From the first time we looked up, what has attracted humans to flight is seeing the world from the perspective of a bird. That attraction still drives many of us, but how we achieve this first-person view (FPV) has changed with technology. If you doubt this, think about all the cool video on the Internet that has been captured from drones.
From a mass-market mindset, which would you rather do to satisfy your desire to see the earth from above: Spend $10,000 and a year of your life to become a pilot and then pay upwards of $100 or more for an hour’s flight; or invest $1,200 or so for a ready-to-fly small drone like this DJI Phantom 2 Vision, spend several hours mastering its GPS-stabilized flight control system, and recording that aerial first-person view on your smart phone?
Given the number of drone videos posted on YouTube, I’m guessing that these flights, which usually last less time than it takes to thoroughly preflight a Cessna 172, will totally satisfy the aerial FPV cravings of most people born during and after the 1980s. Let’s face it, if a smart phone is involved, it’s a winner among people who text rather than talk, even when they are sitting at the same table.
For those of us born before the 1980s, this evolution of recreational aviation doesn’t bode well for fun flying as we remember it. But such is the nature of progress. Yes, for a few who look skyward, drones will not be enough. They will be the generational outliers who invest the time and money necessary to collocate their body with their view. And they will be the ones who get hands-on to build and restore the flying machines that stirred their dreams.
But their numbers will never replace the pilots who’ve since retired from the cockpit. And I’ve talked to a number of them who’ve traded their airplanes for a FPV drone. With the advent of FAA small drone regulations, today may well be their “good old days,” which should not be missed. – Scott Spangler, Editor