Simply put, first-person view (FPV) is a smart phone perspective of flight. It gives the person in command of a remotely piloted aircraft a real-time look at where it is going. And it is the future of flying because it provides what people want—a view of their world from a different perspective—efficiently and economically.
Looking at the world from on high is why many of us became pilots. Until technology made drones and their FPV are possible, investing the time and effort and money to be physically present in the aircraft was our only option. No more.
There’s no denying that FPV delivers only one aspect of flight’s sensory appeal. It needs its kinesthetic, aural, and olfactory contributions to be complete, and for those who will settle for nothing less than the complete experience flight, becoming a first-person pilot will always be available to those who can’t live without it.
But one day in the not too distant future, they will not comprise the majority of the pilot population. Technology has changed how we all experience the world. If you doubt this, look around. Note how many people you see filter their lives through the screens of their smart phones.
Pilots are, in growing numbers, among them. Sporty’s has not been a successful business for more than a half century by stocking and selling stuff that aviators don’t want. Each year the company notes that year’s trends, and in 2014, “portable HD video cameras are hot.” But anyone paying attention to videos posted by their flying Facebook and YouTube friends already knows that.
This technology isn’t standing still. Mounted on and in all types of aircraft, self-contained GoPros have been flying for years. Their downside is that pilots and their audience cannot see what these tiny marvels have captured until the flight is complete. Garmin has solved that problem with its VIRB, which integrates with its glass to provide another real-time perspective in the cockpit. A Van’s RV-12 LSA equipped with this system was quite a hit at this year’s US Sport Aviation Expo.
For whatever reason, as pilots retire from active first-person flight, it would be a safe assumption that an economical FPV drone will keep them in the air by satisfying at least one of their sensory cravings. And for most newcomers, it will their sole hands-on aviation experience. With their computerized flight controls, augmented by GPS, learning to fly a drone takes little time and a bit of practice.
What remains to be worked out, however, is the necessary certification that drone pilots have demonstrated the aeronautical knowledge necessary to share the sky with first-person pilots and their passengers, but that will come in due (FAA) time. Until then, pilots who are or will fly both types of aircraft can ease the integration of these remotely pilot aircraft by sharing—and explaining—the knowledge all pilots must possess. – Scott Spangler, Editor