The growing world of first person view model aviation
From Dave Mathewson’s Upcoming Model Aviation Column
First person view (FPV) flight involves flying a radio-controlled aircraft while viewing the flight through a set of goggles or with a monitor that simulates the pilot’s view as if he or she were sitting in the cockpit. It’s hard to describe FPV modeling as a new technology, but in relation to a number of other modeling disciplines it is still considered by many to be in its infancy.
Although there may have been others, the Pilot View FPV system sold by Hobby Lobby is considered by many to mark the beginning of the FPV era in the US. While some were flying FPV by designing and building their own equipment, Pilot View was one of the first off-the-shelf systems that could be bought and installed in a model by the average modeler. It first became available in roughly early 2008.
Since that time, the number of people who enjoy this aspect of model aviation has grown exponentially. Mirroring that growth is the advancement in technology in FPV systems that has resulted in more reliable, easier-to-fly models, making them more attractive to model aviation enthusiasts.
In October 2008, AMA recognized this relatively new form of aeromodeling and, at the encouragement of some of our members, worked to create a policy that would enable those who wanted to fly FPV to do so under the umbrella of AMA’s safety programming. In fact, some those members helped us draft our initial policy (AMA Document 550, www.modelaircraft.org/files/550.pdf), which is still in effect today.
AMA tends to move cautiously when addressing new modeling disciplines. It’s a philosophy that has been used and followed successfully for decades. AMA works hard to embrace new technologies, but we need to consider the collateral effect anything that we do will have on existing modeling disciplines as well as ensure that any change in direction assimilates smoothly into our liability protection programming.
Since the FAA first began its sUAS regulatory effort in April 2008, we have been cognizant of looming potential regulation of model aviation that will likely become a reality sometime in the later part of 2013. All of this plays a role in every decision we make.
Since the beginning of the year, the AMA leadership has been considering whether or not it’s time, after three-and-a-half years, to take a new look at our current policy on FPV flight. As part of the process, we ran a survey in the May edition of AMA Today, AMA’s online monthly e-newsletter, asking members for their thoughts on the subject.
The response to that survey was more than double the number of responses to any previous one that has appeared in our e-newsletter. The replies told us that many of our members are becoming involved in FPV. Many told us that it was time we took a fresh look at our current policy to see if some of the requirements could be relaxed. There were also responses from a smaller, yet significant number of our members who were concerned that we not do anything that would jeopardize any other facet of aeromodeling.
The AMA Executive Council has agreed that it may be time to revisit FPV. Many of our members have been forthcoming in offering constructive suggestions about what might be done to modify our current policy so that it is more reflective of what is occurring today in the field. These suggestions will be taken into consideration as we move ahead with the review.
Many prominent members of the FPV community have offered their help. We intend to take advantage of their background and expertise as well.
Most recognize that there will be some limitations to whatever changes we eventually make. It’s doubtful that we will be able to find a way to assimilate FPV modeling, unfettered and unrestricted, into our current programming as some would prefer we do. What we can do, however, is to work together to find a way that may allow some latitude from what is our current policy so that it will enhance the enjoyment of our members who want to be involved in model aviation through the FPV medium.
As the process evolves, we will continue to keep our members updated on our progress.