Regulated First Person View Drone races around designed courses at university. The idea would be that the FPV regulations would be lifted in situations where they can be controlled and performed safely. People can bring their devices and enter a series of races and time trials as well as develop their piloting skills with the assistance of this emerging technology.
Alright, You want to race? Let’s race.
- How do you start?
Each competitor, depending on the race type, will start in a stationary position on the ground behind the starting line. A timer or buzzer will then start the race. Each competitor will be situated in the pilot area and won’t leave until the race is safe/complete to do so.
- What happens during play
- Play participation (fly between designated zones)
Each pilot will aim to fly as fast and successfully as they can through the course. A designated area is specified and the idea is that each lap will either be counted down or time will be taken. The aim is to have the least amount of crashes and the quickest time by the end of the race.
- How do you win lose?
Either the winner will be the first person out of the race, or the pilot with the quickest time (either around the course or over the 100metres.
As the sport has no official set list of rules, I’m going to offer some guidelines and integrate what’s popular within the drone racing league currently. Firstly, there are 3 common types of category normally that include:
Micro / 150
Suited to beginners and indoor racing events.
• Up to 150mm (measured diagonally from motor to motor)
• 4 motors
• 2-cell LiPo battery
Mini / 250
Currently the most popular class for FPV racing.
• Up to 250mm
• 5″ props
• 4 motors
• 3- or 4-cell LiPo battery
Fewer restrictions for faster races (and more spectacular crashes).
• Up to 300mm
• 6″ props
• 4 motors
For my University drone racing league, I’ve done some extensive research and I’m hoping to attract beginners and people who are new to the whole concept of not just racing the drones but the mechanics themselves. So I’m going to focus on the Micro/150 category and a RTF (ready-to-fly) drone so that people can simply turn it on and go. So the drone that will be required by the participant will be a Hubsan X4 Quadcopter with FPV Camera approx.. $170, cheap and popular starter mini-drone; complete w/ 720p FPV camera, controller and excellent software. The ideal goal I want from this game is for the participants to gain an expertise and have fun with it. I decided that the ARF drones that have to be sources and built is for a more experienced user, and ultimately more expensive. If new people come crashes are inevitable and if the drones are sourced or brought by participants the costs for damages might put people off joining in.
Those prepared to pay extra can look into these particular drones:
Storm Type A Racing Drone (http://bestdroneforthejob.com/drone-reviews/storm-type-a-racing-drone/)popular and affordable, the Storm Type A mini-quad (250mm class) is a lot of fun and a great value. Lots of upgrades are available. No soldering required. $360
Lumenier QAV250-G10-RTF Mini Quadcopter RTF (http://www.amazon.com/Lumenier-QAV250-G10-RTF-Mini-Quadcopter-Black/dp/B00OCJCZ1M?tag=dronesforall-20) a popular high performance RTF racing drone; 250 mm class; highly-rated; plenty of mods available. Not for beginners, though. $550-$650
Depending on the numbers, there could be separate events/races for these
So you’ve got the drone. This event will be held for beginners so any advanced classes will have to be in a separate event.
- Participant must fly the drone with the FPV equipment on the remote controls (no goggles for legal purposes)
- The drone must stay within the confines of the track (detailed in diagram)
- There mustn’t be any participants intoxicated or under the effects of illicit substances
- The pilots must be able to take off and land vertically (prior expertise will be shown)
- The drone mustn’t leave the grounds where the track is located or be flown over/through large crowds of people
- Pilots cannot walk onto the course whilst the race is underway, if you crash you must wait until the end of the race.
- Pilots must not interfere with other pilots aircraft or equipment
- Handle batteries with car when taking them out and charging them
University personnel will be contact about the possibility of creating a course over an oval/field or grass space. The idea is that an oval or field has a distinct fenced area where the public can be re-directed. It’s also a large open space that allow for a safer course. The course could be decorated with UOW flag banners as obstacles, as well as tunnels made out of pipe line or pool noodles. There will be set markers that the device will follow in order to complete the circuit. If not perhaps local electronics businesses could have their banners around the place (jb hi fi, jaycar etc.) If not, these will have to be sourced and the cheapest version of them will be used.
(My intended course)
Two or more racers compete at the same time to see who crosses the finish line first.
A race between two or more drone racers at the same time, to see which one accelerates over a short distance the fastest. Distance is 100 meters.
Each drone runs the course alone. Shortest elapsed time wins.
I’m going to introduce this post in relation to the current problems that arise when I say we can’t race drones around the University of Wollongong, or even Australia for that matter and argue some points that I’ve found interesting. It’s to do with current aerospace legislation that has accumulated such negative connotations and speculations with FPV drones that it has put them into the same category as all aircraft in our airspace.
Strategies to avoid this is introducing different altitude limits for both the aircraft’s, which the only risk then with UAVs is the collision within one another, in which case there wouldn’t be any loss of life because they’re not carrying any pilots. Low-altitude restrictions for drones and UAVs however raise privacy issues between the public. If they’re low enough for regulation then the cameras fixed on them “can more easily take pictures that infringe on privacy and can create noise that is an “intrusion upon seclusion?”.
“regulators believe (based on a track record of military drones with somewhat similar systems) that FPV systems do not provide awareness comparable to a pilot within an aircraft.”
This is counter-productive to the drone narratives (speculative, historical – military) and doesn’t allow for expansion of the term…it will only ever be associated with military purposes instead of commercial, consumer etc. DJI have recently released the Phantom 4 that has on-board systems that algorithmically avoid collisions.
(http://makezine.com/2016/03/01/dji-phantom-4-finally-an-obstacle-avoiding-object-tracking-quadcopter/). The sensory measurement isn’t specified so the speculations on what size the object will have to be in order to be detected but, the point is manufacturers are taking the above concerns into account when building them.
- FPV hardware is said to not give individuals the same peripheral sophistication of manned cockpit pilots
- Latency is the problem offering limited awareness to large scale drones
- “Some countries—France, for instance—permit flight beyond the line of sight for very lightweight drones”
- “Regulations concerning beyond line-of-sight flying. One major concern is the reliability of the radio link that connects control systems on the ground with drones… final standards, due to be released in July 2016, ought to provide a solid foundation for regulators to build on” this allows flyers both recreational, non-recreational and academics like myself to draw on the findings for future builds as evidence and purpose for these builds.
Where from here
- “break free of the legacy of manned aircraft regulation. A fresh start would allow regulators both to avoid some of the absurdities that result when applying manned-aircraft regulations to unmanned aircraft”
- European Union Document wrote in the wake of hobbyists and businesses that rely on drones this ““Drones need to be treated as new types of aircraft with proportionate rules based on the risk of each operation.” Which goes back to Japanese innovation.
“Regulators should avoid simply implementing the solutions desired by the unmanned-aviation industry, which will continue to grow rapidly in size and thus in influence in regulatory debates. FPV systems, for instance, are improving. Regulators should have enough discretion to sensibly adopt rules about beyond line of sight flight using FPV systems.”
- Liability is an area which regulation will need to be addressed. It is the commonality link in comparison to the autonomy in drones extends to the driver-less cars has evolved since its first release, but to completely tackle this issue, privacy has to be implemented, which should be on the grounds of, I believe, location and purpose.
Brendan Schulman, former vice president for policy and legal affairs for DJI, states that the FAA may be reversing course on FPV in situations where there is “no threat to full-scale aircraft, such as for a drone race conducted”, say, within a forest or at low altitude over a stadium, as was the case at the Drone Nationals.
John Goldfluss who is a FFA representative spoke on FPV regulation, note that this was clearly stated that it’s not the opinion of the FFA as a whole that the “Drone Nationals (acted) as a test, in which the FAA participated to see whether loosening its stance of FPV might be warranted”
John attended the 2015 FatShark US National Drone Racing Championships despite the grey area of the regulation of FPV goggles and racing in “public” domains. The question still irritates both drone and FPV enthusiasts that if the championships like the one in Hawaii are deemed a regulated and managed area for this kind of activity, the pilots need practise. So an event that draws competitors from over 30 different countries see’s a clear disadvantage to the evolution, performance and globalisation of the sport. Then there’s the people that will never get to the championships in the U.S. that don’t have the opportunity to race locally because the regulation doesn’t allow for it.
If the sport isn’t referred to as FPV racing and more something in the wake of “Freestyle Drone Course” the Australian authorities don’t seem to have as big of a problem. The goggles can be linked to RC (remote control) themed events. The idea of my game dossier is to bring into reality and interest of UOW and local areas for those who are interested in channelling a more adrenilne filled expertise in drone flight, to that of a pod racer in Starwars episode 1.
Kakaes K Greenwood F Lippincott M Dosemagen S Meier P Wich S, 2015, Drones and Aerial Observation: New Technologies for Property rights, Human Rights and Global Development, New America, viewed 19th April 2016, <http://www.iapad.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/DronesAndAerialObservation.pdf#page=29>
Schneider, D 2015, ‘Is U.S drone racing legal? Maaaaybe’, IEEE Spectrum, vol. 52, no. 11, pp. 19-20, viewed 7th April 2016, <http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=7335890>
So you want to try FPV flight based on what you’ve read so far about it. Perfect! Here’s what you need to do. I will be focusing this week on an ARF model that you’re going to have to assemble the parts yourself. The ImmersionRC Vortex Mini Racing Quadcopter ARF is a great starter for those new to building their own. The great thing about this product is that it comes with all the drone hardware you need with specs that include
Weight: – 350g without battery, or HD camera
Power Requirements: 3s-4s LiPo
ESCs: Full Custom, 12A continuous, 16A peak, rotorSENSE, Oneshot125
Flight Camera: Fatshark 600TVL CMOS (std), fatshark 700TVL CMOS, and 900TVL CCD optional
HD Camera: GoPro Hero 3&4, Mobius (not included) can be powered from onboard BEC
Receiver Compability: PPM input, with S-Bus and Spektrum Satellite converter cables optional
Flight Time: Highly dependent upon battery and flying style
The next consideration is the goggles or the screen view. I would recommend for the full immersive FPV experience that the goggles be choice, however the screen offers the ability for others to view your flight. The FatShark Attitude V3 Headset is a widely considered model by users both entry level and professional. The brand name has become iconic in pioneering the smoothest tracking to the camera available.
Customization is a huge part of the ARF drone builds, so from the above specifications most can be interchanged and swapped at the users discretion. Video links which acts as your transmitter is a popular choice depending on the intended flight course. For example the current options that are used include:
- 900 mHz
- 1.2 – (1.3) Ghz
- 2.3 -2.4 Ghz – *if a lot of racers this channel can be prone to more interference
- 5.8 Ghz
The difference between these bands is that the lower the Hz output:
- The video quality to the goggles/screen will be less quality
- The antenna on the device will be bigger (could affect flight time/maneuverability due to weight)
- The penetration through walls and obstacles is better
- The range is longer from the user remote
For Higher frequencies:
- The ability to fly with more people as the frequency is more distinct
- The antenna is smaller that allows a smaller craft
- The video picture is clearer
- Range is slightly less as the frequencies increase
- Sometimes penetration within thick walls (warehouse flying in and out) or dense forest can interfere
With the majority of the batteries, the length are very dependent on the flight course and type of flying. For example, if lots of flips are made and speed is at maximum for the duration of the flight it will affect the battery. Simple lipo batteries will suffice, but can change at the users need. The idea is that the more powerful batteries will be heavier and thus limit the “freestyle” aspect of the tricks and rolls the drone ca do, however will give you and increased length of flight. Thus; depending on the course layout, the user might like to have a heavy and light battery.
The antenna is another highly customized part of the ARF FPV drone. There are initially two types that need to be considered. Firstly Linear that is the stock standard that acts as a star shape and distributes a signal from the top of the wire. The next is circular that have polarization characteristics and spiral up the antenna. The best way to distinct these initial choices is by footage of them both in flight.
Typically, linear antenna’s are associated with lower frequencies and Circular with higher more intense builds.
The pattern type of the antenna is then something that needs to be conceptualized. Again, this can be influecned by the type of flight the user is intending on.
Omni Pattern – this radiates a signal in a 360 Degree pattern within the same range as the controller. This is ideal for warehouse freestyle flight or small short courses where laps are involved in a small radius. It allows you to stand facing any direction and the craft will still pick up a signal.
Directional – The directional pattern is intentional for long range flights. Those that have a trail course hat perhaps have a longer distance from the user is where this option should be considered. The signal is sprayed in a “shotgun” type focused beam of around 90-120 degrees in which the control needs to be pointed majority of the time at the aircraft.
I’d like to dip into the regulatory mechanics of an FPV racing league at university, and why the idea of it with RTF drones at campus can be the entry into flight expertise.
FPV drones require a knowledge base of simple equipment and technical specifications before one puts on a pair of goggles and goes for it. It is a high speed and high tech sport that is quickly attracting sponsors for serious racing due to the amount of money that (can) be spent on the hobby. This exploration of the FPV racing scene will be the core of my dossier for what could see a university based society or enthusiast club arise. I will be focusing on the quadcopter scene (opposed to the fixed wing or the ground vehicles) and the use of first person view flight. John Gaudiosi details drones popularity amoungst the public due to enthusiasts wanting an “experience an aerial perspective of a physical location” he links his arguments advertising Virtual Reality Links to the possibility of “Drone racing enthusiasts can sit in the driver’s seat of the winning pilot”. In this particlaur blog I want to cover RTF vs ARF drones as well as introduce the two viewing types that go into FPV flight.
Firstly, the user needs to decide if they want to assemble (ARF or almost-ready-to-fly) the quadcopter or just want it ‘Ready-to-Fly’ (RTF) out of the box. There are advantages for both, the ARF allows tinkering with parts, customisation and enhancement (for example the user can integrate a more powerful battery to improve flight time), where as the RTF is as it sounds, the only step is to unbox, calibrate and you’re ready to start piloting.
The ARF builds are my particualar favourite and something i’ve been working on in a build of my own which you can follow on Twitter
Next FPV viewing devices need to be chosen with options of the goggles or a screen based flight, or in fact both. The output of the footage is relaying a “drones eye view” of the surroundings and flight path. The goggles allow an immersed experience for the flyer for a real-time maneuver as if you were inside the drone. The screen is an option for people with prescription needs, for those that find the motion too full on and don’t want to be confined in the goggles, as well as the convenience of a screen mount to a tripod or the radio controller this gives the opportunity for others around to view the experiences without exactly piloting. The radio signals run off an analogue signal, meaning those with a screen monitor with them simply have to tap into the corresponding frequency and they can watch the footage. Having both allows this idea of a disembodiment gaze – the fact that observers can see you and the drone but you cannot see them.
This interview with drone FPV racer by the name of Charpu, explains the ideas and implications around the idea of FPV racing with goggles and an entry level response to the differences in signals.
Gaudiosi, J 2015, ‘Now you can pilot a real-world drone from inside virtual reality’, Fortune.Com, p. N.PAG, Health Business Elite, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 March 2016.
Z-Man Games released a board game called ‘Pandemic’ in 2008 with the intention of 2-4 players in mind. This was followed in the first sitting of experiencing this completely new to me form of gaming. I’ve played the odd game of monopoly and solitaire but this game had real purpose and a sense of comradeship when playing as we were playing against the ‘outbreak’ within the game that seemingly increased in severity the further we progressed. “The game board depicts several major population centers on Earth. On each turn, a player can use up to four actions to travel between cities, treat infected populaces, discover a cure, or build a research station. A deck of cards provides the players with these abilities, but sprinkled throughout this deck are Epidemic! cards that accelerate and intensify the diseases’ activity. A second, separate deck of cards controls the “normal” spread of the infections.” (BoardGameGeek.com)
We followed a basic rules system that allowed 5 actions from a character pawn that could involve travelling from city to another, building a research center to curing a disease based on the cards available in our own hand and that of the deck. The mechanics of the game revolve around themes of an action point allowance system, co-operative play, hand management, point to point movement, set collection, and variable player powers. These all influence the game and it’s up to the players to all know what their abilities are that could alter the effectiveness of anothers action. Pandemic also has expansions such as “In the Lab, On the Brink, Promo Roles and State of Emergency that would allow further developing the idea of co-operative containment of an outbreak. The relative online purchase price of the game is $40-$60 for the basic pack, there are expansion versions and extra features with more expensive types that would be up to the users discretion.
The second part of my game cultures introduction was observing the works of Richard Hall’s “The Botch”. A card based game that was an original work of his that he has released with his business from previous dealings within the subject. This game of deception and total bluff was an interesting account of what is possible within the concept of creating a game if you have a solid base idea and contacts re: graphics and materials. The game used wit and player special abilities to ultimately collect the most diamonds or be the last man standing. The Botch allowed players to pursue their own aspirations of wealth, or team up within the collective to fly under the radar. Which ever path the user decides to go down, it can change the course of the game, this also depended on what players identity were known and the types of players present out of the deck of cards present. A great showcase of what type of direction to head down if thinking about game development, in terms of age bracket, costs, marketing, availability and knowledge of what’s a popular board game to maintain interest.
Lastly, for a digital dossier i’d like to introduce formally an FPV inspired piece that breaks down the necessities and starting points for a racing league of my own. This will feature in the future however this opportunity is to express an interest in the way it is changing the RC racing culture and the exciting games/sports that are emerging as a result.