Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with airplanes and flight. Growing up in New York City, however, was not very flight friendly.
My passion for flight was ignited again when about 3 years ago, on a whim, I picked up a little Syma helicopter. It was a ton of fun to fly and buzz around, and next up, I bought a Blade 180QX quadcopter.
I was hooked from then on. I’ve since lost the Blade as a flyaway, replaced it with a Hubsan H107D FPV, broken that irreparably in a crash, pulled the trigger on a 450, deciding it was too big and clunky and selling it, to finally building a ZMR 250 back when those were the rage.
Since that first ZMR 250, I’ve lost count of how many quads I’ve built. Granted, many of those builds were just pulling parts off of one copter and putting them on another, but I was too deep in at that point to look back.
FPV is a liberating, sense-defying experience – the feeling you get when you’re soaring high above, or racing at high speed almost touching your quad’s shadow on the ground, or doing(read: attempting) insane tricks and moves around obstacles is just something else.
I think the experience is summed up in an exchange I had with a gentleman I met once in London. He had two quads strapped to his bike, so naturally I had to say hello and ask if and where he’d been flying! We had a really nice discussion, during which he said of the FPV experience “Why wouldn’t you want to be a bird?”
I must admit though that I find building as much fun as flying. If I could afford it (I hope to soon), I’d build a new copter every month!
What the hobby has taught me
This hobby has been one of the most educational experiences of my life. In the few years that I started to seriously build and fly(and crash), I’ve become a serial DIYer.
Fixing quads has inspired me to start fixing other things around the house which I would previously buy a replacement for or throw out.
Just recently, my blender stopped working. There was no warranty on it or any way to contact the manufacturer, but instead of throwing it out, I attempted to – and successfully – fixed it.
After soldering so many wires and being fortunate of having magic smoke come out only a few times, I’ve also become very comfortable around electronics and circuits.
To be completely honest, I only truly figured out how voltage and amperage worked after learning how to choose motors and ESCs! I was never much of a physics person in high school.
I’ve also picked up a little bit of 3D modeling and design, even designing my own frame.
It’s amazing how many ancillary hobbies there are to FPV! I’ve also picked up a 3D printer and to be completely honest, I would have never even come across 3D printers had I not constantly had the need to print out GoPro mounts and little fixtures for my frames!
Now that I’ve got the printer, that’s a whole new hobby altogether!
Experimenting and tinkering
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from the hobby – and one of the truly greatest takeaways from it – is how much it teaches you to be hands on, research, experiment, and tinker!
If everyone was happy with Cleanflight and nobody bothered to tinker, we would not have Betaflight!
There’s always a new prop to try, a slight modification to your rates to make, a little change in your PIDs, or a different set of components you can use and the ability to mix and match and tinker and experiment is endless fun.
And if you’re Rotor Riot, there’s a bigger motor to develop, or more expensive electrical tape to sell as a joke!
A constant challenge
Finally, every day in this hobby is a challenge! From waiting for parts, smoking parts you waited so long for, to your quads flipping on takeoff at the field when you don’t have your laptop with you, this hobby truly tests your patience – and rewards you for it, too.
Even when it comes to flying, boundaries are being pushed every single day.
Two years ago, Charpu’s now immortal “Left Behind” video seemed impossible to replicate – we were all flying wobbly, heavy tanks that could barely take off and maintain an orientation.
Fast forward to today and you have the likes of Johnny FPV pushing the boundaries of what you can do with a copter(I have to watch most of his videos twice to just figure out how he pulls something off).
For the speed demons amongst us, there are new time records being set and pushed on the Multi GP UTT tracks – and race track designers are getting more and more creative with their challenges(Gravity gates! Who would have imagined!)
There’s something in the hobby for everyone – especially videos of pilots who have faced amazing challenges in their lives but find enjoyment and release in flight.
Rotor Riot pushes the envelope for the hobby, from flying around the world’s largest airplane, to visiting Chernobyl, recovering a quad that got stuck in an abandoned ferris wheel in Chernobyl, to more recently launching a Tiny Whoop into the air from a rocket and attempting to land it, there’s tons of crazy ways to enjoy the hobby and have a good time.
Meeting great people
There’s a kind of secret brotherhood(and sisterhood) in the FPV world, it seems. Any time I see someone with a quadcopter on their backpack, I immediately am able to connect with them, and even though we are complete strangers, we manage to have a conversation as if we were old friends.
The trust, cooperation, and sportsmanship in the hobby is just something else. From guys who are super active in forums – even though they lead their own lives – to guys on YouTube working for hours and hours to publish informative, innovative, and entertaining content, the willingness in everyone to help one another and welcome people into the hobby is awesome.
I think this was truly exemplified in Steele’s and Drew’s Europe Trip. I’ve been to Europe, and $500 is pocket change that you can burn through in two days – and to make it from Ireland to Italy only using help from members of the FPV community and having a blast on the way was an incredible social experiment!