and 5040 props.
The first year has been a lot of fun, I’ve built 5 quads in that time, torn many of them apart, scrapped them for parts to sell to raise funds for new builds, and of course, tried to fly as much as I can.
I’m a solo flyer as nobody nearby that I know of is into FPV, so I don’t get to race much. Instead, I am trying to work on my personal flavor of freestyle.
There’s a lot of different kinds of freestyle, but what appeals to me most is the smooth, flowing style, how Skitzo and GapItFPV fly.
Flow is quite elusive – it’ll just “click” after practicing on and on. I’m not saying I’m a master of flow by any means, but the quad seems to feel more and more natural and smooth every day I go to fly.
I’ve watched a lot of Skitzo’s videos and those of other flowing pilots, too, to try and study how they’re flying and to try and replicate it. This is what I’ve learned so far, and I hope it’ll help you find your flow style, too.
Have decent gear
While it’s not necessary to have the best of the best of the best gear for good flow flying, you do need to have decent hardware. If your copter is a tank running old, rickety motors on 3 cells and hovering above 50% throttle, you won’t have enough control or punch to do the maneuvers that flow pilots do.
Ideally, your copter needs to be punchy enough that it starts to hover around 20-30% throttle or less. You can use whichever hardware configuration you like to get this ratio.
You’ll also need a good FPV camera that adjusts to changes in light very quickly and smoothly, as you’ll be going in and out of the sun very fast and a lot.
Get a good tune
For true smooth, zen-like flow, there is no way around having a great tune. A well tuned copter will fly smooth and without jitters, even during some really hard maneuvers, and that’s the first and possibly most important step.
So learn to tune your copter. I’ve put together a little guide on tuning if you want to check that out.
With BetaFlight 3.0 and BLHeli_S, getting a smooth tune is easier than ever before. Even on stock PIDs, most copters fly like a dream on BetaFlight 3.0 – you only have to make very minor adjustments to the values to get it flying very smoothly.
I have not used KISS so I can’t say anything about it, but people who use KISS are very happy with their setups.
If your copter is out of tune, you’ll see oscillations, propwash, and jerky movements – no matter how well you fly, a poorly tuned copter will just not respond.
Rates are more of a personal choice
Even though a great tune is super important, exactly what you keep your rates at isn’t. You don’t have to keep your rates at a certain number – it’s personal choice.
On my two BF3.0 quads that run 5 inch props, I’ve toyed with the rates and SuperExpo to have roll and pitch at 1100 rotations/second and yaw at 1300 rotations/second. This is a sweet spot for me, where close to center stick is very smooth and extreme deflections are quite fast.
Your rates and expo just have to suit your comfort level. I used to fly without any expo, so my curve was actually a diagonal line, and that made the copter very jerky. With SuperExpo, I’m able to fly very smoothly and gently and at the same time be able to do super fast flips and rolls.
Fine throttle control
To pull off some of the stuff that the flow masters do, you’ve got to get an excellent grip on throttle control. And this isn’t just the simple throttle control that keeps you flying level and at a constant speed.
In some flowing maneuvers, you’re going to be working against gravity in ways your motors can’t recover from if you kept the same orientation.
For example, a move lots of pilots like to do is throttle up, gain altitude fast, and flip the copter 180 degrees. They do it in such a way that the copter is fully upside down but for a second or two, it is still gaining altitude.
This is because the momentum from the original thrust is still there, The pilot cuts the throttle and initiates the flip at just the right time where the copter turns upside down, still gains altitude, pauses mid air as the forces neutralize, and finally begins falling again as gravity takes over.
Watch this video by GAPiT FPV and listen for when he throttles up.
Another example of throttle control is not relying completely on Air mode. What I mean by that is while Air mode will keep motors running at zero throttle, you can’t just keep zero throttle throughout the whole maneuver – in certain maneuvers, you’ll have to throttle up a little while you are midway through it to maintain altitude, and then cut throttle again to complete the move.
I’ve found that while doing a Split-S, after cutting throttle, flipping 180 degrees, and gradually pitching up, gently throttling up while pitching up in the recovery nearly eliminates all propwash.
Stitch moves together
When I started out flying, it was an achievement for me to do one roll, or one flip. I’d climb high, do the flip or roll, admire the view, and fly straight again.
What flowing pilots do is they stitch multiple moves together.
So they may do half a roll, then some flips, and finish off with a 360 yaw spin.
Or they may do half a power loop, then roll out of it and start a new move.
You get the idea. The combinations are limitless, and watching pro pilots fly will help you for ideas
Pausing mid air
In flow flying, I’ve noticed that the pilots are able to make the copter take a graceful pause mid air. This is done by going against the existing momentum at just the right moment, like I described in the example of the 180 roll after a sharp climb.
You could pause one quarter through a flip by executing the 1/4 flip just as you cut throttle, so you’ll gain altitude into the move, stop, and then start dropping again, or you could pause before you stitch one move into the next.
However, pauses will look graceful if you’ve immediately lined up for your next move/line. If you pause, then adjust and align yourself for your next line, that will look messy.
As for me, at this stage, I’m still at adjusting and aligning most of the time, and occasionally managing to get the line perfect in the whole fluid movement.
Another cool way to pause is do half a roll slowly, pause, and finish the roll very fast.
Another cool thing to do is backtrack, or “fakeout” a move and go the opposite way. For example, you could be approaching an object and about to turn and pass the object on your left and do a 90 degree turn to the right, but just as you start the turn, you yaw hard to the left, go around the object, and end up going to the left of the object instead.
You could do this in flips, rolls, and any other maneuvers, where you start the maneuver in one direction, go some ways through it, and then immediately complete the entire maneuver in the opposite direction.
GAPiT FPV is very fond of dramatic pauses and backtracking. Check it out.
When you slingshot, you are effectively flying backwards. In this maneuver, you’ll be using the forward momentum of the quadcopter to continue moving forward even after you’ve done a 180 yaw and are now facing the opposite direction.
To do this, gain speed as you are flying towards an object(it looks cooler if you do it around a point of reference). Right as you are about to pass the object, do a sharp 180 yaw(remember to give a little roll input too to maintain the nose’s vertical orientation) and cut the throttle.
Your copter will maintain its original momentum and upwards momentum for a short while, even though it’s pointing down and in the opposite direction.
As you’re coasting backwards, flips and rolls can add a dramatic effect. For bonus points, stitch a few rolls together.
Bit more cloudy freestyling from yesterday. Really enjoying getting to know the @lumenierfpv QAV X. #drseagullfpv #fpvlife #fpvaddiction #fpvfreestyle #lumenier #lumenierfpv #impulserc #immersionrc #flyduino #rotorriot #airvuz #gopro #quaddiction #teamblacksheep #dronelife #dronestagram #sussex #westsussex #qavx
Mix it up between fast and slow
One innovation that I’ve seen pilots do is execute a single roll or flip in two parts, where half the roll or flip will be slow, there will be a little pause, and the second half of the roll or flip will be very fast, at nearly full stick deflection.
You could also do an entire roll slowly, and do the second roll very fast. The same thing goes for flips.
Even as you are coasting around, shoot some lines slowly, and pick up speed around others. The right mix of speed and finesse will give your videos a new level of flair.
Shoot lines and gaps after moves
The difference between legendary pilots and good pilots I feel is the ability to get a perfect line even after doing crazy maneuvers.
Or they’ll launch the copter into a wild spin, straighten out, and perfectly hit a gap.
Unfortunately, the only way to get good at this is practice, practice, and more practice. Start by using larger gaps, and gradually challenge yourself with smaller and smaller gaps until you are comfortable. There’s no other way around it.
Oh, and be prepared to crash. A lot.
Use DAL props, King Kong props, or have a lot of HQ spares lying around 🙂
Fine movements at zero throttle
Have you ever seen a video where the pilot launches the copter, cuts throttle, and the copter gracefully glides into position for the next line?
In theory, a well-tuned quadcopter would not do that, as it would maintain its orientation no matter what position it is in.
In reality, the “gliding” copter is actually doing so because of very gentle inputs from the pilot that slowly turn the copter where the pilot wants it to go.
This is most obviously seen in variations of Split-S maneuvers, where the entire zero-throttle movement from the moment the quadcopter is 180 degrees into a roll to where it finally straightens out is very gradual and graceful.
Push your limits
Finally, you’ll have to put all of these skills together and push your limits to innovate, hit tough lines and gaps, and get the most out of your copter.
This means lots of practice, lots of crashing, and lots of repairing. But the moment it clicks and feels natural to you, it’s a beautiful feeling and something that you just can’t compare with anything else.
It helps to have two copters at this stage. You will crash a lot, so if you are out flying and one copter crashes badly, to the point you’ll have to repair it at home, you can still fly your second copter. Ideally, the second copter should be a similar setup to what you are flying, so it will perform similarly.
There are plenty of ultra-cheap quadcopters that actually fly pretty damn well that you can practice on and beat up before you start using your higher end quadcopters to push your limits.